Recently, I had two encounters with women that started me thinking about the female of the species and our relationships with food, particularly food of the dessert variety.
The first was with my sister. We were shopping and decided to stop for frozen custard. I asked, somewhat sheepishly, “Is it even noon yet?”
Ice cream before noon, to me, has that same guilty feeling as a cocktail before noon — it’s something that really should be done only on vacation, on the beach when that wonderful feeling of reckless abandon accompanied by total relaxation and the smell of coconut-scented suntan lotion has taken over.
“Yes,” my sister said looking at her cell phone. “It’s 12:20.”
As we sat there enjoying the creamy malted chocolate custard, we decided that the ice cream would have to be our lunch. Then, my sister (the nurse) went on to explain how she felt a bowl of ice cream was a perfectly acceptable supper.
Our 80-year-old dad has eaten ice cream nearly every day of his adult life. Not too long ago, he had it for breakfast. (I know this, because our yogurt-and-toast-eating mother tattled on him). So perhaps it is in our genes.
Compared with one friend’s confessed Sunday dinner of popcorn and gin and tonics after golfing, I suspect there are worse things to eat than ice cream for supper.
The next food incident came at a potluck dinner that my church book club had to celebrate the end of our season. We’ll start up again in the fall, but our send-off into summer is always a feast of covered dishes, about half of which were desserts.
After everyone ate dinner and started heading back to the buffet table for desserts, I noticed that most of the women were bypassing the small dessert plates for the dinner-size paper plates and bringing back samples of no less than four or five of the dozen or so cakes, pies and assorted goodies that members had prepared.
One woman, a longtime educator, sat down with her plate laden with sweets and commented with a sheepish smile, “It would be insulting not to try everyone’s.”
Gotta love that kind of logic.
I know there have been studies over the years concerning women and sweets (particularly chocolate). And while I’d be the last one to ever try to stereotype women, even I would have to admit that this one doesn’t really need much scientific research. Most women wouldn’t deny it. I would choose chocolate or vanilla in any of its forms, over Buffalo wings, bratwurst or barbecued ribs any day of the week.
What strikes me as so funny is that women — the very creatures who most often serve as the food police for our society’s young — are often the worst offenders when sweets are involved.
The image of a mother bird feeding a worm to the hatchling in her nest is for me, the clearest image of motherly love. It shows how natural it is for a mother to care for her children by making sure they are properly fed. We see the mothers in our lives do this all of the time.
I’ve watched my ice-cream-for-dinner sister do battle with her finicky 4-year-old over eating her vegetables, her chicken or whatever healthful dish happened to be in front of her. Here is a child who would be all too happy to eat ice cream for dinner.
I’m sure even Michelle Obama sneaks some of those White House M&Ms when she’s not promoting healthy school lunches.
My own mother, who wouldn’t even buy sugared cereal for her offspring, kept a secret stash of miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups hidden in the crisper bin of the refrigerator. When my brother recently teased her about this, she explained, “I was a stay-at-home mom with three kids in my early 30s.”
After all these years, I understood completely. She needed her stash the way a diabetic needs the insulin. It was a matter of survival.
Even today, when a woman is particularly surly, or stressed or snappish with my mother, her response is typically, “She needs a piece of chocolate.”
Good advice for those shopping for Mother’s Day gifts.
This is one area where Mother definitely knows best.