Discovering that cheesecake cured a broken heart was better than finding a twenty-dollar bill in your coat pocket at the start of a new season. It was better than a snow day during exams and better than that time when my professor in undergrad had an unfortunate something happen mid-semester that took him out for the rest of the school year and we students all received A’s for a class we could no longer attend. It was graduation good. It was the edible version of a dream job and brought friends together faster than half-priced wine for ladies’ night at the dance club.
We all had experienced that broken heart. The paroxysm of emotion had us each, at some point, seeking solace in each other, in booze, in isolation, and in food.
Like so many others, I ate my emotions.
I cooked. I baked. I stuffed, stirred, crammed and jammed every unforgiving feeling into the wide-open crevasse where my heart used to be. Some foods were better than others at providing comfort and, surprise of all surprises, salad was not one of them. Comfort came with the stuff that sticks with you: sugar, fat, yum, and delicious. The biggest comfort, the one food that embodied comfort the most, and the one food in which the process of making, sharing and eating held the greatest meaning and provided the greatest pleasure was cheesecake.
As true allies do, the cheesecake just showed up one day and it let me know in so many ways that it was going to stick with me. That’s when I knew. So, like a general recruiting soldiers for battle, I gathered the broken-hearted and the disillusioned love-lorn friends for a march against an entire gender and for eternal validation that we were right, and they were wrong. If hell hath no fury like A woman scorned, then imagine a room full of us.
Every Monday night for what may have been years, as if we needed more fuel in the pack of our verbal cannons, we jacked ourselves up on coffee, wine, and sugar and the fatty goodness of cheesecake. The common ground of disappointment had been established. We drew the battle lines. We placed blame with all fingers pointing outward, and cracked jokes at everyone’s expense but our own. We cried, laughed, and ate more cheesecake before making the logical leap to comparative values. What felt like a million reasons why cheesecake was better than the guys we had dated rang out around the kitchen like fireworks after a battle had been won: Cheesecake is rich, we said. Cheesecake is sweet. Cheesecake loves my thighs. The size of your cheesecake doesn’t matter. The list was endless; the laughter loud.
And in the aftermath of an empty plate, dating resumed. Some friends got married and stayed married. For some who tied the knot, the vows resembled the bowl-cut-and-bangs haircut that we thought was cute and edgy until we got one for ourselves and realized it was the same cut we had when we were eight and then we had to wait for the bangs to grow out before anything could be done with the do that did nothing for us but make mom jeans look appropriate. Others moved to Argentina and never had husbands or boyfriends, only lovers.
I was mom jeans. I was the regrettable haircut. I gave marriage my best shot but missed the happily-ever-after target by forever minus nine years and ten months. Back to the kitchen I went, stand mixer ready, cream cheese at room temperature and oven on, to bake away the bad feelings and stuff my gullet with better-luck-next-time cheesecake.
There has been a long line of cheesecakes coming out of the oven. There was the liar-liar-pants-on-fire cheesecake, it’s-not-you-it’s-me cheesecake, and I-deserve-better-than-that cheesecake to name a few in repertoire that has expanded like my pant size over the years.
The disenchantment of dating gone wrong gets a water bath while my eternal well of hope bakes at 350 degrees for between sixty and seventy-five minutes. I wait. I bake. I walk my dog. I try again, optimistic that this next cheesecake will finally offer the sweet aroma of yes-and-always.