06 May I’m only here for the dessert
I am just going to put it all out there and say that I don’t really care about anything except the dessert.
It is a shameful time in history to be that person; at least within the demographic I run with. Any more, I find I look back nostalgically on the days when people simply ordered their salad dressing on the side and obsessed about oat bran. Today, large groups of people seem to be eliminating wheat and dairy entirely from their diets. Just like that. And only those living entirely off the grid can have missed that the lowly kale leaf has evolved from the half-wilted bed cradling the orange slice next to your western omelet to the Holy Grail of super foods, and who could have seen that one coming?
I have struggled a bit with how to adequately capture my feelings about dessert. In part because I thought, Boy, if I am going to write about my dessert journey, maybe I have to write about other things, too. Like, maybe I have to dive into my whole messed up relationship with food, and my evolving body non-acceptance, and that time I ate brown sugar straight out of the canister.
However, maybe I can simply say this: I grew up in the 70’s, and I was raised by a woman who struggled valiantly with her weight for most of my childhood. Physical fitness was only just starting to be a thing, so most of the tools in the weight battle arsenal at that time were dietary. And as little as we know about nutritional science today, people knew even less in the 70’s. I am nobody’s cultural historian, but I can tell you about my own food experience growing up, which basically consisted of normal food with all the fat cut out of it, augmented intermittently by the most terrible, worst-possible, food. For example, I think I was 15 when I first discovered that lasagna was actually supposed to have cheese in it; about the same time I learned that margarine wasn’t its own thing but actually a sorry substitute for butter. We always had “diet bread” in our house, which was actually just super-thinly sliced regular bread. Bread which could never quite hold its own against the nasty, separated, natural peanut butter that lurked in our pantry. I was frequently given snacks of Melba toast and cottage cheese. I grew up drinking Tab.
Suffice to say, we didn’t have dessert on the regular. But I would go over to a friend’s house and learn that Twinkies and Pop Tarts existed in the world and go bananas. And on those rare occasions when my parents were having people over for dinner, and my mom baked an actual cake? It was like Christmas in the crack den. And if you have no idea what that means, I’m sorry, I don’t either. But I can assure you that by dinner time the following day, there would be nothing left but crumbs, and my little brother and I draped across the couch like Templeton after the fair.
Possibly as a result of this upbringing . . . although possibly because it simply takes a lot of sugar to keep this sweetmobile running . . . my default mode since leaving home has been to eat dessert with every meal, and sometimes instead of the meal. Because I can.
Which brings us to my dumbest current problem: Events with alternating desserts. I don’t know if this happens in other places, but around here, when I go to a business or a fundraising luncheon or dinner, frequently the places are set with alternating desserts. Like, the actual meal hasn’t been served yet, but the desserts are already out on the table for your perusal. And while one place gets some awesome piece of warm chocolatey goodness; their neighbor gets a stale persimmon and lemon rind wafer. Alternated over and over around the table. Like musical chairs but with pie.
And you have to choose carefully, because it’s not that easy to switch them out once you are committed. I have learned the hard way that, although the people who show up at these things are the same people who walk around town wearing Lululemons and toting kale smoothies, and they feign this indifferent attitude of, “Oh, look at that, there happens to be a piece of double-decker chocolate and orgasm cheesecake here at this place where I just happened to sit down,” they know exactly what they are doing, and are rarely if ever susceptible to a trade. And once, when I decided to rely on my cat-like stealth and switch desserts with my neighbor behind her back, I knocked over a parfait glass the size of Rhode Island and treated everyone at the table to a little raspberry puree with their salmon. To my mind, it was an improvement on the dish, but apparently it was something that is not normally done in these circles.
Anyway, I went to another one of these luncheons today. Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting versus a celery stick with a raisin on it. I couldn’t make this stuff up. (Although I just did. I think the alternative was actually Jell-O chocolate pudding. But same difference.) My timing was all off because I had to talk to another human being on the way in; it might have been my weight loss coach, I wasn’t really paying attention. Anyway, by the time I got to my table, all of the pieces of carrot cake were claimed. So there I sat with my horrible sad chocolate celery raisin quivering mockingly at me. I sort of hinted to my neighbor that someone with her figure probably didn’t want a piece of carrot cake that size, but she wasn’t having it. As I said, these people know what they are doing.
Halfway through the lunch, I texted my friend, who had somehow landed all the way across the table from me: “Does it seem to you like the dessert choices here are sort of Koch Brothers versus Bernie Sanders?” My friend texted back: “Why do you think I’m sitting so far away from you?” And pointed to her piece of carrot cake.
It’s like dessert Game of Thrones out there. It’s always the people closest to you who stab you in the back.
Jennifer L. Jordan lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her family. She does not actually have a weight loss coach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.