Thursday, June 09, 2011

Essay flashback: The continuing saga of Ms Sweet Tooth

I wrote this essay 10 years and 10 million desserts ago (I was just recently accused of exaggerating. You think?), when I wrote stuff because I was assigned a deadline and a small fee. Today I still write about dessert without the promise of compensation, just for the joy of savoring the memories of good sweets. The day I say 'no' to dessert is the day I tuck my shirt into pants again. So, anyway, here's the essay – slightly shorter than the original published version.


The continuing saga of Ms Sweet Tooth
August 2001

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the 'Titanic' who waved off the dessert cart.” – Erma Bombeck

Along with an entire horde of hormonal women in the world, I cannot resist dessert. Dessert is not an option, it is inevitable. Passing up what is for me the most important part of any substantial meal is like walking out of the movie theater just before Harry finds Sally on New Year’s Eve to tell her that “when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Okay, maybe not exactly like that, but you get the picture.

During one particularly heavy lunch, my friend proposed a rather questionable explanation for the phenomenon of always having room for dessert. We were trying to justify why we still wanted to order ice cream with barely enough space for our lungs to expand. At that point, I was willing to listen to anything that will allow me to get just a bit of chocolate into my system.

With enough conviction to incite public unrest, he said that dessert has a special ability to creep into the crevices of the food already inside your stomach. Of course, I didn’t point out that, for his theory to hold water, this only applied to dessert that melts or is already soft/liquid to begin with. It’s hard to imagine a slab of frozen turtle pie trying to work itself into the spaces between ingested pork chops … but then again, why bring it up? I tried not to probe him too much regarding his theory. You know what they say about not biting the hand that pays for lunch.

I was a dessert freak as far as I could remember.

When I was a kid, life and cartoons and math and dessert were simple. One of my favorite desserts back then was a certain Magnolia frozen delight with a name that escapes me right now. We called it “Up and Down,” but I’m (almost) sure that wasn’t on the label. It was one of the cheaper popsicles (price was and still is an important factor), and one of the most attractive, in my opinion. Its top half was yellow and the bottom, orange.

I don’t remember ever having a whole popsicle to myself, as my older sister and I shared everything at the time. The problem was she wanted the yellow part, so I had no choice but to wait for her to finish. Did it matter that I wanted the yellow part too? Was it ever taken into consideration that by the time I got to hold the stick, the orange part was already melting like crazy? That’s what I had to bear for being named after a flavor/color: everyone assumes I actually like orange. (The truth is my sister never assumed that, she just always took advantage of me.) To this day, I disdain melted ice cream and near-liquid popsicles.

If you don’t remember Up and Down (or think I just made the whole thing up), you may want to refresh your taste buds by trying Selecta’s Twister Pop, which comes remarkably close. Except I think they’ve discontinued making that, too.

When my lola (chief enabler extraordinaire) ran out of spare change, I had to settle for improvised desserts, one of which I still get a hankering for every now and then.

Our house was never without Milo, as my sister and I were raised to believe that it was some miraculous drink and that it was a tragedy not to have a cup of it in the morning. I don’t remember how or when it started, but a childhood dessert discovery involved the omnipresent Milo powder. We put about two heaping tablespoons of it in a cup and added a drop of water. We rolled the drop around the cup until it formed gooey ball of chocolate goodness. Voila! Instant dessert. A small drop went a very long way.

Skolatina of Cyma:
I've come a long way from Milo balls
(taken in 2011)
If you haven’t figured it out, let me say that I am easy to please when it comes to dessert. To this day, one of my finest memories of cool heaven is a huge cup (barrel?) of nonfat soft-serve chocolate yogurt at Universal Studios more than 10 years ago. Very cheap, all the taste, none of the guilt and, being in cold weather, didn’t melt at all. I enjoyed it more than the Back to the Future ride (that’s saying a lot, considering it was one of the main attractions at the time).

Now, trapped in an adult body, I find that I get stuck with regular, but no less sinful, desserts. After a while, all the restaurants seem to have the same stuff. Yes, I don’t love them any less, but something in me longs for something more than just another cake, ice cream concoction or fruit platter. For instance, I thoroughly enjoy the TGIF creation so grotesquely named Cup of Dirt – a cup of chocolate pudding laced with gummi worms and topped with cookie crumbs – but find that it’s beneath my dignity to order it after a normal adult-appropriate dish.

An unusual yet delightful dessert I’ve had the pleasure of discovering was in Hong Kong, at the Vong restaurant on the top floor of the Mandarin. My friend and I ordered one of the set lunches on the menu. After a glorious meal of what was supposed to be appetizers (they were more than enough, believe me), they served us a plate of what looked like red sorbet. It turned out to be raspberry chili ice cream. After the first taste, we couldn’t stop wow-ing and mmm-ing. The frozen liquid delivered a sharp pang to the tongue and made us all confused – it was both sweet and spicy. I didn’t know if I was smiling because of the view of Hong Kong harbor, the good company or the chilly chili.

As if that weren’t enough, the waiter served us an assortment of round chocolate confections. There was one piece that looked highly irregular. It looked like any other dark chocolate ball. Except it was sweating. As in big drops of moisture were running down its silken contour. It looked like it was scared to be eaten.

Playing the role of the heartless cannibal giant, I slowly took a bite. As it turns out, the chocolate shell was covering a ball of flavored ice (my friend and I agreed it was apple-flavored), which explained the condensation. It was a surprise beyond my wildest sweet dreams. And one I still think about every now and then with a faraway look in my eye and mild shooting pain in my tooth.

1 comment:

Happy said...

it was called "flavor twin"