Getting My Just Desserts

For the benefit of all the DFAC menu writers out there, this post is about the sweet course that often follows a meal. You can tell because I’ve used two S’s. A desert, on the other hand, is what we are in (which certainly explains all the dust) and the word has no place on a menu unless you are trying to capture the texture of the cake. In that case, “desert cake” would be sadly appropriate.

There’s really no shortage of desserts offered at the various DFACS and, at first glance, the variety appears rather impressive. After about week 7, however, the monotony sinks in and, after 2 1/2 years some of my early favourites have lost their appeal. I do, however, still like to indulge in the sweets after most dinners. We have a pretty good arrangement here too. Both J and M2 go to the gym almost everyday and often skip dessert. M and I are already buff enough so we let J and M2 exercise for us by proxy and we eat an extra dessert for them. The world remains in perfect balance and everybody wins!

Desert Cake

Cake is almost always available in one form or another. Be warned, all North Americans and others who talk English good; the cake is usually labelled as “pudding” at the Cambridge DFAC. Yes, it is ironic that they don’t know the proper word for cake at the “British” DFAC.

Be further cautioned that the cakes at the Cambridge and Lux are ALWAYS really, really, really dry. I don’t know if it’s the complete lack of humidity here, the choice of ingredients (powdered milk or eggs perhaps?) or what but if you choose the cake at either of these DFACS you must slather it in buckets of the always available warm custard.

The Monti and Independence Hall somehow manage to serve very moist cakes. I’m pretty sure most of them have been in a frozen state since they left the cake factory in Kalamazoo or wherever and got thawed just prior to serving. The Lemon Drizzle cake as our loggie L calls it is particularly tasty. Oddly, L is from the UK and uses words like fortnight, stone and cheeky but doesn’t call a cake a pudding. Good for you  L! We’ll get you to stop saying “ice hockey” when you mean “hockey”…someday.

Pie R Squared?

Gee, I wonder why it’s called a pie chart

As with the cakes, the mass produced, frozen factory pies run circles around the DFAC-made ones. First, and probably most importantly if you’re a stickler for rules like me, the factory pies are round. The DFAC ones are rectangular…those are goddamn fruit casseroles, not pies. Second, the DFAC fillings are always too sweet and the crusts cannot be cut with even the best plastic knife. The bottom crust should be used to build submarines. No matter how soggy it gets, it retains its herculean strength.

For the DFAC folks who aren’t familiar with pie shapes.

I’ve done a fairly in-depth study comparing these pies and my data is summarized in both pie and casserole chart form.

There was one fruit casserole at the Lux that deserves special mention. It was labeled as a “Lemon Pie” despite its shape but the problems went well beyond its orthogonality.

Lemon Meringue Rendered Fat Pie Casserole

There were white blobs of something that both M and I took to be meringue on top of it. But it wasn’t. As far as we were able to determine, it was straight lard (i.e. rendered fat) that may have had a smidgen of butter blended into it. I am not making this up. As you can guess, we both muttered “what the fuck?” when we tasted it. So my question to the fruity casserole guy at the Lux is, of course, “What the fuck?” Note: The stuff on the side is vanilla pudding and it wasn’t too bad…at least it wasn’t made out of rendered fat (as far as we could tell).

The best pie around is the factory made apple pie. Unfortunately, one rarely finds this on offer. The best bets for getting decent pie are the Monti and IH. There is often pecan, sometimes sweet potato and always, always, always the ubiquitous cherry. I would suggest to the DFACs that if you consistently find that the only pie you have left is the cherry, perhaps it is not your most popular option.

Sloppy Seconds

Being in a war-torn desert, one has to expect the DFACS to be careful about wasting food. They do a pretty good job turning yesterday’s meals into todays desserts but what they are lacking is consistency.

The rice pudding they make with the leftover rice is usually pretty good. Sometimes they add raisins or almonds…both good choices. But they really have to try and always remember to add the sugar. Unsweetened rice pudding is really just gooey, overcooked rice. And, while I appreciate inventiveness, trying to re-purpose the leftover chocolate custard by adding it to the rice pudding, while admirable, is really ill-advised. Chocolate rice pudding is just kinda nasty. Stop it.

The bread pudding is another very good, environmentally friendly dessert but, once again, the cooks go a little overboard in their green frenzy and throw in the chocolate custard. Chocolate bread pudding, while Mr. Google tells me that it exists, is just unpleasant in the DFAC. I suspect they’re not following Paula Deen’s recipe.

I’ve spoken of egg desserts before. Despite our previous experience and for reasons I do not fully understand, I decided to try some “Baked Egg Custard” at the Lux. Holy crap! It was good. I don’t get it. Maybe, like the rice pudding, they just forget to put the sugar in sometimes. So now, when you see Egg Custard on the dessert table, you’ve got to ask yourself one question:

Quick Question
How the hell did they screw up the Jello at the Cambridge last week? As I recall, the directions are: Add hot water, stir, put in fridge. That’s not too hard is it? The orange stuff they had out tasted like they’d added 3 or 4 too many flavour packets for the amount of water. It was so bad I even reported it the guy in the white shirt, yeah, I went right to the top. To his credit, upon hearing me say “umm, taste that Jello, it’s kinda funky and sumpin’ ain’t right”, he immediately took the tray back to the kitchen. Not sure if it came back out once the annoying Canadian with bad grammar left.
I Scream, You Scream, We’re All Afraid of the Ice Cream

Ok, that title is a bit of an exaggeration…I eat the congealed carrageenan as much as the large guy at the next table. Now, this “ice cream”  comes out of a soft serve machine much like you’d see at Dairy Queen. Generally, one of three flavours is available on any given day: white, brown or pink. The sign on the machine will say “Vanilla Ice Cream”, for example, and this translates into “White Congealed Carrageenan”. Alright, I don’t know if there is indeed any carrageenan in the mix, but it’s a fun word to say and I’m pretty damn sure there’s no cream involved. Do you know that Prince Edward Island in Canada is one of the world’s largest exporters of Irish Moss, the seaweed from which they get carrageenan? Do you care? Hey, it’s a better reason to visit there than goddamn Anne of Green Gables.
The pink flavour is particularly awesome looking as it is not a colour found anywhere in nature other than the wilds of the Walmart Barbie aisle. It has neither the taste of real strawberries nor that of Twizzlers…it just tastes pink. The brown flavour varies in colour from a sickly beige to a dark mud. Unfortunately, they sometimes forget to put the little attachment on that gives the ice cream the nice wavy swirls. On these days, the look of the brown flavoured stuff is just a little too reminiscent of dog turds. The flavour also varies immensely from vanilla-y to hint of cocoa but, thankfully, never tastes like it looks.

On several occasions, I’ve had the misfortune of seeing the staff filling the ice cream machine with the bucket o’ goo. It was a little off-putting but not near as troubling as seeing them remove the sludge as they clean the thing. If it’s a really hot day and you really want something cool, sure, go for the ice cream. Just close your eyes and think of England…

Bottom Line

You won’t be lacking for sweets at any of the DFACS but it’s often a bit of a crap shoot. Monti and IH are the most consistent with the desserts but Cambridge and Lux occasionally get it right. Remember these simple rules for a carefree after dinner treat: 1.custard helps
2. get your ice cream on the boardwalk
3. yesterday’s garbage can be tomorrow’s delicious sweet, within reason,
4. mass production and flash freezing rocks, and
5. geometry matters.

11 thoughts on “Getting My Just Desserts

  1. Pudding is the British term for “dessert.” It doesn’t mean cake, pudding, pie, tart, or anything specific, it’s just a generic name for what we call dessert.

    “If you don’t finish your meat, you can’t have any pudding.”

    • You’d better like that audio! I had to pay $20 to wordpress to be able to embed it. This upgrade is good for a year so you can look forward to many gratuitous audio clips as I attempt to whittle down the cost/sound.

  2. Have you eaten in the HQ caf??? I know you have. All hot meal left overs either wind up in the next days 2 soup choices, or on the salad bar line. Remember that next time you to visit, you probably would be better off walking across the road to the golf course where at least you can have a beer with your lunch. Just sayin.

  3. Not to burst your bubble, but L also uses the word pudding for all desserts. It’s just that the lemon drizzle cake in all it’s lemony moist goodness, is a specific pudding option that she asks for by name. Don’t blame L though – it’s just how she was brought up.

  4. Found out the lemon drizzle cake and the apple crumb cake, too, are made in Amarillo, Texas. Makes me wanna move there. But with my luck all the cake is in KAF. It’s perhaps the most palatable thing out here but I guess you need more than one food group.

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