I said that I would tell this story, and here I keep that promise.
For my 20th birthday party, I held an all-day event at my house. Good food, good games, good people (not in that order, of course).
I’m a workman-like cook. I can’t come up with much that’s new or innovative, but I can follow a recipe. As a meal planner, I’ve always had difficulties; I’ve described my problems with Passover Seders, and I wasn’t any better when I was 20.
Among the many dishes I served that day, I decided to offer both cheese fondue and chocolate fondue. Some 30 years later, I know that’s a mistake. Oh, I know that other people do it besides me; it sounds like a cool idea. But the fact that many have done it doesn’t make it right. The older me knows that part of a meal is balance, and having two dipping courses in a single day is not good balance.
The cheese fondue turned out all right, but let’s focus on the chocolate fondue. Normally, one dips fruit or chunks of pound cake into the melted chocolate. I didn’t like fruit (I don’t especially care for it now), but I thought that only offering pound cake would be boring (another mistake; nowadays I would have fruit available too). So I decided to make chocolate balls to dip into the fondue (yet another mistake; good taste experiences usually involve contrast).
I made the chocolate balls from a brownie mix, baking them a day or two before my party. I put them into a container and left them; I had plenty of other things to prepare for the big day.
We come to the day of the party, at the time I’m serving the dessert. I bring out the chocolate fondue, the cut-up chunks of pound cake, and the brownie balls. My friends are playing games in the living room, so I set up the food in the dining room.
If it had been a sitcom, it could not have been better directed. Each of my guests came into the dining room one-by-one. Those that were already there had had the experience, and kept quiet as they watched the newcomer go through it: the unsuspecting victim would stick the fondue fork into the brownie ball, they’d dip it into the chocolate fondue, maybe they’d blow on it to cool it down, and they’d stick it into their mouth whole.
The brownie balls had hardened into rocks while sitting for two days. Each person found themselves with a hot chocolate-flavored golf ball in their mouth. They’d tried to chew it, while the rest of the guests would laugh themselves silly, remembering that long-ago minute when they’d been the one to look like a fool.
Later (years later!) a more experienced friend figured that I’d let the brownie balls dry out. It doesn’t matter; I’ll never repeat that experiment again.
As for the monster cake:
I’ve had a weight problem for most of my life. As I was approaching 20, I decided I’d deal with it. I exercised and dieted, and lost quite a bit of weight. (Yes, I did it to impress a girl. No, she wasn’t impressed.)
One of the guests at my party, who was also a player in my role-playing game, was a wholesale baker. Even though I told no one to bring any food, because I had plenty, she decided to bring a birthday cake for me. It was one of those huge sheet cakes, the kind that you get for a wedding for a hundred people, about 3×4 feet. Some of the guests (those who weren’t satisfied by the brownie-ball experience) had a piece, but basically that entire cake was left over after the party.
Here’s the part of the story that’s difficult to believe: Over the course of the next two weeks, that cake leaped from the table and wrapped itself around my mid-section. Eventually I threw it out (there was about a third left), but it was too late. The monster cake had claimed a victim.
The successful attack of the monster cake had nothing to do with that girl not being impressed by my dieting. Nothing at all. I don’t know why you’d make that connection. Let’s change the subject.
My tale of birthday food disasters did not end with my 20th birthday. Next: the tale of the Peking duck.