Monday, October 21, 2013

Ubiquitous

When I go out to dinner I am happy to let things get a little sugary; I am a dessert kind of guy. If I'm going to spend a lot of money on a meal and eat irresponsibly anyway, why not go the whole hog and finish off with a dessert? Sadly, a lot of restaurants seem to pay lip service to the dessert and regard it as little more than an item to checked off the Proper Restaurant List rather than something to take pride in.

There are three items you can rely on to make an appearance on a dessert menu, providing you can convince the waiting staff that you'd really like to see it. First is some sort of dried fruit and cheese situation, the skim milk of desserts. I've no doubt there is a type of person who likes a glass of port and a selection of cheeses to aid their digestion or whatnot but it's not a dessert. I'm not judging such people, it all sounds terribly sophisticated but as the restaurateur you're not fooling anyone with such a feeble attempt to bulk out the number of options on the menu.

Second is "I don't know, I think there's some ice cream out the back?" served in a bowl with a spoon. Always offered with a suggestion that maybe you could spare them the hassle and maybe just buy a tub from the shops on the way home.

Third is thrice damned sticky damned date damned pudding.

There is nothing wrong with sticky date pudding in principle, in fact I'm quite partial to a good sticky date pudding now and then. I'm less convinced that it is such a perfect dish that it deserves its position as the unquestioned lord of the dessert course.

I don't know what it is that has caused this ridiculous situation. Perhaps most chefs just have no interest in desserts and the sticky date pudding is the first item on the syllabus of Sweet Stuff 101. Perhaps the average chef is so enamoured of the possibilities of caramelising every vegetable known to man that there regular caramel has lost its glamour. Maybe the proportion of diners who want dessert is so vanishingly small that there's no margin in buying anything besides brown sugar and dates.

For all I know culinary courses exclude sweet foods, and dessert chefs are the SAS of cookery. "You want to know how to make a cheesecake? Kid, unless you want to end up like old No Face Freddy you'll leave that to the professionals."

Whatever the reason for it, for me the sticky date pudding sits as the ever present excuse to not bother with more varied and exotic options once the plates have been cleared away. Every time I see its name scratched in chalk on the dessert board I can't help but think "you've made your point, you sticky bastard, give someone else a chance."

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