The End of Good Desserts

I guess there's a new diet out called "Eat More, Weigh Less," which makes me feel something of a trendsetter, since that's what I've been doing for years, only without the weigh-less part. My problem is that I enjoy good food, and it apparently enjoys me, too, since it usually chooses to stick around after I've eaten it, in the form of what I would call "love handles" and other people would call "fat."

Being a mature man, I can shrug off these insults, explaining to these other people that it's my body, I make my own choices, and if I'm overweight it is not my fault.

My problem is that very often, when I am a guest for dinner, someone will serve dessert, which I feel compelled to eat because I'm a polite person who doesn't want to insult someone by refusing to eat her pie with ice cream and caramel sauce and nuts and a whole pan of apple strudel. (If there is no dessert, I am perfectly resentful to go without. I'll make little jokes like "if there's no dessert you must be a horrible person" so that everyone at the dinner will get over their embarrassment at the dreadful faux pas and look upon our hosts with tolerant repugnance.)

My love affair with sweets started when I was a child, but not in my mother's kitchen. My mother didn't like to bake and to prove it would make us her chocolate chip cookies: heavy, flat disks with all the succulence of kiln-fired clay. My mother's cookies were very popular with my friends because they never lost their texture even after hours of field hockey. (We also liked the idea that they were made of biodegradable materials and didn't need to be picked up from the playground at the end of the game, though I recently returned to my old neighborhood and some of her cookies were still lying there.)

It was at my Aunt Pat's house that I first learned that dessert was not just for breaking teeth. Aunt Pat would cook a deep, rich chocolate cake, fudge frosting layered on with a trowel, and bake coins into it so that you not only moaned with pleasure, you collected what amounted to half a week's allowance in the process, spitting nickels and quarters out on your plate with a satisfying clink. Whenever people ate her cake for the first time, their eyes widened, either with delight or because they needed the Heimlich Maneuver.

My aunt has rather selfishly suspended her production of chocolate cake because of the whole "broken hip" thing, leaving me to try to find a worthwhile substitute. My first try was brilliantly innovative: Holding a bite of brownie in my mouth, I shoveled in some ice cream and hosed it down with chocolate syrup. It really wasn't that good, though, and so after a while I gave up because I'd run out of ice cream. Then I purchased a box with a picture of a cake on it, but inside were all these so-called "ingredients" that, once I'd mixed them and baked them and put out the flames, tasted suspiciously like one of my mother's chocolate hockey pucks.

My next step in this brave, selfless journey was to visit a series of local restaurants, where I discovered something that without exaggeration I will call the Gravest Problem Facing Mankind Today: No one knows how to make dessert any more.

Instead of light cake piled high with sweet milk-chocolate frosting, restaurants now serve flourless concoctions topped with a thin smear of hopelessly bitter black goop that tastes like tar paper. The more expensive the restaurant, the worse it gets, each so-called cake more dark and hostile than the one before. My sister used to make better-tasting stuff with her Easy-Bake(reg) Oven!

This is bad news for all human beings and, more importantly, for me. Unless he works for the government, a man has to have principles, and here are mine: Chocolate should be light, sweet, and wonderful. Cakes should contain flour, sugar, butter, and dimes. That's just how it is.

I'm sure you'll join me in wishing my Aunt Pat a speedy recovery.

~ Bruce Cameron ~

[ by W. Bruce Cameron Copyright © 2008, ( ) -- submitted by: Bruce Cameron ]

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