by Allan Shewchuk

2018 Mar/Apr

City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary Back Burner 2018 11 12 Allen Shewchuk Profile image

Every day of 2018, I am happily moving farther away from what Queen Elizabeth would have called an annus horribilus, or, to non-Latin speakers, a “horrible year.” Horrible because last year was one of never-ending funerals where I actually wore out the pants to my black suit from sliding in and out of pews at prayer services. You know it’s bad when the funeral director greets you at the guest register like you are a regular at a restaurant – “Ah, Mr. Shewchuk! Your usual seat? Right this way…” So I’m happy that 2017 is now squarely in my rear-view mirror. I’m even happier to report that this year the theme has shifted from grief to joy because of the sudden proliferation of what may be the best thing in life: babies!

I don’t know how all these babies happened (actually, scientists do know now what causes them, but I’m not about to be a spoiler here), but this fresh calendar has ushered in the year of the newborn. Everyone around me is announcing that they’re expecting or are in pre-natal classes or are busy cutting umbilical cords. I am ecstatic – I don’t think there’s anything better than a freshly minted little human being. I love everything about babies – I love to rock them, smooch their soft little heads, and, especially, have them fall asleep in my arms. Heck, I’ve even enjoyed changing diapers, if only so I can have the opportunity 20 years later to play the “Hey! I changed your diaper!” card when confronted with bad attitude by some millennial. That tends to shut them up real quick.

Unfortunately, as with all good things, there is a down side, even to birthing babies. Included with the anxiety over due dates and the tears of joy, there are a lot of expenses for new parents, from bottles to cribs to car seats. But I’ve recently also learned about a new and big expenditure that is now de rigueur, which has left me gobsmacked: the “Gender Reveal” party.

To the uninitiated, Gender Reveals involve a gathering organized by the expectant parents, where, at the big moment of the event, the gender of their “bun in the oven” is disclosed with great fanfare to the guests with all the melodrama of a reality television show. One reason I am taken aback by these parties is the lengths people are going to in order to make the announcement, which clearly have been dreamed up by some evil organization for the sake of milking couples out of their cash. It’s not enough to just open an envelope and shout out the winning gender like you’re at an awards show. The art of the Gender Reveal is in the elaborate food that’s part of ending the suspense.

This can involve designer cupcakes that everyone bites into at the same time to reveal either pink or blue icing inside. Or the use of a carnival candy floss machine that produces either pink or blue fluff at the ultimate moment. Another approach is for each parent to have a waffle cone of either pink or blue ice cream, and for one of them to lick the cone representing the gender of the baby while the other parent (presumably) drops theirs, followed by specially prepared ice cream for all (and a messy hardwood floor).

Over the top Gender Reveals involve the mother undergoing non-invasive gender testing, such as a blood sample, which is not disclosed to the parents-to-be but sent directly to the Gender Reveal party caterer. A cake is secretly filled with appropriately coloured icing. At the reveal, the parents find out the gender along with the guests by cutting said cake, which may say, “She or He? Cut me and see!” I heard of one reveal where the cake arrived in the shape of a giant duck that read “Waddle it be?” To which I would have added “And just shoot me!”

Another reason I was taken aback to learn about these public reveals is that it strikes me that some moments in life, like learning your baby’s gender, should be private and not shared like a Facebook post. I mean, what’s next? A “Home Pregnancy Test Reveal” where, if the testing stick changes colour, the icing is blue? Or will guests eventually be invited for cupcakes in the honeymoon suite on the wedding night to actually witness the start of the whole baby process? Oops. Sorry – I said I wouldn’t be a spoiler. My bad.

Allan Shewchuk is a lawyer, food writer and sought-after Italian food and wine guru. He currently has kitchens in both Calgary and Florence, Italy, but will drink wine pretty much anywhere.