Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ethnographic Study 2: On Plastic Babies and the Intersection of Art and Science

"If cooking is an art, 
baking is a science" 
- King Arthur Flour Catalog

I don't think I've ever met anybody as enthusiastic about perfecting her cupcakery skills as Lee, and so our next Ethnographic Study in cupcaketology comes from her own eager kitchen right here in Philadelphia.  Lee, a research specialist, will be the first to tell you that practice makes perfect when it comes to trying recipes, but it is her creativity and hilarious reasoning that best chronicle her kitchen adventures and an evolution in piping. 

Pink Pez Cakes
  Lee's chocolate cupcake, before adhering to Snow's theories
I recently made Vanilla on Vanilla cupcakes, not for a particular event, but just to try and make them. The plastic babies were a sort of default. Those of us who have lived in New Orleans always have some plastic babies around to put into king cake around Mardi Gras- if you get a baby in your piece you have to give the next party.   Some use little silver charms or beans instead, but eventually I ended up using Pez.
Bring on the babies, and the superb pipery
When I think of piping, I refer to the intersection of art and science as described by C.P. Snow.  Snow's thesis was that the breakdown of communication between the "two cultures" of modern society — the sciences and the humanities — was a major hindrance to solving the world's problems.   The Pez stuck in the same vanilla cupcakes with pink sugar and clear edible glitter were inspired by Amy Sedaris's book "I Like You" (page 162).  Amy suggests using Pez while playing nurse and instead dispensing pharmaceuticals from the dispenser. I had forgotten how much I loved Pez and the dispensers until I read it.
And so, bound by Snow and Sedaris, I stuck a pink raspberry Pez in the freshly piped vanilla icing.... and people loved it. Ages 7-65 have raved over the concept so far. I didn't put them inside the cakes but next time I may since the cake eaters kept asking if there were more inside. 
So what has ultimately come of this experience? Well, for one, I've started carrying a Pez dispenser around.  You know, in the event of a companion suffering what my mother refers to as 'a sinking spell'." 

No comments: