It all started with the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020, and it’s one of the few lingering effects of the experience that hasn’t tempted me to seek intense electroshock therapy.
You might be thinking that I gained a renewed sense of unity with my wife and three teenage daughters — with whom I managed to stay cooped up for several weeks without setting my hair aflame and performing cartwheels naked down the street. (I kept my pants on.) Or maybe you assume that I found a fresh appreciation for the simple things in life — like good books, the great outdoors, and an underground survival bunker stocked exclusively with toilet paper.
While family unity and hoarding household paper products certainly came into focus during quarantine, I developed a passion for something else that has had an equally profound impact on my mental wellness — namely, dessert.
Because I wanted to stay out of my family’s way and avoid winding up in one of my daughters’ TikTok videos, I spent a lot of time alone in the kitchen (and not just secretly devouring Girl Scout Cookies one plastic sleeve at a time). I decided it was high time for me to learn to prepare some homemade treats that might lift everyone’s spirits and cholesterol levels.
Since then, I’ve become proficient with a couple of recipes that are high in carbs, sodium and other ingredients that make food worth eating. I even recently bought myself an apron — a black one so that I can pretend to be The Pioneer Woman AND Batman at the same time.
My personal favorite is an old-fashioned banana pudding recipe that my grandmother used to make — to the delight of the family and the detriment of our waistbands. I’ve learned that the secret to great banana pudding is homemade vanilla custard, rather than the inferior instant pudding mix from the box. It’s important to remember, though, that a high-quality custard requires constantly stirring the mixture over low heat long enough to make you wish you had just used the dang instant pudding mix from the box in the first place.
Unfortunately, there has recently been a local shortage of a key banana pudding ingredient, Nabisco’s iconic Nilla Wafers, which I’m sure is somehow Vladimir Putin’s fault. He clearly doesn’t understand the relationship between artificially-flavored snack cookies and world peace.
When I can’t find the Nilla Wafer mother lode at Walmart, I often turn to chocolate pie, which is especially popular with my wife and daughters. In fact, they often accuse me of spoiling them, but it’s really that I just can’t bear to think about a meal that doesn’t end with an excuse for me to spray aerosol whipped topping directly into my mouth.
Of course, making chocolate pie from scratch requires a precise measurement of Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder. When I was a boy child, I remember breaking into my grandmother’s pantry and sampling a generous spoonful, the bitter result of which was like suddenly discovering that Santa Claus isn’t real. (But since he is real and I learned to make pie, everything’s ok now.)
Making homemade desserts has opened up a whole new world of unhealthy deliciousness to me and my family. And although my pie sometimes caves in or my pudding doesn’t set, I always find the strength to power though the disappointment by eating the whole thing myself — for the sake of my mental wellness … and world peace.
Jase Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected]