I Don’t Want to be a Grownup if You Have to Skip Dessert

Enjoy the holidays. Just be selective. Choose all the homemade, buttery things.

Enjoy the holidays. Just be selective. Choose all the homemade, buttery things. (Thank you to my husband for drawing pictures for me.)

Miles run today: 4.5

Presents left to wrap: 1

Cookies still needing to be baked: 89 (I made that up.)

First of all, let me say that I am devastated about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary. I wish that I had power and clout so that I could change so many, many things about our laws and the way the world works. I wish I could abolish evil. But mostly, I wish I could take away the pain that those families will carry with them always.

My grandmother is synonymous with cake. Each time we visited, at least seven desserts greeted us when we opened her glass door and were enfolded in a soft hug. She smells of coffee and baked goods.

(The very reason my husband decided to start dating me was because my grandmother sent him two slices of pound cake with chocolate frosting wrapped in aluminum foil. If he had any thoughts of escaping my evil clutches, they were annihilated in a few bites of soft, yellow, cakey goodness.)

My sister and I used to spend a week each summer with my grandparents. My grandmother would take us out to Taco Bell or Chick Fil-A for lunch if we went shopping, but on special days, she would take us to a fancy-schmancy lunch at the City Club.

One time, her friend went with us, and we all ate our chicken salad sandwiches and made polite conversation. At the end, my grandmother, lover of all things sweet, asked my sister and me if we wanted dessert.

“Yes, yes!” we chanted. As if there were any question of skipping dessert.

My grandmother turned to her friend and said, “I think I’ll just have coffee.”

Screeeeeeech.

I’m sorry. What?

First of all, my grandmother loves dessert like she loves to give loud, musical toys to tiny children. Second of all, I decided then and there that I was not interested in growing up if dessert was off the table.

We ordered huge slabs of chocolate chocolate cake with fudgey chocolate frosting. And we loved it.

But now I am grown up. And my body is all far off the ground and unable to properly execute a cartwheel because of all the limbs and extraneous bones and stuff.

If I were out to lunch at the City Club today, I would order coffee. But not for the reasons I imagined back then.

I would order coffee because I wouldn’t be tempted, not even a little bit.

I know that if I want a real dessert, one that tastes rich and homemade and uses real, honest-to-goodness ingredients, I can make it myself. Or my baking neighbor down the street will send down some real, Italian tiramisu… and if you are able to turn that down, then I’m afraid I can’t be your friend. Why would I want to trouble my taste buds with Crisco icing or dry, crumbly cake?

I made chocolate chip cookies today, my signal each year that the real eating baking of the holidays has begun. Two sticks of butter, baby! We have almond butter blossoms to make and chocolate pretzel chip thingies and whatever else we can find to create for the holidays.

I’m not touting dessert as a main course lifestyle choice, but when I smell the real butter, real brown sugar and real (processed) chocolate chips all melting in together, it makes me glad to be a grownup… one who can whip up a little homemade dessert when the need strikes.

What about you? Do you have a favorite holiday treat? Do you let yourself enjoy desserts over the holidays, or are you one of those super-human machines who refuse extra calories 365 days a year?

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The Omnivore’s Angst

Food. It's what's for dinner.

Days per week my daughter is excited about what I’ve made for dinner: 2

Days per week I cook dinner: 6 (not a great ratio, I’ll admit)

“Normal,” non-bug-oriented foods I won’t eat: 3

* Disclaimer: I am actually a very kind person.

So there we were, ambling around Glastonbury, a town in England frozen in the 1960s, full of dreadlocks and long skirts and chick peas.

“I need a burger,” my brother-in-law who has visited Glastonbury numerous times kept repeating. “Where is a place that sells burgers?”

At 2 p.m. after being stuck in a nightmare fun park called Wooky Hole, trying to escape arcade games and fun-house mirrors, then driving to a town rife with King Arthur lore I should have loved but couldn’t concentrate on because of the rumbling in my stomach, I would have eaten raw squid topped with beets.

We walked past cafe after cafe, mean words barely held back in my brain. My adult/parent/daughter-in-law/sister-in-law good behavior was holding on by a string akin to cooked angel-hair pasta.

Look around, I wanted to say to my brother-in-law. These are people who shun meat. Can we please get a veggie pot pie and move on?

As my 4- and 6-year-old kids clung to my hands, their energy draining away so they could barely maintain verticality, I also wanted to say mean things to the people nearby who were happy and grain-fed.

Baths are fun, I wanted to say. But also, I was considering, Jimi Hendrix is dead! Dead, people!

I did not scare any flower children that day, and my own children continued to prop me up until we wandered into an eatery proclaiming, “Burgers!” on its hand-written sign.

We ordered. I sat and looked grumpy.

And maybe the sign forgot to mention: they were veggie burgers. My brother-in-law was not a happy camper. But because the rest of us were gnawing the table legs, he choked it down.

I used to be a picky eater. too. My mom cooked me separate meals until I was six, and then she said, “This is for the birds. Eat it or don’t.” Mostly, I didn’t. I don’t remember being especially hungry, and not eating whatever it was had little effect on me one way or the other.

Then I went to camp.

It was the summer after 4th grade, and my friends were going to Girl Scout camp in the north Georgia mountains. (Something people don’t tell you about the north Georgia mountains, but which I figured out after several trips up there is: it rains. Like, all the time.)

Camp food, like most institutional food, wasn’t so great. I’d never been away from home for more than one meal at a time, and I spent mealtime hoarding my roll and listening to my stomach making loud growling noises that made other kids frightened of me. I wrote my mom and dad letters saying things like, “They are serving us canned green beans” that my parents found hilarious and framed.

When I got home, I started eating and never stopped. My legs grew four inches that summer, and my taste buds did, too. Things got a lot easier for me after that.

Years later, in cooking for family and friends, we have dealt with gluten-free, vegetarian, veggie haters, people who won’t eat seafood, people who only eat chicken or seafood and Atkins diet folks.

I am now on an Anne Diet kick. I want you to come visit and let me cook for you. But I will be cooking to no specific diet. All foods are on the table, and you may eat them or not. Here are my current food thoughts:

1. Cheese. Two of our neighbors don’t eat cheese. I don’t mean they have cut it out because it has too much fat. I mean, they don’t like cheese. I was not aware that people like this existed in the world.

Sadly, I could lose half my body weight on cutting out cheese alone. I am particularly fond of blue, brie, havarti, goat, farmer’s, feta, gorgonzola, cheddar, monterey jack, asiago, mozzarella, parmesan and pretty much any other cheese. Probably, if you eat at my house, there will be cheese.

2. Vegetables. I’m not sure why many men, especially, are veggie-haters. I have yet to meet a vegetable I don’t like. There will be vegetables at our table. Like, always. Except for

3. Beets. Beets are evil and must be destroyed.

4. Protein. At our house, there will be all manner of seafood, red meat, pork, chicken, legumes and nuts. Just try to stop me. (Except for those with nut allergies. I will keep all nuts away from our kitchen if you come to visit.)

5. Gluten. If you have a medical condition, I will eliminate gluten. I am not interested in making someone ill. If you are simply anti-Cracklin Oat Bran (gasp!), I will have to open up the box and ask you to try a piece. It’s addictive.

6. Butter. We use Brummel & Brown as our spread, but you can’t beat (small amounts of) butter for cooking or baking. Let’s not denigrate a true hero, people.

7. Fruits. It’s true that I have to force myself to get enough fruit in my diet. I eat a lot of dried fruit in the winter (in trail mix, especially) and fresher fruits, like pineapple and peaches, in the summer. If you are very, very good, I will make you my Grandma Ann’s Apple Pie. I am still waiting for research to prove that fruit in a pie is more nutritionally sound than plain old fruit. Still waiting.

8. Tomatoes. I won’t get into the whole “Is a tomato a fruit or vegetable?” paradox with you. But fruit, vegetable, or small, round animal, there is nothing like a homegrown, fresh-off-the-vine tomato. Nothing. I will also allow myself to enjoy the canned variety but draw the line at 14 tomato-laden meals per week.

Please write and tell me your weird food stuff. Are you a foodie? What is your kryptonite? What do you hate?