Time Out’s Executive Editor Michael Hodges has been dallying with danger so you don’t have to. This week’s thing not to do in London – No 381: become a pudding peddler.
Just how much cheesecake can one woman eat? ‘Hmm, this is great,’ she says as the fourth chunk goes down what is now literally her cakehole. A second later another goes the same way. And then another. Only moments ago she was one of London’s most austere and self-disciplined devotees of healthy living. As she turned down the invitation to order an aperitif she gave our waiter a brief lecture on the health-giving properties of guavaberry juice if taken as part of a strict regime of exercise and meditation. When my aperitif arrived alongside a basket of bread, she haughtily admonished the establishment’s reckless use of the accompanying butter, referringto the spread as ‘poison’.
Now all has changed. If there is such a thing as the ‘pudding edge’ she has thrown herself off it – and as she falls she makes noises dismissing the finest wines and the gaudiest cocktails alike as ‘empty calories’. This makes her the cheapest date in London. Taking her out for dinner usually goes like this: Waiter: ‘Ready to order, sir?’ Me: ‘Yes. I’ll have the foie gras followed by the entrecôte – rare, please. Plenty of chips and perhaps a bottle of the house red or two.’Waiter: ‘And madame?’Whatever I seldom hear from a woman. ‘Hmm, oh yes,’ she groans. ‘This is fantastic.’ Her cheeks are marked with smears of sweet-meetssavoury cake filling, her hair flecked with shards of biscuit base. ‘Why don’t you slow down a little?’ I suggest. She responds by hurling more down where the rest has gone. ‘Ohh!’ She won’t be slowing down then.
It’s an unsettling transformation in someone who rarely eats anything but green stuff. Usually she might pick at a leaf of frizzy lettuce, tease a cucumber slice or two. She has been known to accommodate a bean salad if the dressing has been waved over the bowl rather than poured on. I know better than to offer her an avocado, which, although as green as you could hope for (dark green outside, light green inside – that’s two different shades of green!), turns out to have a fat content higher than eight Kentucky Fried Chicken Zinger Tower Burgers doused in a bucket of Crème Egg filling. Likewise she spurns alcohol, dismissing the finest wines and the gaudiest cocktails alike as ‘empty calories’. This makes her the cheapest date in London. Taking her out for dinner usually goes like this:
Waiter: ‘Ready to order, sir?’
Me: ‘Yes. I’ll have the foie gras followed by the entrecôte – rare, please. Plenty of chips and perhaps a bottle of the house red or two.’
Waiter: ‘And madame?’
Madame: ‘The salad. And water.’
Waiter: ‘And to follow?’
Madame: ‘No, just the salad. And water.’
You can see how much money this could save, especially if she sticks to tap water and only has a starter portion of the green salad.
Tonight this is pretty much what happens. She avoids all the fat and empty calories and I go swimming in them while we spend a happy hour or so agreeing that London is the best place in the world, whether you like meat and wine or lettuce and water.
Then I order the dessert. The waiter tells me there is a two-forone offer. ‘Great,’ I say, ‘I’ll have two cheesecakes!’ When they arrive an unsettling change comes over my diet-conscious date. She points at one of my cheesecakes and says, ‘Is that cheesecake?’ ‘You know it’s cheesecake,’ I reply. ‘Can I try the cheesecake?’ she asks. ‘It’s not green!’ I laugh. She snaps, ‘Give me the cheesecake!’ ‘Well… okay.’ Puzzled by this sudden change, I push it towards her and watch with disbelief as the first cheesecake – and then the second – disappears in a frenzy of face-stuffing that she is apparently powerless to resist. The waiter’s eyes flash revenge at the woman who insulted his butter. At that moment, she catches her reflection in the back of the dessert spoon and sees what she has become: a cheesecake monster. I take the spoon gently from her hand, hold it up and say loudly, ‘Oh, what great cheesecake!’ Other diners look towards our crumbcovered table. ‘This cheesecake really is fantastic. I just had to eat it all up.’ Well, what else can you do?
Read more about Michael Hodges’ adventures.