I Smuggled a Knife, Stinky Cheese, and Herbs Past the TSA This Year

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A Massachusetts woman recently had a cupcake confiscated by a Transportation Security Administration agent at Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport. The offending baked good was packaged in a jar, which immediately made it a potential weapon of mass destruction (and we're not even talking about what it can do to your thighs).

The story reads a little like a bad sit-com. According to ABC News, Rebecca Hains was traveling with her husband and toddler when they were stopped because of the cake-in-a-jar. Hains told ABC: "We also had a small pile of hummus sandwiches with creamy fillings, which made it through, but the cupcake with its frosting was apparently a terrorist threat... I just don't know what world he was living in."

TSA spokesman James Fotenos told ABC News affiliate WCVB: "In general, cakes and pies are allowed in carry-on luggage." He also said the TSA was looking into why the cupcake was confiscated.

I have to admit that TSA and customs officials are completely inconsistent in their efforts to flush out terror-inducing treats. In the past year alone, here are some items I've passed through various checkpoints:

Runny King Cake
Every February, I go to New Orleans to run the Mardi Gras marathon. This past year was no exception. Walking to the expo, I stopped by Cochon's Swine Bar for a quick snack. Right by the counter were little king cakes, a Mardi Gras tradition. But these had a little baby pig instead of a baby hidden in the cake. I had to have one. I also had to have a large king cake from the Swiss Confectionery on St. Charles Street. After two days in my hotel room, these cakes looked a little, well, sweaty. But they traveled through the scanner, along with an assortment of spices from the New Orleans School of Cooking.

Stinky Cheese
My husband was recently in Denmark on business. Sensing he had to bring home a gift (well, I asked him to bring home a gift), he immediately found the most romantic present possible -- a collection of stinky, ripe, and runny cheese from a local monger. Did I mention he made stops in Monaco and Paris (with the cheese in his carry-on)? That cheese went through at least four checkpoints before it got to me. And I could smell it through his suitcase when he walked through the door. But I didn't know it was cheese. I thought something had died.

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Laine Doss
Magic Herbs
A recent trip to one of the spice islands in the Caribbean, St. Vincent, allowed me to stock up on various herbs. And although my friendly cab driver admitted the herb you're thinking of is the largest unofficial cash crop on the island, I settled for anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a little blend called "magic spice" that a local merchant insisted I try. No problem bringing magic herbs back to the States (though that one worried me greatly).

The Machete
Here's where I totally effed up and completely didn't mean to do this. I was in Jamaica and was eating sugar cane. A local showed us how to strip the bark to get to the sweet sugarcane, and I was using a small, sharp knife. Not really a machete, but I called it that. I put it in my tote bag and forgot about it while packing for the airport at 4 a.m. At the security checkpoint, I was singled out. As the guard was rummaging through my bag, he found the machete (OK, knife) and held it high up in the air -- still searching for something else. Amazingly, he finished perusing the bag, placed the knife back in the tote, and sent me through to the plane! I was so freaked out (and sure that my stay in Jamaica would be extended by three to five years) that I threw the knife out before I boarded the flight.

Half-Drunk Bottles of Rum
On a recent cruise vacation, my husband and I toured several rum factories. At each factory, we sampled and purchased rum (around six bucks a bottle). The cruise ship was supposed to confiscate the bottles until we were back in the United States, but at every port they allowed us through. Our cabin turned into an open bar. At the end of the cruise, we had three half-filled bottles of rum left. I threw them into a plastic bag, expecting they would be confiscated (along with more spices, some chocolate, and many bottles of homemade hot sauce in what looked like recycled cough medicine bottles). Guess what? We were sent right on through with a "Welcome home"! Granted, not the TSA's territory, but I was still pretty surprised.

The moral of the story: Apparently magic herbs, stinky cheese, and a knife are OK. But never, ever bring a red velvet cupcake-in-a-jar aboard an aircraft.

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