Thursday, October 14, 2010

Columbus and Cake Contests

Once upon a time, Cristopher Columbus set off across the ocean. In a world-changing voyage, he became a pirate, landed on Hispaniola, encountered space aliens, and then discovered the legendary city of El Dorado.

(Well, actually, El Dorado happened on his fourth voyage.)

If this sounds like a slightly inaccurate version of history suitable for a B-grade summer movie, think again. It is, in fact, a highly incorrect revision of the facts, based only loosely upon reality.

We belong to the Society for Creative Re-interpretations and Extremely Erroneous Anachronisms. The acronym, SCREEA! sounds like the truncated screams of tortured historians.

There is a method to my madness. You see, it's actually all about a large, bipedal, swashbuckling talking mouse named Reepicheep.

A few years ago, my sister Cheryl accused this Paragon Paladin of insanity. The relevant messages and ensuing duel-to-the-diabetic-coma may be referenced here:

For our third annual cake contest, Cheryl suggested a Columbus Day theme.
Cheryl showed the first contact:

(The pirates and creatures I assume to be aliens are the plastic figurines donated by her son)

I had dreams of depicting the natives dying in plagues of smallpox, but eventually gave up on that idea.

In the end, I went with a simple model of a Mayan temple in the legendary city of El Dorado.

Granted, I couldn't find any evidence that Columbus ever even heard the rumors of the place, but it's the sort of thing he totally would have tried to find (and exploit) if he'd known about it.

According to Wikipedia, Spanish stories were circulating about the site as early as 1531, twenty-five years after Columbus died, and the first expeditions began in 1541. Granted most of the expeditions took place on the mainland of northern South America, not the Yucatan Peninsula, but they never found anything, right? Whereas the Mayans did have a lot of gold, right? And any two dots can form a line, so...

My theory is that on his fourth voyage (1502-1504), Columbus discovered El Dorado, tried to seize the central (and most opulent) temple, and was turned back by the lack of access points. (The natives, realizing he was coming, destroyed the staircase to the top in a successful scorched earth policy.)

Columbus was so embarrassed by this, he altered his log to cover up his failure and sailed back home, where he died two years later. This explains the golden Mayan temple cake without the signature central staircase:

(Yes, actually I just got lazy. )

People are welcome to vote for either cake. Mine is very large. It has glittery gold nuggets sprinkled about. Two flavors: butter pecan for the bottom layer and yellow for the top two. (The central temple building at the very top is constructed from stacked cake scraps.) Beyond that, though, I haven't much to say for it.

I think Cheryl's is better. At least it represents more real effort. I interpret the pirate hat on the pilot as a deliberate culinary metaphor. And, as Caitlyn S. used to say, "It's her turn to win."

Cheryl and I may still not agree about Reepicheep, but we both agree we need to pick a different theme next year. Neither of us felt very inspired. Suggestions?


Gregory said...

The best cake was from last night for my Birthday. A tiered carrot cake groaning under the deluge of homemade cream cheese frosting. I was so pleased I even shared.

Carolyn said...

Gail -- Aunt Mary Ann votes for Groundhog Day for next year!