Let Them Eat Cake

I have been trying to eat gluten- and dairy-free for a few weeks now; not for philosophical reasons but because my naturopathic doctor told me my periodic hives are likely related to common food allergens. But she didn’t tell me to limit just gluten and dairy—she said I should give up sugar, alcohol, eggs, and everything else that makes for fun and variety in eating.

This week, I went to my favorite lunch spot by work and ordered a salad (of course), and started telling Frank, the owner, about my food troubles. He said, “I don’t understand you American women about food. Where I grew up in Russia, we had no food. We ate whatever we could get our hands on.”

“Ahh,” I said, immediately feeling spoiled, hives and all.

“All I remember,” he added, “was opening the refrigerator and it was totally empty. The only thing in there was the butter container. It never had any butter in it, but my mother left it in there anyway. I have to ask her why she did that,” he said.

“Wow.” I didn’t know what else to say.

Frank started cleaning off the grill and putting the finishing touches on my salad.

“Do you like double-chocolate chip muffins?”

I didn’t even have a chance to respond before he shoved half of one, grilled and dripping, on a plate in front of me. “Eat that,” he said, “it’s good.”

He had been heating it for himself on the grill. How could I refuse? It smelled like warm chocolate cake. And he gave me a napkin and a plastic fork! I ate it, thinking my salad was going to taste very vegetarian afterwards.

“That’s good,” I told him. “Very yummy.”

When I finished, I grabbed my salad to go and headed toward the door. “Frank,” I said, turning, “I bet I know why your mother left the butter container in the fridge.”

“Yeah?” He didn’t stop wiping the counter. It was almost 3:00 pm and they were closing.
“It was for the hope of butter, Frank. The empty container was just for the hope of butter.”