Eating Through Dessert

Experience has taught me how desserts should be enjoyed—very carefully

When it comes to desserts, I tend to be picky. This isn’t because I have a particularly sophisticated sweet tooth, but rather because dessert tends to take up valuable stomach space that could be used for more important things—like cheese. However, when I do find a sweet I like, my enthusiasm for it generally falls close to that of a kid on Halloween. Who is hungry. And who gets to eat candy only once a year.

For years I’ve ranked the best desserts I’ve eaten. And while, oddly enough, people are rarely interested in hearing about a crème brûlée I ate fourteen years ago, I’m proud of my list. Unfortunately, one summer in college, my pride in my dessert acumen took a serious hit.

I’d been traveling with my family, and on our return home, because of a rushed flight schedule and poor planning, we didn’t have time to eat all day. By the time our plane landed at 9 p.m., I was wondering how TSA would respond to someone hijacking a plane in order to rob its cache of peanut packets.
As we left the airport, my parents said we would be getting dinner from Jack in the Box. Normally I would have protested patronizing a place that offers tacos and fries in the same combo and is named after a creepy children’s toy. But lack of nourishment had left me weak, so I sat quietly in the backseat, plotting an order that would result in a bill as if I’d dined at Per Se.

When we pulled into the drive-through I requested a combo. Then I requested it in the largest size possible. And then I asked for it to come with a piece of chocolate cake. The server at the window likely assumed a very large man was sitting in the backseat. As we drove away, my parents announced we’d eat at home. Home was an interminable fifteen minutes away. I demanded to at least be given the chocolate cake. And considering that when I’m hungry my voice sounds something like Regan’s from The Exorcist, they handed over the dessert.

I ripped off its plastic wrapper and took a bite. It was decadent and dense. I announced it was the best chocolate cake I’d ever tasted. I began to describe its rich flavor in detail and say how genuinely surprised I was that the best chocolate cake I’d ever eaten came from a fast food restaurant. I couldn’t stop talking about it—even though my mouth was full of it.

After eating all but a few bites, our car passed beneath a streetlight and I caught a glimpse of something. “Uh oh,” I said quietly. My brother looked at me. “What?” he asked.

I shook my head and tried to hide the cake. But it was too late. He flipped on the light and looked down at the almost-finished baked good in my hand. And there, peeking out around the remaining few bites, was a small amount of gnawed-off wax paper. I’d eaten almost an entire cake wrapped in wax paper. And practically written sonnets to it as I chewed.

That night my family lost some respect for my dessert rankings. And probably a little respect for me in general. But I maintain that this incident was merely a fluke. It was a blip on an otherwise excellent record for identifying delicious desserts—and an invaluable lesson. I learned to never judge food after fasting. And, probably most important, to always check to make sure everything I’m eating is, in fact, edible.

Categories: Loose Ends, Opinion, The Buzz