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August 20, 2013

Guilty confession. I love Swedish Fish. So they are packed full of GMOs, artificial flavors, and yellow #5. In such limited quantities, these things are neither going to kill me, nor is my one pack per year really going to prop up the industrial food system I despise.

It is funny how they have to add yellow #6, yellow #5 and blue #1 to red #40 in order to get the hallmark red that is the Swedish Fish. Although I imagine that I’d be just as happy if the candy were purely red #40 without any further coloring.

Surely there is some treatise on the power of red when it comes to stimulating human desire. I don’t know anything about that. What I do know is that the Fussy Little Kids had somehow etched into their minds that they wanted to throw a birthday party for Mrs. Fussy and have everything be red.

And the idea of beets hadn’t crossed their mind.

Red balloons. Red streamers. Red cake. Red icing. Red food. And they wanted to make it all. It didn’t matter that we were traveling and didn’t have access to our home kitchen. It also didn’t matter that Mrs. Fussy’s birthday was actually last month. They wanted a large celebration with their cousins.

It was time for some serious negotiations.

Pizza was red enough for dinner. And pizza restaurants are generally prone to plenty of red decorations already. That took care of most of the work. Then it came out that the only reason the kids wanted to bake a cake was so they could decorate it themselves. Well, I had just the solution to that.

We bought a cake at the local supermarket. Since the good local bakery went out of business in Bedford, I have yet to find a decent replacement. Anyhow, the supermarket was happy to ice the cake in a plain flat white, so the kids could decorate it however they liked.

Although I suggested perhaps it would be okay if the professional cake decorator actually wrote in small letters, “Happy Birthday Mommy” along the top. Surprisingly, they thought having these words written in red would be overkill.

I’ll never understand children.

They also had no interest in decorating the cake with Swedish Fish. Twizzlers and other red candies also failed to capture their imaginations. They liked the red sparkly sugar decorations, and the small tubes of sparkly icing. And surprisingly they thought raspberries and strawberries would be a good addition too. Score!

Okay. It’s been a long time since I bought strawberries and raspberries from a supermarket. In Altoona, PA I was happy to find organic raspberries, but organic strawberries were nowhere to be found.

The fruit was awful. So awful. The strawberries that looked red on the outside were dominated by white and woody cores. Cutting each of these away was a labor of love, and was the only saving grace of the supermarket cake. The organic raspberries were completely inedible, because while their tops looked fine in the plastic clamshell box, underneath they were completely covered with mold.


And out here in the country where the supermarket is 30 minutes on the highway, driving back to return them would cost more in gas than the price of the berries. Boo.

At the end of the day the kids were immensely happy though. We had a change of plans and had to bring pizza into the house. But by then it was too late to pick up any balloons or streamers. Still, they were very proud of their decorating job, and to them the cake looked even better than they had hoped.

Man, I should have taken a picture. It was a cake only a mother (or grandmother) could love. But not nearly as red as I had dreaded.

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