What is the best way to describe the past 6 weeks? The pre- Bar Mitzvah frenzy, the magical experience of the day itself, followed by a 2 day hiatus before the onslaught of Thanksgiving and Hannukah, the blizzard on the night of the Bar Mitzvah kid’s party!, finals week at school, the 12 day “staycation” which combined my busy office workload during flu season with extended unstructured time for the 3 boys at home, the uncooperative polar vortex with frigid temps and inconvenient snow-days. Finally, for the first time in 6 weeks, I sit home alone at my computer and attempt to reflect and process it all: the highs and the lows…the deep pride and the prickly frustration…the gratitude and the disappointment…the solemnity and the chaos.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too”
This English proverb almost became a reality for us 3 nights before the Bar Mitzvah, when I received an email from the bakery that they were no longer able to accommodate our order for a gluten-free cake. They claimed that they had a lot of orders for Thanksgiving the following week, etc.. At 10:30 pm, there was little I could do other than curse and send profanity laden emails to my inner circle of friends. I scoured the internet for kosher, gluten-free bakeries in the metropolitan area, which I had done several times in the past few months.
I must backtrack and express why a cake is both so important and so difficult. Since Sam was 5 years old, he has eaten a “different” cake than his friends or family at every birthday or school/friend celebration that he has attended. We make cakes for our children’s own parties, and I can dissect out the chocolate crunchies from Carvel cakes, but it is always different. For years, we had been saying that for his Bar Mitzvah, we would get him a “bakery-made” Bar-Mitzvah worthy cake with his choice of frosting for his special day. A great-looking cake for everyone to see during the speeches when everyone focused on the family. Since it was in the Temple, the cake needed to be from a bakery with kosher certification as well as gluten-free. It also had to taste good; instead of being hard to use as a bowling ball, with typical gluten-free density. Several months back, I had found a GF bakery in Connecticut which had just obtained kosher certification. My sons had tried some of their cakes at a vendor fair last year and loved it. But 3 weeks before the Bar Mitzvah I brought home a sample cupcake with frosting, and they HATED it. Apparently it is difficult to make delicious vegan vanilla frosting. We didn’t need it to be vegan, but it was the only bakery that was also GF and kosher. I found 2 bakeries in Manhattan and Brooklyn which would have fit the bill, but they only made cupcakes, no big cake. I finally found a local bakery who assured me they could accommodate my request. I waited nearly a week for them to provide sample cupcakes, which my kids approved. Perhaps it was the final request for vanilla frosting which put them over the edge, I’m not sure. What I knew when I got that email from the bakery backing out at the last minute, was that the clock was ticking, and I did not want to disappoint my son.
Then I remembered about the woman I had met during baseball season who told me she had left her corporate career and started a cake-decorating business called “Enchanted Icing.” Nancy wasn’t kosher, but she was definitely allergen-conscious, and so I was hopeful. Since I had no contact information, I reached out to her through Facebook, and she replied to me the next morning. “I don’t have an event this weekend, and I think I can help you.” The next obstacle was getting through to the synagogue. There was a strict policy about bringing in outside food. Our Rabbi was in Israel, and the Executive Director was unavailable until 1 pm. That was a long time to wait for the approval to have an “Enchanted Icing “ cake, provided that Nancy baked everything in the synagogue kitchen without bringing in any outside cookware, and all of the ingredients needed to be completely kosher and unopened. While I sweated out the answer during that hectic work day, my friends texted me from their work, offering to bring home kosher GF baked goods from various parts of Manhattan and Long Island. One friend offered to knock down the door of the evil bakery and physically harass them! Thankfully, Nancy graciously accepted the challenge, and we were set to go. By that evening, I felt like a completely different person.
Needless to say, the cake was beautiful and delicious, and enjoyed by everyone, especially those with food restrictions.
We also reserved a pool for the evening after the Bar Mitzvah so Sam and a few of his friends could splash around and decompress. Of course, my in Laws called from the hotel as they were checking in to let us know that the pool was closed for construction! But that’s another story…