When I signed up for a cake decorating class at Michael's on the Upper West Side, I can honestly say that my little suburban cup runneth over. This class appeared at the exact right time--amidst my unemployment checks and suburban yearning--but in true NYC fashion, the class wasn't a cakewalk.
The class schedule was clearly displayed in a kiosk in the front of the store, but no store employee could tell me about all the wonderful things I would be learning, and the materials were virtually impossible to find. Somewhere in the middle of digging through scrapbooking materials, custom picture frames, and fancy jewelry-making supplies, I decided to throw in the towel, and there wasn't a single Michael's employee on the floor to talk me off the ledge. I was hot, I was sweaty, I was hungry, and my arms were full of tapered spatulas, decorator icing, and piping bags. I was at a crossroads. I was furious with the city for making everything, EVERYTHING, so ridiculously difficult. But I was determined to get my suburban fix. I finally made it to the registers with the correct supplies (4 classes and materials for roughly $50, which my mother thought was shockingly expensive and I thought was a steal), and I arrived at my first class with dreams of buttercream roses dancing in my head.
To my surprise, I was not in a class with the white, middle-class, middle-aged mothers I had anticipated. Led by Peter, a self-proclaimed Spanish-speaking guido, my class consisted of Lea, a young, pretty, Hispanic mother who wants to start her own baking business; LaToya, an event planner who wants to add cake decorating to her business offerings; Esther, an Asian 20-something who looked like a yoga instructor and brought rice cakes to decorate instead of cookies; and Linda, an old, wrinkly, bleached blond cosmetology teacher who slows class progress to a crawl with her maddeningly daft questions and Sofia Vergara-style accent.
Overall, I had a fantastic time learning Wilton's classic star technique, but I realized that cake decorating and NYC living do not go hand in hand. At least, not my form of NYC living. Peter spent a lot of time describing the necessity of using the proper tools for every job, saying that he stores all of his supplies in 15 giant Target storage tubs. He also described the joys of the new dishwasher-safe piping bags. Um...I'm not sure if Michael's pays him a million dollars per class or if he lives two hours away next to a power plant where the property values aren't as high as in Manhattan, but Peter seems to have oodles of baking advantages that I don't. I have neither cake pan storage space nor a dishwasher in the seven-foot wall on the side of my living room that acts as my kitchen. This space is not just mine, of course. I share it with three roommates. I keep my canned goods in an under-the-bed storage tub because space in my one available food cupboard is at a premium. When the other women seemed to agree with Peter's baking, storage, and cleaning methods, I felt my eyes narrow and my jaw tense. Am I alone? Am I one of Manhattan's poor? Does everyone in NYC have a kitchen in a separate room with rows of cabinets, a dishwasher, and (joy of joys) a fridge with a water dispenser?!
I have always been a ridiculous overachiever/teacher's pet, but I'm taking a stand next week. I will appear with my unfrosted cake, as requested, but I refuse to purchase the fancy turntable and cake slicer we're supposed to bring because when I return to my apartment after class, the only place for them to go is under my pillow.
Lo siento, Pietro.