My husband and I went to a neighbor’s surprise birthday party last Saturday night. It’s always exciting to go to this home. The couple is exotic. The birthday man was a concert pianist turned executive of a large company. He has an adorable Belgium accent and is movie star gorgeous. His wife, who is also stunningly beautiful with a tall, slim body crowned by a head of flaming, (not from a bottle) red hair, was an opera singer turned wife, homemaker and mom.
The house is enchanting. It actually looks like an Italian villa perched high on the hill overlooking its own vineyard (all the neighbors are wondering when our resident herd of 36 elk will decide to frisk among the rows of pinot gris grapes).
We arrived with our donation to the potluck, hot chili from my freezer. I always make double batches of stews, soups and chili and freeze half. For this party I mixed three different batches (no two are ever alike) spanning three different seasons from last year. The combination was an interesting melting pot of past chili feeds.
Michelle, one of our neighbors brought a homemade German Chocolate Cake for dessert. She’s the best baker in the neighborhood and the cake looked alluringly attractive. Nelly (my inner child) said,
“We can have some can’t we?”
“No, sugar is poison, remember what we read in Why We Get Fat?”
“We’ll it’s Pascal’s party and it wouldn’t be nice to not join in the cake part of his birthday. And you’ll hurt Michelle’s feelings if you don’t eat her cake.”
“No, we won’t be stepping on anyone’s feelings by passing on the cake.”
“But, I WANT some!”
“Don’t get sassy with me Nel, and if I stare much longer at that cake, somebody’ll think I’m stoned or something. Now let’s go find someone to play with.”
I left the table and found several good conversations to take Nelly’s part of my mind off the treat. The party was fun and I was basking in the collection of happy people. Suddenly I heard the tinkle of a spoon on someone’s wine glass and Nelly piped up,
“It’s time for the cake!”
After singing Happy Birthday, Pascal blew out the candles; the cake was cut and passed around.
Nelly was upset when I declined the sumptuous plate of chocolate decadence that was offered to me. It was at that moment I suggested to her that we use our “vicarious bite” exercise I wrote about in my book The Mouth Trap: the butt stops here! In it, I discuss how to use our ability to watch someone else enjoying eating something we’d like to eat and get imaginary pleasure just by watching.
I picked Shannon. She’s the woman on the cover of The Mouth Trap: the butt stops here! She was such a great sport and allowed being photographed with a mousetrap on her lips. I told her about the “vicarious bite,” and she immediately understood the concept. Then I asked her, “Could I watch you take a few bites of your cake?” She laughed and said, “Sure, let’s sit over there.” We sat on bar stools surrounded by a throng of busy cake eaters who had congregated in the most inviting room in a home, the kitchen.
Shannon cut into the cake with her fork and scooped up a bite about the size of a cherry tomato. I sat with my eyes about eight inches from her mouth and carefully watched as the cake-filled fork moved slowly from the plate to her mouth. When she opened her mouth and put the bite in, I moved within four inches of it and watched as she began to delight in that first bite.
“Ummmmm,” she moaned, her eyes slitting to enhance her sense of taste. I watched as her mouth moved and her tongue did its perfect work until it was time to swallow. She opened her eyes to see my face far into her comfort zone, as I expressed utter joy in her experience. She burst out laughing and I could smell the rich chocolate on her breath.
“Oh, Shannon, that was good! Take another bite.”
“You direct where.”
“Right there in the frosting between layers. Get the cake on both sides of the frosting.”
“No a little to the right!!”
“Oh yeah, this is gonna be good. Oh my, ummmmm, ohhhh, this is so good!
“Ummm, yes, I can taste it! Wow, wow.”
Just short of making a scene like Meg Ryan made in the restaurant in When Harry Met Sally, Shannon and I enjoyed those two bites of chocolate cake. It was as good for me as it was for her. And I didn’t have to eat sugar!
February is, one of candy company’s biggest sales months. If you made a New Year’s Resolution to cut out sugar in 2014, don’t let the push of candy in beautiful heart shaped boxes, jerk you off your resolve. Get your candy fix vicariously.