December 8, 2010

Let them Eat Cake

On Wednesdays, I get lunch at the local dive bar with my friend the newly-minted Professor.  This rather odd little mid-week ritual has become some semblance of sanity in our schedules, and has proven to be a still point in the ever-turning world of academia.  Sometimes, we are joined by other friends (professors, students, colleagues, peers, etc.) but usually it is just us two.  The lunch has been affectionately dubbed “Brainy Broad Beers” by yours truly and serves as a time to relax, unwind, talk about the trials and tribulations of our week, papers (ours or students’), PhD applications, conferences, sweet libertine, BPAL, or really anything that we need to get off of our chests.

As the deadlines loom before us, PhD applications have taken up more and more of brainy broad beer time.  Today, we decided to add cupcakes to the mix at our favorite little coffee shop/art supply store (I kid you not say what you want about New Jersey, but its quirks are AWESOME). 

Before I proceed, you must understand.  I love red velvet cake.  I really couldn’t explain why because every time I think about it an uncontrollable urge to drool overcomes my brain.  If given half the chance, I would jump into a red velvet anything just to taste a corner of it.  This little coffee place makes some pretty amazing red velvet cupcakes and those are my standard fare.  Since it is a quirky home-brewed coffee shop, their selection of cakes is always rotating.  Some days, they don’t even have cupcakes.  You really never know what you are going to get when you walk into this place.

On our short treck from dive bar to coffee shop, said Professor and I were talking about (surprise surprise) the big scary imminent future.  It was at this point that I mentioned I was taking everything one day at a time, remembering to breathe, and visualizing positive outcomes… like PhD acceptance letters and red velvet cupcakes.  To this, the Professor replied “…so what you’re really saying is that if they don’t have red velvet cupcakes, we’re screwed…”

We laughed and continued walking.

When we arrived at the coffee shop, my heart stopped when I saw that they had no red velvet cakes on the counter.  Determined to not be a big baby about the situation (it’s just a stupid cupcake, it doesn’t really mean anything), I asked the nice lady taking my coffee order what kinds of cupcakes they did have.  She rattled off a long list then welcomed me to look at the display case in the back where all of them were neatly sitting.  I thanked her and went to look, though in my mind had already somewhat settled on the chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting.

As I turned the corner, there, staring me in the face, was a whole shelf full of red velvet cupcakes.  I smiled and relief coursed through me (I can talk the talk but that doesn’t mean that I hold no stock in cupcake premonitions).  I paused, realizing that the chocolate peanut butter cupcake actually sounded better than the red velvet cake.  I always order red velvet cake, why not take a break from tradition?  They had, after all, never had chocolate peanut butter before and red velvet cake seemed to be a staple there… it was time to break old habits.  It was time to take a chance.  It was time for a new cupcake.

Nervous at first as I peeled the wrapper away from the pastry (it seemed rather crusty on top and had little structural integrity), I wondered if I had made the right decision.  Was I betraying my better sensibilities?  I knew that red velvet was good, was I setting myself up for disappointment?  Was my break from the familiar just what I needed, or a horrible way to ensure future calamity?

We paused for a moment to return to our chatter.  I mentioned that I was trying to stop myself from dwelling too much on these applications, especially once they were sent in.  However, despite my best efforts, there was a part of my mind that just couldn’t stop wondering “well, what if you get into all the programs?  Where will you go then?”  My friend the Professor said that the way she deals with that problem is by visualizing bacon.  Hickory-smoked, apple-wood-smoked, maple-glazed…?  “Maple-glazed.”  I said immediately, “Maple-glazed, every time.” 

“Well, when the time comes,” Said my friend the Professor, “I think maple-glazed will make itself apparent.”

I nodded, marveling at her wisdom, and took a hesitant bite of my cupcake.  I lingered over it, trying not to get chocolate all over my white coat.  I had to stop myself from inhaling the rest of the confection.  It was utterly delicious.  Creamy, smooth, with just enough chocolate and peanut butter flavor to balance things out.  I had made the right choice.

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