Eat Your Cake and Have it Too

Of course, that’s not the way the expression goes. It’s supposed to be “Have your cake and eat it too”.
But what’s so unusual about that? In life, first you get a piece of cake, so now you have it and then you eat it!
The expression really means that you want to have the best of both worlds. Have something, consume it and still have it.
But as we all know, you can’t have it both ways, it’s impossible. Or is it?
Try a simple experiment:
Eat an apple. Take the seeds and plant them in a little bit of soil in a cutoff little milk box like you once did in First Grade. Water it, pull the weeds.
Wait about six months.
Carefully replant the tiny sapling into a giant box filled with carefully measured out soil (be sure not to shake the original soil off the tender roots).
Wait another 4 or 5 years until the apple tree starts producing ripe, juicy apples.
Eat ‘em. Bake ‘em. Make apple pie out of them.
Now go back and measure the amount of soil left in the box.
If you’ve done this properly, you will find that only a tiny fraction of soil has been consumed.
So where did all those apples come from?
Where did the tree and its leaves come from?
The answer is water, sunlight and soil!
(If you like, try repeating the experiment using just water and sunlight. It just won’t work without soil).
Every tree, every plant, every stalk of wheat and blade of grass utilizes soil and its nutrients to grow. Yet, after all these years, the earth is still encrusted about four feet deep with rich, fertile soil. Seems like they’ve all eaten their soil and have it too.
How does that happen? _ _ _

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By Louise on June 27, 2012 -- 5:05am

I love this; just the other day I was asking my family if they would think less of me if I said I really wanted to have my cake and eat it too.
Think this law applies to people? if so what would be an example?

By Steven Carson on January 22, 2013 -- 4:10am

You forgot carbon dioxide in air!  Most of the mass of a tree or other land plants comes from the carbon dioxide the plants get from the atmosphere.  That is why there is so little loss of mass in the soil. What they get from the soil is the water and nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates.  Those nutrients are needed in much smaller quantities than the carbon dioxide and water. 

Also, soil is not static.  Soil is constantly eroding and new soil is constantly forming. Soil properties and depths vary with location due to local climates and rock types available.  Not everywhere is soil rich and fertile.  The four feet encrustation is a simplification. 

Finally, I do agree with your phrasing of “Eat your cake and have it to”, which is why I came to the site.  As an aside, a play on the standard phrase is “Halve your cake and eat it two.”

By seriously on April 18, 2013 -- 3:19pm

“How does that happen?” Are you daft?
When the plants die, they decompose until they’re back as soil. This is also how nutrients are returned to the soil. It’s not a grand mystery. Also, your anecdote has very little to do with the original quote, and twists the meaning entirely.

By Royal_Terror on October 21, 2013 -- 12:17pm

If you’re serious, the scientific answer is that once everything dies, it goes back into the earth and decomposes. The reason farmland doesn’t sink gradually is because, as you pointed out, plants don’t use much soil (they only absorb specific minerals, rather than consume anything and use only certain amounts, like animals do).

Furthermore, plants don’t “have their cake and eat it too.” If a root has somehow depleted all the mineral resources it can, it will expand to find more; the soil doesn’t replenish itself (quickly.) What the plant does is similar to eating a fraction of a percent of a single slice of an Earth-sized cake.

Yes, the process is amazing, but it’s not a supernatural event. God created the universe to be self-sustaining (in the short run, at least; the process known as entropy is a seperate topic). I’m not sure what the article was implying, but this is not a miracle any more than magnetism is.

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