Tag Archives: dessert

On the gradual decaffeination of life’s pleasures

One evening this week, at dinner with a friend, the waitress cleared our plates and asked us whether we’d like desserts. Since we hadn’t been too impressed by the food, we decided to go straight to coffee. And for the first time in my life, I ordered a decaf.

There’s something BC/AD about opting for decaf. The first time you do it, you’re mentally bisecting your life, cutting what is to come adrift from your devil-may-care, stimulant-fuelled past. You’re making a statement, and that statement takes many forms, the most anodyne being, ‘I need to get a good night’s sleep tonight’, with more cynical interpretations including, ‘It may be only 10pm, but I’m already thinking about getting home and going to bed’.

For me, the message was, ‘I’ve reached that age where my body now partly dictates my lifestyle’. Which is a daunting admission that elicited a raised eyebrow from our waitress.

It’s part of growing up – and growing old – this gradual shift to moderation. At 18, I’d wake up on Sunday mornings feeling bright and dewy, despite having gone out the night before. Of course, I’d affect a hangover for form’s sake, but in private I naïvely assumed I was someone whose system just didn’t bow to hangovers. Reality set in with each passing year, and now, within reaching distance of 30, I’ll drink only one glass of wine more than usual at dinner and find myself the victim of a stealth attack hangover that leaves me staggering around, miserable and uncomprehending, for two days. As a result, I’ve learnt to eye all alcohol from a respectful distance.

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Beware of derring dough

It’s official: London’s best pizza is a teeny tiny establishment hidden away in the ’burbs – and I helped bring it to the masses.

To help find London’s best pizza, I worked my way through Naples’ finest export for six days in a row, as part of a team of reviewers eating their way across the city. I don’t know about the other participants, but my behind still resembles an enthusiastic pizzaiolo’s mound of dough as a result of my endeavours. But my greed was all for the greater good, so I consider my new freeform posterior an act of physical altruism.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve taken on a pizza-related challenge. When I was an angular-limbed, stick-thin 12-year-old, I beat a grown man in a pizza-eating contest. (Come to think of it, he could well have been grooming me for future gluttony, though it all seemed quite innocent at the time.)

I was at his daughter’s birthday party and we were going down the All You Can Eat route at one of those places that serve pizzas whose deep-fried bases can double as yoga mats. He asked me which of us – him or I – could eat the most slices, and I answered truthfully. He raised an eyebrow and upped the stakes by telling me he’d give me a fiver if I did manage to beat him. Whereupon I coolly proceeded to match him slice for slice…

…Thirteen slices later, I ordered a cheeky dessert while my opponent collapsed face-down on the table, banging his hand on it repeatedly to signify surrender. I sauntered out, crisp fiver in hand; he staggered home a changed – and more cautious – man. It has been ever thus.

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