Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cupcakes: A Little Bit of Naughtiness

Can cupcakes possibly be healthy? I think this question is important. To me, this question strikes at the very root of our food culture.

I think cupcakes are adorable little confections. A New York Times article calls them "happy-food." I think of a cupcake and I envision the joy of frosting, the pleasure of licking something sweet, the smile on my little niece's face when I hand her a mini-cupcake.

Of course, I do not eat cupcakes. I am much too fanatical, too wildly opposed to eating a food that lacks any nutritional value whatsoever. And cupcakes, decidedly and obviously, lack nutrition.

Perhaps this is why, as the Times article suggests, cupcakes get such a bad rap.

"Cupcakes," the article states, "have recently been marched to the front lines of the fat wars, banned from a growing number of classroom birthday parties because of their sugar, fat and empty calories, a poster food of the child obesity crisis."

And yet, I have to admit, this trend disturbs me. Have we lost all sense of perspective? Have we so messed up our relationship with food that we now consider even cupcakes utterly unhealthy?

What makes a food healthy after all? Isn't this question at least as much psychological as physiological? When we eat, do we not nourish body and soul?

A cupcake is a small indiscretion. (I love how cupcakes have become sex-symbols for some bakers, how the idea of eating a cupcake in the middle of the afternoon equates so perfectly to the idea of a mid-afternoon quickie...a little bit of naughtiness!)

A little bit of naughtiness...

So is it really so bad to eat a cupcake? (A cupcake, after all, lovingly prepared, is not FoodCrack.)

The time article states the question this way: "can emotional value, on occasion, legitimately outweigh nutritional value?"

I think so, on occasion. (I'm not writing an article in defense of cupcake gluttony. I'm merely saying, Hey a cupcake ain't so bad!) I take my cue from an unlikely source, Paul Pritchford, the author of Healing with Whole Foods.

Pritchford writes:

"Do not be so rigid or self-righteous about your diet as to annoy anyone. A bad relationship is more poisonous than one of Grandma's sugar cookies. If you desire such a treat, it is better to have it than stuff yourself with rice to suppress the desire. This causes mental anguish and arrogance."

This, coming form a guy who suggests, as an optimum practice, eating a small dessert only after a "meal" of a "celery and lettuce-based salad."