Brand: Gateau Festa Harada
Cost: Break Room
Found At: Break Room
Not long ago, the sixth graders went to Kyoto on a school trip. They saw all the big sites – Kyomizudera temple with its beautiful view, the golden and silver pavilions that shine in the autumn sunlight, Sanjusangendo with its thousand life-sized statues of Kannon – all led and narrated by their teachers, who had studied the history and stories of these famous places to lead the children through the physical spaces that embody their own history and culture. When I asked the sixth graders about it later, the prevailing feeling was that the hotel was the most interesting part of the trip. It seems that middle schoolers are middle schoolers the world over.
And I must admit that, for the four days of their absence, it was not with the most generous heart that I looked upon my coworkers, the sixth grade English teachers. In fact, I might admit that I harbored a little jealousy for the amount of prep work that they were able to accomplish while the kids were away. But you will be pleased to hear that, once the children returned, all was forgiven. Because they brought us back presents – and one of those presents was matcha cake. Kyoto is famous for its green tea, after all, and when I was an exchange student, we used to frequently stuff ourselves silly on green tea sweets around the famous shrines in the area. But this was no ordinary green tea cake to be wolfed down by foreign students on the sidewalk – this was the expensive kind. This was soft, pungent sponge cake wrapped around rich, creamy, filling that I might imagine wealthy people eat at business functions. The green tea was perfectly blended with the sponge and filling to create a sweetness that was not juvenile and a bitterness that was not to cynical – a perfect balance that raises the question: does cake follow life, or does life follow cake? And in fact, everything about it was decadent and flavorful and entirely ill-suited to the break room of an elementary school. But what a wonder it did for staff unity that might have otherwise been strained, and what a wonder it did for my blood sugar at 2:30 in the afternoon.