Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Let Them Eat Cake (I'll Have Something Else)

catching up, originally uploaded by emily loke.

It wasn’t an easy task growing up as the kid who couldn’t eat eggs. For the most part, I was left unquestioned about my allergy and managed to live a very normal egg free life, but there was always that one day of the year where my hypersensitivity would antagonize me to no end – my birthday.

When I was little, kids at my school would always have their maids show up at recess time with a huge cake for the teachers and students in their class. These cakes were always boxed in huge, crisp bakery boxes which were tied with a multitude of colourful ribbons and would be proudly displayed on a table in the canteen while a chorus of hungry voices sang for their supper. I always foolishly went to these canteen celebrations, nursing some silly hope that the box would be opened and a birthday jello would be revealed. Or a birthday mound of candies. Or heck, a birthday pizza even – something, anything non eggy that I could eat. Needless to say I was always sorely disappointed.

The really stinger was that the same thing would happen on my birthday, because I would always stubbornly insist on having a cake despite my allergy. Not having a birthday cake at a birthday party? The idea was too ludicrous to entertain. Plus, what sort of horrible whispers would circulate on the morning of the next school day if there was no cake? Children are evil, evil people. There had to be cake.

Much to my mother’s credit, she never took an I-told-you-so attitude towards my initial instance on having (and later inability to eat) birthday cake. Each year, she’d spend the night before the party baking and icing some elaborate and theme-coordinated spectacle-on-a-plate. She’d even let me pick the flavour (always chocolate), fully knowing I would never be able to eat it, and would always make sure there was a birthday-something-else for me to eat while everyone was having cake.

Her tradition of birthday-something-elses continues to this day, long after my birthday parties stopped. I’ve had birthday fudge, birthday ice cream profiteroles (made with egg whites), birthday cheesecakes, birthday truffles…the list goes on. This year, I was pleasantly surprised with a birthday mango jelly that my mother made on the sneak (which is impressive, given that she, A. and I were at that point living in a one bedroom apartment together) just when I had thought she’d have forgotten. Silly me.

It’s taken me a long time to make peace with my egg allergy – like I said, it wasn’t easy being the kid who couldn’t eat cake – but having a mom who made an allergy sufferer feel special instead of excluded made all the difference. Lesson of the day: It doesn’t matter what your birthday cake really is, as long as it was made with love and has a mound of candles in it.

Happy Birthday to Me.

mango jelly, originally uploaded by emily loke.