By RUTH WEISSMANN
Growing up, dessert was not an option. Dessert was a perfunctory task and carried out with the ease of an everyday action like folding laundry. When they changed Cookie Monster to Veggie Monster, my family mourned. It was only when I came to college that I realized people didn’t always eat dessert after every meal and that people weren’t constantly planning for their next cookie.
On the whole, the word “diet” is a far too present object in daily life. We see the constant barrage of weight loss programs and fad diets and people bragging on Instagram about how they fit into the clothes they always wanted (please stop). In this day and age, it’s becoming increasingly acceptable to showcase your swimsuit bod on social media. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, right?
Wrong. I’m not sure if I’m qualified to comment on dieting, since I am a healthy, if not underweight, female who has never experienced pressure from family or friends to be slimmer, let alone what it must be life to experience an eating disorder. I am, however, a quite accomplished dessert enthusiast (with references!) and I am here to tell you that sugar is not and should not be taboo.
Dessert is seen nowadays as an indulgence, as something you earn, or as something justified by being a runner or an athlete. Dessert is painted as an argument for the severity of obesity in our country, or framed as the food pyramid family black sheep. Actually, it should be something we enjoy without stigma. Eating dessert means that we value ourselves and our happiness. Plus, as my roommate puts it, “we’re stressed, okay?”
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t find healthy cookie alternatives, and I’m not saying that everything isn’t good in moderation. I’m merely suggesting that in a society in which food, and the consumption of said food, is a cultural norm that most social activity is centered around – meaning that most social encounters, dates and get-togethers involve cooking or eating or meeting at a place where you can both cook and eat – you cannot avoid sugar, and you shouldn’t have to try.
Not surprisingly, I love dessert. I inherited this genetic predisposition from my parents. My father is a candy man, the classic textbook sweet tooth. My mother has a more refined taste for baked goods, and thus I grew up in a household where cookies were whipped up from scratch, and with the highest quality ingredients, up to three times a week. I grew up with 20 different desserts around the holidays, and I never met store-bought Nabisco until I was 12. I had the good fortune to come from a family where dessert was a function of both dinner and lunch, and I thought, and still think, that anyone who doesn’t recognize the power of sugar isn’t worth much time.
And so I bake. I make Reese’s cup cookies and mint bark and homemade frosting and pound cake and snicker doodles. It is part of my master plan to woo anyone and everyone with a little sugar. I have never failed to bond with someone over dessert; it is what brings us together. It works on friends and suitors and teachers and bus drivers and advisors and grandparents. Coming home to milkshakes or peanut butter bars minimizes the stresses of college. Too many of us hide behind cultural expectations, and too few us of roll up our sleeves and get the rolling pin out.
The research is behind me. Dessert has been a staple in every culture from the Romans to the Russians, and the after-dinner treat is a globally recognized tradition today. Eating dessert regularly and in moderation acts as an anti-depressant, boosts the immune system, helps digestion, reduces blood pressure and basically does a whole host of crazy things to make you feel better.
So thank you to my family for fostering my love of sugar. I’ve learned never to regret a lifestyle that includes baking, for this is a lifestyle of happiness in a world that steals your sweetness. Nothing tastes as good as a person feels eating a Purity ice cream cone. Choose quality desserts, brush off anyone that makes you feel for one second like you shouldn’t have eaten that – they aren’t worth keeping around – and eat more sugar.