18 December 2009

Desert Dessert

Last night I dreamed that I consulted a doctor for my ear infections. In waking life, my daughter is currently afflicted with an ear infection; mine are just fine, thank you very much. In any event, this dream doctor informed me that my ear infections were caused by excessive sugar consumption. Hmmm. Even in my sleep I could concede that there might be something to the insinuation that I could cut back on my sugar intake. I did, I'll confess, consume the better part of a bag of marshmallows over the last six days. Whipped corn syrup not being a super healthy snack.

But come on, it's Christmastime! So here's what I'll be making for dessert Christmas Eve: Sticky Toffee Pudding.

That particular recipe comes courtesy of Beginish restaurant in Dingle, a gorgeous (if unfortunately named) little fishing town in southwest Ireland. Here's what sunset in Dingle looked like in 2007:

The first time I had this dessert was, in fact, in Ireland. I wasn't sure what to expect, having no previous knowledge of sticky toffee pudding. Rather than the semi-liquid spoontreat I expected, this was actually more of a rich dense cake (pudding being Britspeak for any dessert.) Super sweet and gooey, it was just as sticky as promised, and served warm, swimming in hot caramel sauce. Yum to the power of yum!

Halfway through the dish, however, the eu- in my -phoria turned to dys- as I pulled something odd and fibrous out of my mouth. I inspected the offending article as discreetly as possible. What on earth is it? I wondered. Animal, vegetable or mineral? It looked suspiciously like, well, cloth. Had a stray piece of paper towel drifted into my pudding? I spooned through the dish in search of more clues; more stringy mysteriousness confronted me. What if a dirty rag fell in? I called the waiter over and asked her to explain the mystery. She was as perplexed as I and my stomach began to tighten with ever-increasingly gross ideas of what non-food I'd just consumed. Back to the kitchen went my delicious dessert. Admittedly, I was sad to see it go, offensive alien object or no. Have I mentioned it was delicious?

When the waiter returned, she explained that sticky toffee pudding is made with dates.

, I said.

, she said and pivoted away wearing one of those looks I have since learned to recognize as roughly translating to "Stupid bloody American". But, really, who would have imagined a sun-wizened, little desert-dwelling date turning up in damp, dreary Dublin?

Which brings me to another one of my long-pondered anachronisms: why do we dress our Christmases solely in Charles Dickens-wear? Who decided that the holiday must exist perpetually frozen in late-19th century England? Did the Limeys somehow get a copyright on holiday traditions? Was there a giant contest, like to chose the Olympic host city, and England won? I bet Israel was pissed, seeing as without it's most famous resident, one Jesus H. Christ, there wouldn't have been a Christmas at all.

Consequently, drifts of snow, velvet-clad, be-bonnetted carolers, holly and ivy have emerged as the indisputable backdrop items we've come to expect each December. But none of those things bear any relation to where lots of us live. Even more importantly, it would seem, the Victorian Christmas has absolutely zilch to do with the birth of the lil' baby Jesus.

Shouldn't all those "Keep the Christ in Christmas" people -- you know the ones, who get offended when someone wishes them a benign but Christ-less Happy Holidays, who feel the shorthand "Xmas" shortchanges Our Lord of his due respect -- shouldn't they be decorating their front lawns with palm trees and camels? Sifting sand, instead of snow, across their mantles? Instead of stockings on the chimney, why aren't they hanging sandals from tent poles? When they don their gay apparel, why isn't it a caftan?

Maybe the answer to this conundrum lies in yet another conundrum (turning this post into a veritable turducken of quandries) that has long bedeviled me: why do cinema Jesuses inevitably have British accents? Even when the movie is entirely made by and starring non-British actors, The Son of God gets himself a plummy Eton accent. What the who? On top of everywhere else, have the Brits totally colonized Christianity, too?

To that end I propose sticky toffee pudding for everyone this holiday. Let the dessert serve as a bridge -- gently wresting the yule free of the iron grip of the British Isles. Thanks to the humble date, we can restore the holiday to a more appropriate motif.


  1. Remember when things that were fat-free, even if they were marshmallows, were considered healthy? It was a terrible era for butter, but man, all the candy canes you could eat.

    Still, some toffee pudding sounds pretty yummy right now.

  2. Totally! "You can have one piece of cheeses, or THIRTY TWO PLAIN BAKED POTATOES!"

    I'll take the cheese, please, Susan Powter.