Monday, May 23, 2016

Custard's Last Stand

Custard's Last Stand

For as long as I can remember, the world has been full of sweet treats.

As a young boy growing up, I may have been a little temperamental. At least so the survivors of our dysfunctional family tell me. To placate my little outbursts, my mother gave me ice cream. For some reason, I would then settle down. Well, I didn't have to be a genius to figure out how to get a bowl of my favourite treat whenever I wanted it.

And that's what we do.

When people get angry or upset, we offer them something sweet. Sometimes it's food; sometimes it's emotional candy.

"Here, have a chocolate!" we say.

"Need a hug?" we ask.

"Have a cookie!" we suggest.

"Want a kiss?" we offer with silly pursed lips.

It's rare to let people stew in their misery. After all, stew is definitely not sweet.

I wonder how we evolved into sacchariferous beings. Sucrose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, levulose, maltose, saccharose, xylose — read your labels — all these are forms of sugar. It's like Shakespeare said, "An -ose by any other name is just as sweet."

Today, our obsession with sugar accounts for more and more people with diabetes, obesity, and other health problems. We mitigate, castigate, and legislate against such harmful things as smoking, not wearing your seatbelt, and sexting while driving, but, heck, sugar gets a pass.

For example, the New York City Board of Health passed a bill limiting the sale of jumbo soft drinks within the city limits, much to the applause of health advocates, but the courts overturned the statute. The ruling was simple. The Board of Health overstepped its authority. Want sugary drinks in NYC? You got it!

Now, you would think that, given the opportunity to save lives, we would.

We don't.

The other night, I went out for dinner with a friend. On our way to the restaurant, she asked me, "What are you going to have for dessert?"


My mind was imagining a medium rare steak, with mushrooms on the side, and maybe a tail of lobster to go with it.


That's how we think. Forget the process of eating, forget the journey of life, let's get to the treat ASAP.

It's all a bit like like the whole dating experience. You go through the rigmarole of taking in a play or a movie, going for coffee or a glass of wine, when what you really want is the treat at the end of the night. You may not want the full 50 shades of grey, but you definitely want at least one shade, even if it's not grey at all, even if it's, like, magenta.

So, she asks, "What are you going to have for dessert?"

"Hmmm," I ponder for a moment.

"C'mon," she insists.

"I think I'll have custard."

"Ooooo," she swoons, "I love custard. What are you going to have with it?"

With it?

With it?

Is there a rule somewhere that custard, by itself, doesn't meet the sugar requirement?

"What do you suggest?" I wonder.

"Ooooo," again, the swoony high-pitched voice. "I think I'd have some cheesecake with it, cherry cheesecake ... mmmmmm."

Cheesecake? Why not just take a tomahawk and split my head open? All that sugar would have the same effect. To top matters off, with a metaphorical cherry if you like, I'd be so whacked out from the cloying effects of dessert that I wouldn't be able to manage that other treat at the end of the night.

Maybe that was her intention.

Well, I ate my steak, slurped down my lobster with warm clarified butter, and popped my mushrooms. I don't know if people really "pop" mushrooms, but I'm running out of verbs here. As expected, I then ordered my custard dessert.

"How is it?" she asks.

"Mmmmm," I suggest.


"Uh, huh," I mumble through the creamy concoction.

"Let me have a taste!" she demands.

Well, you can see that apparently dessert is designed for at least two people to eat. Maybe that is why it has two s's.

I really didn't even want custard at all. I was looking forward to the late-night treat, the simple dessert à deux, since her roommate was out of town.

"Here," I offered. "have as much as you like."

I was being polite, of course, but I couldn't imagine she would have too much after polishing off a surreal piece of Red Velvet cake with extra whipped cream.

I was wrong.

"Oooooooo," same old swoony-tunes, "that's sooooo good."

"Finish it off," I suggested, while thinking she couldn't possibly.

I was wrong.

Bingo, there goes the custard.

I didn't mind. I was frightfully full. What concerned me most was that she was cruising somewhere in the stratosphere of sweet, in the Land of Ose, and tripping along the carmel road in her Red Velvet slippers.

So, the only question that remained was whether or not she would crash land on the couch and snore her way into tomorrow, while I was left to polish the silverware on my own.

I decided to skip the Viagra.

To be honest, I love sweet things as much as the next person. I love sweet foods, and I definitely have a yen for sweet and wonderful women. Nevertheless, I suspect that I should probably say something like "Moderation is the key."

It's not.

Instead, I'm left thinking, "What the heck? Life is short."

The fact that we're making it shorter for young and old alike — by continually turning to the sweet rewards that somehow justify all our work and efforts — is, well, simply the way it is. No one works hard unless there is some kind of celebratory treat at the end of it all. Seriously, we are like donkeys chasing carrot cakes on a stick.

Take away the dessert factor in our lives, and nothing would get done.

Offer people a better lifestyle and put the sugar refineries out of business, and you'd have a revolution.

We know better, and we don't care.

We want our cake and eat it too.




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