Also found on McSweeney's Internet Tendency.
I’d recently moved to Los Angeles for a job. Things were new and exciting, and I explored every neighborhood I could, going to strange LA salons and tastings and tours and hosted dinners, in part so I could tell my friends about them later, finishing each story with, “It was soooo LA.” I felt great about my agency, and by god, I was really living.
But I bet even Oprah has her down days, which is what I told myself when I was feeling alone one Tuesday evening. A work project wasn’t going well, I’d had a particularly bad Tinder date the day before, and even my own mother wasn’t returning my phone calls. I went home to my very LA loft downtown, and upon opening the fridge, realized that apart from a jar of kimchi and some mustard, I had nothing to eat.
And so it was off to Trader Joe’s, where every visit a battle with my wallet. Your maximum spending limit is $40, I told myself sternly. Even Oprah has to practice self-restraint.
I did a requisite pass through the cheeses and packaged dinners, even though I was sure I didn’t need anything in that aisle. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that the baked goods were also in that section, packaged and stacked on floating tables like gluten-ed and sugared Homerian sirens, and I’d forgotten to stuff my ears with beeswax.
There was one package of Chocolate Brooklyn Babka left in the Cakes Masquerading as Breakfast Items pile, hidden between stacks of cranberry orange scones and blueberry muffins. As I read the label, I thought of a magical weekend I’d had in New York with friends, where I’d had chocolate babka that melted in my mouth and stuck to my ribs. And so I threw the Chocolate Brooklyn Babka into my basket, thinking wildly that I could recreate that weekend in my dinner for one.
Later, sitting at my kitchen table, I tore off the thick plastic sticker, and not bothering to cut a piece to put on a separate plate, I dug into the sticky, chocolate layers. I took a bite, my teeth sinking into its soft, pillowy denseness. The saccharine of the liberally sprinkled chocolate chips went directly into my bloodstream, and I had another forkful ready before I even swallowed the first bite.
I was still eating it, half crouched over the kitchen table, when my roommate came into the kitchen. He is very LA, and is more of a Whole Foods person than a Trader Joe’s person, if you know what I mean. “Did you buy a cake for yourself?” he asked, the incredulity dripping from his voice as thickly as the slightly gooey swirls of babka clinging to my fork.
“Yes,” I said defiantly around a mouthful. “Happy fucking cake day to myself.”
He shrugged, took a bottle of kombucha from the fridge, and went back into his room.
I finished the babka that week. Despite my initial bravado in the face of my roommate’s judgmental glances, I brought it to my room and shut the door each time I ate it, where I could enjoy my sin without rushing.
The next week, I was hankering for more; I thought about it at work, at the gym, even while eating other desserts. In between work meetings, I decided to give into the inevitable and stopped at a Trader Joe’s to buy another package. It was my only purchase, and I waited impatiently behind geriatric midday shoppers with cartfuls of greek yogurt, spears of Brussels sprouts, and organic almond butter. I rushed back to my car, where I kept real non-plastic utensils for emergency situations such as this.
The relief upon taking that first bite was palpable, and I may have even moaned a little. A woman stared at me as she walked by my car, and I knew what she was thinking. “Is that woman really eating a cake out of the package, in her car, in this Trader Joe’s parking lot, in the middle of the workday?”
I glared back her. “Yes,” I said telepathically, not breaking eye contact as I chewed. “I am.”
It doesn’t taste anything like Brooklyn or homemade babka, but when you have lonely Oprah days in a new city, Trader Joe’s Chocolate Brooklyn Babka is all you need.