Having a cake and eating it

A creamcake.
A creamcake.
Columns are not the easiest things to name.

Sometimes I wonder if they even need names at all.

Dazed and Confused, a Led Zeppelin song of considerable renown, came from an assumption I would at least occasionally write about music, which I had been doing for decades. And I have met Led Zeppelin. But far more importantly, it described the behavioural kerschplunk that is my life.

Etymologists will know kerschplunk is a little-used Prussian word for a life where the choices made are outside all realms of rational possibility. Not a single day goes by without my falling victim to kerschplunk.

It would be easy just to relate 10 various social atrocities from the past week to prove beyond all doubt the wires in my cerebral cortex are all soldered to the wrong points, kerschplunkered. But I have to make it quite clear that being dazed and confused is a whole lot of fun. And I have evidence.

Let us discuss the Tip Top Cafe ("Fresh Fast and Friendly Since 1936"), which is where all rational thinkers finish up when trying to make sense of this crazy crazy world. This cafe, once a legendary corner stop in the Octagon and now a few doors south on Princes St, is where I lunch every Wednesday. Truth to tell, I have morning tea there at lunch-time, as few dietary minds would condone cream cakes and savouries as a legitimate lunch. But this is what I repeatedly order, even though I am assured by people who know that manager Raewyn is the finest sandwich-maker in all of Dunedin.

But I like cream cakes, lamingtons with lashings of whipped cream. Tip Top lamingtons are not as big as the ones at the Aurora Cafe in Mosgiel - theirs are bigger than Costa Rica - but they're squishy and lovely and fresh.

That, and some English breakfast tea, and I'm happy as aioli on a chip.

Occasionally my eye moves one row left on the shelves to the creamed sponge cakes, and here is where being congenitally dazed and confused is enormous fun.

Those who know these cakes will have marvelled how the cream seeps out right around the cake, so much so that if one wolfs down a bite, the cream whooshes out the other side and lands on the back of the person sitting at the next table. But I have three-quarters of an arts degree, and it wasn't long before I realised if you nibbled carefully, the cream on the other side would just protrude a little more, but not squirt loose. Then you could whang your mouth around the other three sides to even everything up.

One has to make these four moves in almost a millisecond, the kind of hand-eye co-ordination only Formula One racing drivers possess when changing gears. Otherwise you will just make a horrible mess.

But even with four perfectly-executed bites, you are still left with a weird octagonal mutant cake which looks as though it has been attacked simultaneously by four ravenous raccoons.

My cake was precisely in this ugly and mountainously unusual state in the Tip Top Cafe recently when Maggie arrived at my table with the tea. Maggie is one of those people who is always happy, even, I suspect, if the kitchen behind her was on fire. This is why the Tip Top is such a good place. Did she see the weird misshapen sponge cake incomprehensively mauled by the man who was dazed and confused?

A mauling nobody else in the world would ever have done in public?

If she did, she didn't say a word or even slightly raise an eyebrow.

In waitressing, this is called perfection.

Maggie understands dazed and confused. She likes Led Zeppelin. People will accost me in the street and tell me how to eat cream sponge cakes without looking like a complete prat. I won't listen to them. Eating them my way, dazed and confused, is just so much more fun.

- Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.



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