I am celebrating this year’s gastronomic holiday in a new decade….and reflecting on my 40th birthday earlier this week, I am reminded of the very purpose behind this blog….to question what we eat and why we eat it. Today my focus is on DESSERT.
We dined out this year for my birthday and, at the end of our meal, a ridiculously gigantic slice of mud pie was delivered to me. We sang happy birthday and then I surprisingly began to dig in, without any hesitation. I seriously think I took it down almost all by myself. Although I always turn things like this away, I figured it was a decent enough occasion for me to escape and indulge….despite the fact that, on so many levels (dairy, sugar, etc), this is just not something that I eat these days. I have no remorse for my actions, nor do I think it is a big deal that I ate a piece of pie, but it did make me think.
While I reserve this type of indulgence for a milestone birthday, so many others enjoy dessert nearly every time they dine out. Most restaurant wait staff will kindly ask you at the end of your meal if you “saved room for dessert”. That question is funny to me, because it’s essentially asking someone if they….after eating a full meal….at the end of the day….have room for thousands of empty calories.
We do this in our homes as well. My children often ask for dessert after they “clean their plate”. It is ENGRAINED. Today, on this Thanksgiving, we will no doubt indulge in many sweets after our hearty meals.
SO WHY IS THIS? WHY DO WE EAT DESSERT?
I scoured the internet and found no substantial evidence of why we partake in this activity, apart from it being an indulgence. It does not aid digestion and, without argument, is not the most nutritious way to end a meal.
Following is an excerpt from yensa.com that I found as the most worthwhile explanation of how dessert has evolved:
Although the custom of eating fruits and nuts after a meal may be very old, dessert as a standard part of a Western meal is a relatively recent development. Before the rise of the middle class in the 19th-century, and the mechanization of the sugar industry, sweets were a privilege of the aristocracy, or a rare holiday treat. As sugar became cheaper and more readily available, the development and popularity of desserts spread accordingly.
Taking this one step further, and pairing it with humor, is considering the effect of sweets on our brain in the following illustration:
Ultimately, could the reason why we eat dessert be due to INERTIA OF THE STATUS QUO? This is a term that a close friend of mine uses to describe how people/groups/organizations accept things the way they are….and the way they have always been….without questioning them and resisting change. I’d have to think that this could very well be the reason. After all….if something tastes good, feels good and is widely available and accepted – regardless of its purpose or benefit, there is no motivation to change it.