Another Cake Order

We’ve been thankful to have some income coming in from bread and milk sales. We’re still below where we need to be to get into the black, as they say, but we’re working at it.

One thing that has been pretty regular is cake orders. We have had one or two a week for quite a few weeks now. On average, we make about $14 per cake.

Steph enjoys baking and decorating. It’s cathartic for her–when she’s not under pressure. That’s been a bit of a challenge with these orders because Peruvians are notorious for their inability to plan. You’d think their own birthdays would be easier to plan for, but somewhat humorously, even that takes them by surprise.

Peruvians prioritize relationships over most things, even over honesty. They do not say no, as a rule. If you ask for help, they will always say yes, even when they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they cannot keep their word.

How many times have I asked for a product at a tienda and received the immediate reply, “Sí, hay. Yes, we have it,” only to discover when I go to pay that they need to run down the street to buy it from another person, or that they will get it from Cusco tonight and have it here by tomorrow or the end of the week?

So, when Elisabet asked for a cake this week, and I said no, it was hard on her. She and Rafael were both clearly offended. But, the problem was that the call came Tuesday evening that they wanted a cake Wednesday morning–and not a simple cake, either.

I said no. Steph had once accepted an order with that sort of pressure and had to stay up past midnight. I had gone to bed but woke up and found her crying over the cake because it just wasn’t coming together. I was able to help her finish that cake, but I decided cakes and relationships with strangers weren’t worth stressing out my wife.

Steph has to work hard on normal days with six children and a husband to keep track of. Adding a cake order to an already busy day is a bad idea. Besides which, she cannot work steadily on a cake because of the arthritis she has in her hands. She loves the work, but she has limits.

I reminded Elisabet that we need two days warning for simple cakes and three days for complicated ones. She called back an hour later and said her friend was back begging for the cake. Could we do it with one extra day?

Steph decided she could fit it in. We both knew it would be a long day yesterday. She baked the cakes late the night before to get a head start. I was available to help. I took over school stuff and freed her up to work on the cake. She finished after 8:00 last night.

Elisabet asked why it would take so long when it was “just a cake.” I wisely did not let my indignation show. People can buy “just a cake” from anywhere. They cannot buy one of Steph’s creations.

I explained that our family comes first. I told them the story of Steph staying up late in tears to complete their one order. I reminded them that we have six children and many animals to care for. And I told them if someone wants a thing, they can give the order in time or wait until their next birthday.

“But you might lose a customer!” They said, in horror.

“But I will take care of my wife,” I told them.

The light suddenly seemed to come on. It was as if they finally realized I wasn’t disregarding relationships. Rather, I was prioritizing love and respect for the most important relationships.

Elisabet turned to Rafael and very firmly said, “Muchacho, escúchame. Young man, listen to me. You will not tell customers that Señora Estéfani can make cakes in one day. She needs three days. She has artos bebés that she must take care of, and we must not make her cry.”

I did not take the opportunity to remind Elisabet that she was the one who had insisted the cake be done with no notice. I smiled and agreed that would be better.

And the cake is lovely.