Ed Driscoll

Little Silver Balls And A Little Teachable Birthday Moment

As Glenn Reynolds writes, linking to an NBC article titled “This tacky monstrosity can’t belong to Obama, can it?” They’re talking about his birthday cake, not his health care plan . . .. But both are quite revealing.”

The typically fawning NBC piece includes this passage:

Maybe this is just wild conjecture here — and we all know how much everyone loves opinions in Serious Journalism[And at GE-owned networks, too!–Ed] but isn’t Barack Obama‘s birthday cake hideously ugly? This is not at all in line with Obama’s sleek, skinny-tie persona, and frankly, we’re shocked.

It looks like the Cake Boss’s disgruntled ex karate-chopped the frosting bag.

Decorated with the presidential seal, the layer cake was accompanied by various pies, including pecan, huckleberry, Key lime and coconut cream, plus a cheesecake.

How’d this happen? Michelle wears $540 Lanvin sneakers to plant organic veggies in the White House garden. The girls switch outfits aboard Air Force One to arrive in Paris in crisp khaki trench coats.

Sure, Barack did have that one little slip up with the mom jeans, but we’re ready to move past that.

This is not a family that courts cavities via swirls of Harris Teeter grocery store icing and fondant seals propped up against the edge of frosted daisies and blue garlands.

The Obamas should be celebrating with Baked & Wired cupcakes topped high with icing and those little silver balls that look really cool but kinda hurt everyone’s teeth nonetheless.

Oh, you mean the little silver balls that a lawyer attempted to sue the pants off numerous bakers in California over, as the L.A. Times noted in 2005:

Mark Pollock is a Napa-based environmental lawyer, a former Bay Area student radical and lover of fine food. Gloria Alvarez is a resident of Culver City who, for the last 33 years, has owned and operated Gloria’s Cake & Candy Supplies, a tiny Westside culinary landmark jammed into a former American Legion Hall near the intersection of Sawtelle and Venice. Pollock and the seventysomething Alvarez have more than a little in common.

To be precise, on April 23, 2003, Pollock and his lone associate, Evangeline James, sued Alvarez and a who’s who of names from the bakery world: “Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.; Dean & Deluca Inc.; Chefshop.com Inc.; Pfeil & Holing Inc.; Kitchen Etc.; Q.A. Products Inc.; Confectionary House; Beryl’s Cake Decorating & Pastry Supplies; American Cake Supply; Albert Uster Imports Inc.; Do It With Icing; Cooking.com Inc.; Candyland Crafts Inc.; Favors by Lisa; Sugarbakers Cake, Candy and Wedding Supplies Inc.; Kitchen Conservatory Inc.; American Gourmet Foods Inc.; Annerose Hess d.b.a. Ohess; Pastry Wiz; Barry Farm Enterprises; GM Cake and Candy Supplies d.b.a. Cybercakes; Babykakes; and Does 1 through 100 inclusive.”

Pollock’s lawsuit swept through the close-knit world of American cake decorating like a hot knife through icing. Despite no law specifically outlawing dragées, private citizen Pollock took it upon himself to rid every last supermarket shelf, specialty food store and mail-order purveyor in California of those tiny silver-covered sugar balls you’ve been licking or flicking off the top of your cupcakes since you were a tyke.

Pollock’s suit was an attempt to get a potentially dangerous substance out of the hands and stomachs of the California public. But to Alvarez and her colleagues, it was as if they were being blackmailed by a distant tree-hugger.

Looking at the bigger picture, however, their confrontation becomes a battle between good health and environmental toxins; political correctness and practical sense; Big Government and laissez faire; baby boomer foodies and the much younger fist-waving progressives. But in the end, it was no contest. Can you guess who won?

As Virginia Postrel noted at the time in a post titled “Banning Small Pleasures” (where I first read of the lawsuits):

Pollock is a fanatic who’s determined to stamp out other people’s small pleasures in pursuit of his own version of righteous living (and collect lots of money along the way). He succeeds because it costs him almost nothing to sue. His victims settle rather than spend more, in time and money, to fight his claims. Any litigation system that encourages–indeed, rewards–this petty tyranny needs serious reform.

A litigious puritan and “former student radical” determined, as Postrel wrote, “to stamp out other people’s small pleasures in pursuit of his own version of righteous living (and collect lots of money along the way).”

Sounds like somebody else who just celebrated his own birthday, no?