“I want something crap,” I said to my friend Mark as I wandered through Coles looking for sugary treats.
He suggested chocolate, but I insisted on something small and cakeish.
“There you go,” he pointed. “And they’re on special.”
Amongst freshly baked goods, there they sat in their garish 1980s packaging. Susan Day’s jam fairy cakes. “12-pack”, declared the little numerical circle, swamped by the giant yellow stripe and screaming letters that shouted this was also a “VALUE PACK”.
“They’ll do,” I said, throwing them into the shopping basket and running for the automatic checkout.
Susan has become my guilty secret over the past week. I’ve even kept them hidden from George & Nick, my hosts. They started as a little treat to accompany bedtime reading. Then the first packet ran out and I bought another.
That was yesterday, and I’m now staring at an empty wrapper and thinking this relationship is not going to end well.
The thing is, they’re not even that good. Despite the mind games Susan plays, with her name enclosed in a heart-shaped logo and a ribbon underneath proclaiming “home style baked”, nothing can erase the fact that these gloopy creations with a measly amount of jam squirted into the middle by a miserly old woman who thinks the war is still on are not homely.
I know what home style baked looks like. I have a mother and an aunty that delight in baking. There’s absolutely no way Susan’s creations are “home style baked” unless she lives in a giant factory with unionised Oompa Loompas that’ve negotiated one too many smoko breaks.
But I cannot stop eating them.
Right now, I’d give anything to replace Susan with some of my aunty’s pikelets. We used to eat them a lot as kids. My mother made them as well, from my aunty’s recipe. I knew this because I watched her making them, following the hand-written instructions on a piece of paper that read “Aunty Colleen’s pikelet recipe”.
They didn’t need a heart-shaped logo or a faux ribbon, because we already knew they were made with love.
Aunty Colleen isn’t doing too well at the moment. She has stomach cancer, and has been in hospital for the past week, unable to keep food down and being pumped full of steroids.
I’ve spoken to her on the phone a few times, and she’s unable to carry on the lively conversations we normally have.
She’s going to be home in a few days, and I won’t be able to visit. That’s one of the drawbacks of living 2,600km away from your family.
I don’t know if Susan Day is a real person. She has a website, and I could visit it to find out but I don’t much care. Her jam fairy cakes aren’t real, and they’re not made with love. They’re made with beef fat and preservative 202.
There’ll always be a fresh pile of Susan’s cakes at the supermarket whenever I visit, but my aunty won’t always be on the other end of a telephone.
Time with the people you love doesn’t come in value packs.