“Home baking!” she chimed.
The cakes were a bit sweaty-looking and the dye from the hundreds-and-thousands had begun to diffuse into the icing. I decided to have one out of politeness.
“Mm, lovely,” I said, selecting a small one.
In my time, I have put some pretty questionable things into my mouth. I speak with authority when I say that this unassuming fairy cake was pretty bad.
The putrid morsel still in my mouth, my inner writer questioned whether “the worst thing I’ve ever eaten” would be hyperbole, but couldn’t think of anything comparably bad. At least not in this lifetime.
Flashback to a disturbingly alive smoked mackerel. Not as bad as the cake. Flashback to octopus sushi, to jellied eel, to various schoolboy dares. None were as bad as this cake. This was noteworthy.
It wasn’t just a bad attempt at a cake, but a thoroughly obnoxious perversion of food. This wasn’t food. It was some sort of military experiment.
The first thing I noticed was the texture. It may have mystified a less orally-fixated man but I knew precisely how this texture compared: it was exactly like Silly Putty.
It didn’t have the resistance of blue tack and at the same time, it was a lot less edible than bubble gum. Silly Putty was this cake’s textural twin.
The taste came in right after texture, in something of a photo finish. The almighty taste of it. A dirty slap of citrus akin to drinking the sweat from the wellington boot of a lemon who was down on his luck.
The experience of eating this cake transcended the culinary and into the existential. H. P. Lovecraft would write a book about this cake.
“They’re weight watchers!” she said, not so much as an explanation, but with pride.
The ingredients were carrot and orange. I had no need to worry, apparently, as each foot-tasting mouthful had a Weight-Watchers sin-value of less than a point each. I’m a living skeleton: I do not need to worry about “points” other, perhaps, than how to increase them.
How the hell was I going to get out of this one? It was too putrid a thing to finish but I was too polite not to eat at least half of it. I had only just managed a quarter and I was already gagging.
The tea would be my saviour. After fortifying my consciousness, I would put the next quarter in my mouth (any more in one go would be suicide) and saturate it with tea.
No good. It was still disgusting. The next piece, I tried to swallow whole, to trick my tongue into not sensing it. Who knew taste buds went back so far?
The final quarter was not going in my mouth. I mashed it up up with my fingers and folded the paper case around it, hoping that it wouldn’t be spotted as leftovers. When I left the meeting room an hour later, the mashed-up quarter cake remained behind, next to a centilitre of tepid tea.
I didn’t look back.