Don’t let them eat mug cake!

So, last night my wife (Emily) and I were hankering for a before bed snack. This tends to pose a dilemma for us because we are committed to frugality and health. Our commitment to health precludes acquiring or keeping foods such as cookies, candy, and donuts. And our commitment to frugality keeps our pantries relatively empty except for what we need. But, our desire last night overcame both of these commitments. We decided to try out something called “mug cake” (apparently, a snack choice that has become somewhat popular). Mug cake is a kind of instant cake that one bakes inside of a mug placed in a microwave. As we begin to indulge in our mud cake, I remembered a snippet from the sitcom “Roseann”. You may or may not remember Rosanne, but it was a show starring Roseann Barr and John Goodman who portrayed a working-class lower income family that exhibited all the classic adventures and tensions of an ordinary family except with a unique so-called “white trash” style.

This was the story I remember. In the show, Roseann and her husband acquired a microwave for the first time. This newfound kitchen appliance proved to be a novelty for Rosanne. In this snippet that I remember, Roseann relays one of her success stories with the microwave to a friend. She said something like this: “so last night I made a chicken in my microwave. It tasted like shit, but it was so hot no one could tell the difference.”

So, I relayed this soundbite to Emily as we were finishing our mug cake, and this elicited a good laugh from her. I think Rosanne’s assessment resonated true with our circumstances well. The only thing microwave seem to do is produce really hot food without actually producing a good food product.

So, what does this incident with Emily mean? First, no matter what anyone recommends, do not produce, consume, or even think about making mug cake. If you want a cake, make it honestly by patiently enduring the legitimate process of baking. Second, we lost self-control to our more worthy commitments and we paid the price with seared tongues and giant knots in our stomach. Third, stories are not just pieces of entertainment but also interpretive mechanisms for making sense of experience. It had been years since I had seen that clip from Rosanne, and yet it reemerged at a moment that was very similar to that story. The stories closely resembled one another – both Rosanne in my story revolves around food failures with microwaves. And, Roseann’s story interpreted my own and gave me words to articulate my own experience. Plus, what I found so lovable about that show was Roseann and John Goodman’s ability to maintain comfort in the midst of social and economic discomfort. It was a show that exposed many Americans hidden insecurity about their actual place in society. Bravo!

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