Everything and Nothing: Sweet Talk
By Aïda Rogers
There’s not much my friend Kathy and I don’t talk about. Somehow, though, we always end up on the topic of sweets. Usually it’s whatever ice cream flavor she’s discovered and what I’m mixing with my nonfat plain Greek yogurt to make it taste like ice cream. In a way, these conversations are desserts too – a fun way to conclude our time together.
One Saturday after a long walk, Kathy heard my confession. “Sometimes I think about hanging it up,” I said, describing my fantasy of eating whatever I want and ditching this good-girl, diet-and-exercise life.
Kathy nodded. “Ice cream,” she said. “Ice cream for me.”
I struggled to accept that. “No cake, no pie?”
She was resolute.
At that moment I saw a croissant stretching before me, glistening with globlets of apricot preserves. I know now this was a vision. Because ever since then I’ve been thinking about which sweets I don’t want to live without. Eventually I realized my table wouldn’t include tiramisu or crème brûlée. My essential sweets are much more personal.
- Pecan pie. What family reunion doesn’t have at least five? What better reason for Karo to exist? Who lies and says they don’t like the middle part best?
- Jell-O. Whether you’re a purist like my friend Sarah – “Don’t put anything in my Jell-O” – or a fabulist like me, excited about all additions of canned fruit, chopped nuts, shredded carrots and whipped cream, fake or real, Jell-O refreshes like few desserts can. And so cheaply.
- Waffles. I don’t care for these Belgian things, so stiff and structured. I like the ones from my mother’s ancient iron, so satisfyingly squished to the plate in a torrent of butter and syrup.
- Coconut. Love it or hate it – Sarah again – coconut to me is the Mama Cass of the dessert Top 40. I actually spend time wondering which I like best: coconut cream pie with the necessary toasted coconut flakes or coconut layer cake, with that snowy icing that makes a slight crunch. Our chef friend Alicia makes coconut macaroons and dips them in chocolate. I can hardly finish this story for thinking about them.
- Anything with cream cheese icing
- Cream cheese icing
- Armenian paklava. Similar but better (to our family) than the Greek baklava, our version includes pecans and sugar instead of pistachios and honey. In a nation of immigrants, hopefully everyone has a special goody from Ancestor Land.
- Rice Krispy Treats. I needed some recently and even though they didn’t look good when I ate them right out of the pot, I concluded the world would be a sadder place without them.
- Powdered sugar doughnuts. I’m talking about those cute little thick ones that chunk apart so neatly after the first bite, the kind that come in a bag with a plastic window. I know about the apple cider doughnuts in New England and wonder whether they’re as good as those Sweet Sixteens Mama brought home from the Red & White. Surely not.
- Brownies, baked by my friend Kathy. She brought some over one Christmas, artfully stacked on a vintage milk glass plate. It’s one of the best presents I ever got. And naturally, the fastest to disappear.
Aïda Rogers writes from an old house in Columbia and a new porch in McClellanville. Her three-volume anthology series, State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, includes stories by 108 Palmetto State writers.
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