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Freezer Loaf Cake
On Entenmann's and disordered eating.
As someone who proudly hosted her last pre-pandemic birthday party inside a Wegmans, I spend a lot of time (too much time?) thinking about grocery stores.
Grocery store baked goods, on the other hand, not so much. That changed earlier this week, when I came across a tweet sharing the news that one of the most recognizable names in mass produced desserts had died.
“Charles Entenmann passed away today at 92,” writer David Bashevkin shared. “His delicious creations graced Shabbos kiddushes across the world. If you had to eat one of these in his memory, what are you choosing?”
There are a few images that come to mind at the mention of Entenmann’s. A basement youth group meeting. A basement AA meeting. Temple. Shiva. Picking the crumbles off of a coffee cake doughnut. Trying to open your mouth that has been glued shut by the consistency of a white powdered mini doughnut wide enough to lick its sugary residue off of your fingers (you know the ones).
But I didn’t think of those. I had, instead, a sudden memory of a “fun anecdote” that comes up periodically in my family. For as long as I can remember, there has been a joke about my nana’s ability to stretch an Entenmann’s loaf cake for an entire year, keeping it in the freezer, taking it out Saturdays and Sundays only, and consuming precisely one sliver with her morning coffee each day before throwing it back into frozen food jail Sunday evening to sit, waiting as we all do, for the work week to end again.
Honestly I’d never given that particular “anecdote” much thought before, either. I much prefer the jokes about how her latkes are seasoned with cigarette ash (adds flavor!) or that, when given the option between me and The Jewish Channel, she’s going TJC every time. This cake thing, on the other hand, was just a matter of fact. One that, now that I think about it, had unknowingly contributed to my entire distorted ethos surrounding food and eating, what should and should not be eaten – and when.
The mere concept of a weekend food, of course, indicates a long pattern of disordered eating. A shockingly short time ago I would have passed a bagel place on a Monday morning and marveled at the people waiting in line. A bagel? On a Monday? That’s a weekend food. Thursday at the earliest.
The ’90s weren’t exactly rife with opportunities to help women – and their offspring – find body positivity or, at the very least, body acceptance. And though eating is a source of great joy, a no-brainer activity for family functions, often a table full of women (in my family but of course, in so many other families too), is fraught. Should we share? Should we be “bad” and get fries? How many pieces of bread have I had?
How many other things like the loaf cake joke had shaped my food attitude?
I thought about the time at a restaurant that a family friend looked at my clean plate and her daughter’s messy plate, then looked at me and said,”‘guess you wouldn’t let a morsel miss your mouth, would you?”
I thought about sitting on the couch with my roommate senior year, a person who I had, by that point, shared hundreds of meals with when she looked over at me, fork full of food in my hand and said, “I hate the way you eat.”
I was too neat, too measured. I didn’t look like I was enjoying it, she said. And she was probably right.
Food felt like an enemy then, even though I loved it. I loved going to restaurants but not finishing everything on my plate. I loved eating sweets but not without working out first. It was exhausting, it was such a waste of time, and yet in the society we live in, 90 year old women like nana are still saving cake for Sunday mornings, I still catch myself sometimes marveling at the feeling of an empty stomach in the morning. I still sometimes feel more “deserving” of eating something decadent if I’ve put in some sort of physical work first.
There is nothing I can do about the ways being a human in the world has warped the priorities of me and the women in my family who came before me. All there is left to do is try to unlearn those things, and think more critically about them as they come up.
Thinking of the loaf cake story now doesn’t make me laugh, it makes me sad. No food, not bagels, not Entenmann’s loaf cake, is an enemy. Sometimes I just need a little reminder.
Hoping your weekend is filled with love & good every-single-day food,