My own taste buds have adapted wonderfully over time, such that healthy eating just plain tastes better than unhealthy eating. Those old leanings I used to have toward, say, full fat ice cream, have leaned the other way: away from ice cream (now that I’m clear that dairy products are not health foods), and toward the occasional low fat soy- or rice-based “ice cream” dessert options. These aren’t health foods, either, but are probably healthier for me to indulge in once in a while than dairy is.
Enter a dear woman friend of mine, who reappeared in her vacation condo nearby this summer, after an absence of five years (during which time she cared for her husband of fifty years, who finally died of cancer). Here in the Dominican Republic, ice cream is just ice cream, and the Italian places boast real “gelato” in their vivid and colorful outdoor displays.
So my friend, upon passing one of these sensory temptations with my husband and me, and being eager and effusive about “treating” us to something special, insisted on buying two pints of coconut gelato, to go: one for our freezer, and one for hers. Coincidentally, my husband had just opened a nicely aging coconut and had divested it of its solid, white, dry and delicious coconut fruit inside.
The question, when we got the ice cream/gelato home, was: would we even enjoy it, really, since the last full-fat ice cream we ate, probably as long ago as last summer, was just too darn rich, and left a fatty residue on our tongues that we realized we could easily and simply do without. This last is good news overall, because it IS nice to live our lives without feeling a need to buy or to eat full fat ice cream anymore.
Then we took the plunge on the coco gelato, after supper that evening; it was a gift, after all, right? We dished some out into our little, delicate espresso cups, the better to savor it, assuming we even liked it; and if we did like it, then better to not overdo by loading up a whole bowl of the stuff. What’s fun is that, oh my gosh, that little cup-full of coconut gelato, topped with our shredded, fresh coconut, was absolutely heavenly! We even had to close our eyes to eat it, just to appreciate its amazing flavor and the added zest of the coconut flakes on top. It turns out, too, that there’s something “lighter” about gelato, somehow, at least about how it feels and lingers on the tongue; more delicate than Haagen Dazs; I couldn’t tell you why.
But since our taste buds don’t need more than that delectable amount to make them happy, and since our waistlines are fine as they are for sixty-somethings, we now have the pleasure of tucking the rest of that pint away in our freezer, to pull out from time to time, after just the right meal, when we want to re-experience that little bliss of dessert, without having to worry about sabotaging our weight or our health….or our consciences.
I tell you this story to reinforce the reality that, in any healthy eating plan, desserts can continue to hold a special place in the “treat” department; that taste buds and eating preferences really do change over time, the longer you eat healthfully, eliminating much of the need to rely on “willpower” (I hate that word! and its use!) to keep one’s healthy eating trends on track; and that the best dessert, in my book, is this: occasional, exquisite, to be savored……and small!