• May 25, 2015

Iowa State Daily

Maxwell: Dessert shouldn't have to come in last

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Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 10:26 am, Fri Aug 31, 2012.

Like most people I enjoy food but do not equally enjoy the effort involved in its preparation. Restaurants help a lot with this problem. I love eating out, especially on a date. But something that bothers me is the order in which this is done. Specifically, why does dessert come last?

Sometimes dessert is the most satisfying part of a meal and occasionally, the only satisfying part. I suppose this may be a valid reason to have it as the final dish. If it is the best part of the meal, the rest will only be disappointing.

Thinking back, this relates to my childhood experiences involving dessert. When I was growing up, I never got dessert unless I finished the rest of my meal. I had to earn that special part of dinner by consuming everything that came before it. For parents who want their children to eat healthily, this system makes sense. Eat what you need, and then you can have what you want.

But as an adult, why should this continue? Meals are up to me now — I am not required to suffer through vegetables I did not really want in order to enjoy a tasty treat. Most of the time when I finish everything that has been served to me, I am full enough not to want to eat any more food. That is not something I want to celebrate by stuffing a piece of cake down my throat.

I am not the only person questioning the expectation that dessert comes last. Ben Hayden, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at Rochester University, says when writing for Psychology Today:

“It’s a puzzle because models of human decision-making about how rewards are distributed in time emphasize our fundamental impatience. We want our rewards as soon as possible. Given a salad, an entree, and some chocolate cake, all standard economic models predict you will eat the cake first, then the entree, and the salad last.”

There seems to be no real reason to eat dessert after everything else, and even Samantha Rose, reporting for DessertReport.com, cannot explain why this is done today. After postulating on why this meal order came to be, she dismisses the issue and guesses that “maybe it is because we want to end our meal with a pleasant taste left in our mouth or maybe it is just because it tastes the best and we like saving the best for last.” Luckily, she also reminds us that the order in which we eat our food is our own choice.

Many times during a date, I have taken a girl out to eat just dessert. Every time the experience is amazing, and it feels liberating. Plus, is very rewarding not to feel completely stuffed afterwards, especially when eating out before participating in other events planned for the evening.

Even though the word “dessert” comes from the French word “desservir,” which means “to clear the table,” I don’t think waiting until the end of your meal is always the best option. Meals are meant to be enjoyed, not just provide us with nutrients. This is a benefit of the advancements our species has made in food storage and preparation. Our food should not have unnecessary rules or restrictions that must be followed in order to enjoy it. So I challenge you to change your meal plan, so to speak, and savor the experience of doing something different.

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