While searching for an appropriate birthday card the other day, I had trouble finding one without birthday cake, cupcake or another food reference in or on it. I didn’t want to buy a food-related birthday card because it was for a co-worker that’s health-conscious. As I searched the card aisle, I realized that most people don’t even think twice about having cake for a birthday. I sure didn’t used to. In fact, I even ordered a cake for my wedding anniversary, a few months after having started P90X! At that point I knew how bad it was to eat cake, but it just seemed like cake was the appropriate way to celebrate.
The irony didn’t dawn on me until that day in the card aisle. Cake is made out of highly caloric and difficult to digest ingredients, primarily sugar and processed flour. Yet we eat it to celebrate milestones and achievements in our lives, instead of celebrating with healthy foods, like fresh organic vegetables and free-range organic-fed poultry, for example.
Why do we celebrate with birthday cake?
I actually could not find a reliable source that fully explained how cake became a celebratory tradition. However, based on the historical scarcity of sugar and flour, it makes sense to me that people who could afford a cake had it to celebrate their good fortune. Eventually, as these ingredients became more popular, everyone wanted to appear privileged and adopted this same tradition. Nowadays we probably eat more sugar in a few weeks than peasants in the middle ages did in during the course of an entire year.
Instead of cake, I might have a birthday salad this year!