The scene: a little hole-in-the-wall Chinese buffet, incongruously called the Boston Café, in Parry Sound, Ontario, many years ago. Ken and Eva, not yet married, are with Ken's dad and soon-to-be stepmom, Ken and Heather, not yet married -- try to keep up here -- for a little family bonding. The food is fair at best, but it's almost unnoticed through the general hilarity that surrounds Ken Sr. like a cloud of laughing gas.
It's time for desserts. Now, sweets at the end of a meal are far from a fixture in my life. While I have a whole mouthful of sweet teeth...and also a set or two of sweet dentures.... I've never felt the need to have dessert. But at an all-you-can-eat place where I'm not paying extra for the privilege...I believe Oscar Wilde said it best: "Everything in moderation, including moderation."
That prolific penster Anonymous adds: "I have the body of a god. Unfortunately, it's the Buddha."
I have "saved room" for dessert. This is different from having to make room for dessert, which is something I used to do when I was much younger. Immediately post-entrée, which is to say at what would normally be the end of supper were I at home, I would hear Nature calling urgently. Like clockwork, this was, every night. At some point I'm pretty sure Brain said, hey, Bowels, if you do your little cha-cha right after supper, it'll force me to take this body to a little room far away from the dishes. And if we all stay in that little room far away from the dishes, maybe the dishes will be done when we come out.
This stratagem never worked. I never gave up hope that it would work, but it never did.
I should say, in the interest of total embarrassment, if a great deal of room had to be made for dessert, I might engage in some toilet stall calisthenics. Some vigorous jogging in place, a jumping jack or two--you know, perfectly normal pre-dessert warm-up activity. I'd come back to the table flushed and breathing hard, and no doubt my parents were mystified and bewildered. He's much too young to be coming back from a bathroom flushed and breathing hard. So they asked me what happened, and I told them without hesitation. Years later, they were still bringing that up and shaking their heads at me. I dunno why. It worked.
Okay, let's snap out of my childhood and back to the Boston Café.
I have loaded my plate--or more likely plates --down with all manner of fattening deliciousness. Black forest cake, check. Coconut cream pie, check. A couple of miniature chocolate chip cookies and a Nanaimo bar. Who knows what else...I passed over the little petits-fours that looked as if they'd been on the table for a week or two, and gingerly made my way back to the table. A sardonic cheer went up in my head as I slipped back into my seat, singularly proud of having made the journey without dropping anything. (Yeah, I live my life with interior sarcastic sound effects. Doesn't everyone?)
Dessert's almost finished and I'm listening to my dad tell another of his side-splitting stories. Eva's sitting next to me, but for the moment I'm not watching her. I am about to learn that this is a mistake.
Eva has bitten in to one of those little petits-fours and found it revolting. Totally unseen by me, she spits the thing out into her hand, palms it, and sneaks it towards my mouth, taking cruel advantage of my nonexistent peripheral vision. When I open my mouth to laugh, PLOP! in it goes.
Surprised by this sudden morsel of what I think is food, I bite down. Mistake number two. This thing hasn't been on the table a week or two. More like a month or two. It's rubbery and dusty and tastes distinctly of used underwear and I have to spit this out RIGHT NOW.
The waitress chooses this moment to appear out of nowhere and whisk away the plate I'm about to use as an underwear spittoon. Horrified, I consider my options. I could excuse myself and go the the bathroom, I suppose, but that would involve having this uninvited guest in my mouth for far too long. I could lean over and spit it directly at my wife's face, but even with provocation that seems terribly impolite somehow. I could -- gulp! -- swallow.
Which is what I do. A tradition is born. Henceforth, any disgusting gustatory item must be shared and shared alike. "Love, this is horrid! You gotta try this!" The clause in our relationship agreement has been invoked over several different soy concoctions -- to think, people actually choose to drink soy milk! Here, have a nice glass of hay-vomit! -- and most memorably over a sweet and sour coconut lemongrass soup I tried at a Thai place; that tasted for all the world like a big bowl of Lysol.
Now Eva has had bariatric surgery and there are many things she simply can not eat. This is, of course, monstrously unfair. So many delicious things have been denied to her...and so many disgusting things have been denied to me to share with her. As consolation, the odds of her trying anything god-awful and attempting to share it with me have likewise gone down. So there's that.
But I'm going to miss the opportunity to watch my beloved wife's face pucker up and heave, let me tell you.