Faces of The Friendly Toast: King Cakes – The Breakfast Champion
by Scoops Benedict of Food Profiles Magazine
I wasn’t looking forward to this interview. I’ve interviewed pancakes before and it always goes the same way: stumbles in late, passive aggressive answers, power struggles. The fancier they get, the worse it it goes. King Cakes has bananas, chocolate chips and peanut butter in between. So I went into this one with my expectations low.
It was early in the morning on Valentine’s Day. I sat in a corner booth at the Friendly Toast sipping my coffee and watching a stream of hungry lovers flow in and out of the restaurant. I looked down at my watch. Of course he was already five minutes late.
A tattooed waitress delivered some eggs with buttered toast. I studied the art on her arms, fascinated by the story there. If she had more time I’d ask her about it. But it was busy and she had customers to take care of. In my mesmerized state, I hadn’t noticed that Mr. King Cakes was seated across from me. I picked at my eggs thinking about a tattoo piece I could pitch. That’s when I heard him clear his throat. I looked up, embarrassed. I had already lost the upper hand.
He looked great – Golden brown with crisp edges and spotted with melted morsels of chocolate. I had to admit I was impressed. Sometimes pancakes look messy. Not so here.
The air between us was heavy and awkward at first. I looked at the butter and the syrup wondering if they were like accessories a young actor would throw on to impress a profile writer to make them seem more appealing.
“I can put them on if you’d like,” he broke the silence. “But if you do, this interview won’t last long.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Because you’ll want to eat me,” he said as a matter of fact. We stared at each other a few seconds longer. Then we both laughed. The ice was broken. This wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Cakes talks with a commanding staccato for a stack of pancakes with no vocal chords or sounding chamber to speak of. His body language is graceful and deliberate and somehow starchy. I am reminded that there are very few words in the English language for how a stack of pancakes moves. He seems to see my difficulty as I hesitate with my pen.
“The Germans call it kakenmoten, they have a talent for describing living confectionery things and how they move. I spent some time there after the Romans left. I think it describes me ok.”
How would you describe it though, your style I mean.
“As far as what I would call it,” he hesitates. “I guess if I had to put a word to what I try to do, with my style and everything, it would be mythopoeic. We’re all writing our own personal legends, you know? I try to keep that in mind with everything I do. How you move, how you taste, how you talk, the things you say, the people who eat you, it’s all part of it.”
You think you’re a product of your own creation then?
“Yes and no. I mean obviously I was just made in the kitchen there. And I get made, you know, a hundred times a month or whatever. I owe a huge debt to the kitchen staff here at The Friendly Toast, obviously, but that time between skillet and stomach, that’s all me, man.”
What’s your favorite part about yourself?
“I don’t know if I was the first one to do the whole peanut butter in between thing, but I like to think I helped make it what it is today. Today you see peanut butter on burgers, in noodles, in milkshakes. They weren’t doing any of that when I was a kid.”
A beat. I was really afraid of asking the next question.
So what happens, you know, when you get eaten?
“I wish I knew man. I used to get really scared, but now I know I’m just going to wake up and everything will be fine. I know it won’t kill me. It doesn’t even hurt anymore. But…” He looks troubled.
“Sometimes, when I’m crossing over, or whatever you want to call it, I see things. Little glimpses, you know. It’s hard to make sense of. A pretty girl playing with her hair. Waves crashing. She opens her mouth to say something. Then it all turns white and I wake up.”
I could tell he was lovesick. My last few questions seemed weak in the face of this revelation. Some moments passed.
Who is she?
“I don’t know, but I have to find out.”
He pushed the silverware towards me. Usually I try not to get this involved, but he was a king on a desperate quest, and I was hungry.