Don’t Touch My Cupcake! (Or, Personal Space and Desserts)

“Ooh, do you have any scraps?”

“It’s okay, it’s just a cookie, you have more…”

“I’ll fix your faucet if you hook me up with some of that red velvet cake!”

A familiar situation that replays itself in every bakery that is attached to a larger kitchen space: You are working, maybe you’re rolling out a tart shell, or you’re just pulling something fresh out of the oven, or perhaps you’re making a sauce for a plated dinner later that night. You can see it out of the corner of your eye when a passing employee reaches over to your rack of trays, not even pausing to ask or even think about what they’re doing as they snatch a pastry while rushing by. Maybe you don’t say anything, because you’re used to it and it’s better to just let it go, or maybe you do say something and they look at you like you’re the person at fault because you’re upset about them taking a dessert that to them is clearly one of many (when to you it is very clearly number 156 because you can only give yourself a safety net of TWO extra items for a party since you’re low on pistachios).

I work next to a regular kitchen, and I never, EVER hear staff beg for ‘just a little something’ off of prep cooks. Food is nourishing, food is life-giving – preparing meals is a sacred ritual. Culturally, you share meals with other people – social gatherings mean food and friendship.

And then we get down to pastries, sweets, and non-savory dishes. There is a sense of entitlement, of really deserving that cookie – of having earned it, even if all you did was walk by and happen to see it. Think of the language we use everyday when describing desserts: decadent, naughty, cute, playful, fun, bad – when I talk to people about sweet food, they generally tell me it’s not real food. Desserts are considered personal.

What is dessert for you?

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