June 2, 2011 —
“Cake of the Week” has survived another year in Mr. O.’s classroom at Sullivan West.
Kids have been bringing in historically themed cakes for extra credit since before the merger, when my husband, John, aka “Mr. O.,” was teaching social studies at Narrowsburg. (Sullivan West School District, as we now know it, is the result of the 1999 merger of the three districts of Narrowsburg, Jeffersonville/Youngsville and Delaware Valley.)
Each June, John and I speculate that this will be the last year for the Friday treat—but then September rolls around with a new brood of high school confectioners ready to capture a cake-worthy historical moment—as well as a few extra points.
Rendering a social movement or historical happening in cake and frosting is, of course, no easy thing. (Dare I say “a piece of cake”?) Just like empires, cakes fall. Some don’t even survive the ride to school. They may taste good but are more often than not tastelessly decorated and worthy of the popular website “Cake Wrecks—when professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong.”
A prime example (that I found especially amusing) is the recent “The wives of Osama Bin Laden” cake, a chocolate frosted nine-by-13 with pop-up faces, labeled “Welcome to Abbottabad.”
Cakes often feature current events such as 9-11, elections and the Iraq War. A few years back there was “The Villa Roma destroyed by fire” cake.
There has been a Elian Gonzalez cake, a Michael Jackson cake, a Pope-mobile cake and a “trout season begins tomorrow” cake. There have been New Deal cakes, Cold War cakes and a Louisiana Purchase cake. There was a cake shaped like the country of Yemen.
There are many flag cakes—with the stars and stripes concocted from M&M’s, coconut, berries and cereal. Little green toy soldiers are popular ornaments along with licorice barbed wire. Abridged versions of the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights grace many cakes.
Some cakes post news bulletins such as: “SW boy’s golf wins division” or “11 days till Xmas.” Some, such as: “Ground 0 workers contract disease from dust,” read like news screen runners. Well wishers state: “Good luck on the Regents.” Each cake is a small window into the life of our community—and far beyond.
The “new” high school in Lake Huntington (which opened in 2003) is certainly still standing despite fears of poor construction. One cake, emblazoned with the hopeful sentence “Please oh please don’t let the roof fall on me” commemorated the building’s earlier days.
Nay-sayers of public education may object to this frivolous use of classroom time, but remember when this all started the Sullivan West School District was just a name on a letterhead—I like to think it has contributed a little to the creation of a Sullivan West community. After all, eating together is community. Besides, it’s fun.
“Cake of the week” has survived as long as it has due to student respect—there have been no food fights or suspicious brownies that would result in an immediate shut down. “Cake of the week” has also, thus far, survived the nationwide crackdown on sweets and soda in schools.
So—we’ll see how long it lasts. This time of year, the kids are supposed to be reviewing and memorizing all those court cases for the Regents test. So “Let them eat cake”—this is just my way of twisting up yet another historical moment in “Cake of the Week” style.