I’ve always wondered why people feel each meal should be topped by a sugary, calorie-laden dessert, either store bought or homemade. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good apple pie in the fall with a rich vanilla ice cream, or a pear tart as my friend, Ania, makes it. But to eat a heavy dessert every time you sit down for lunch and/or supper? Is it any wonder we have the problems we do with obesity and the health problems related to it?
The after-meal dessert is something that U.S. children have come to expect. Is it a missplaced sense of prosperity that makes us eat this way? Did we eat this way in the 50′s? In Laredo? If so, I don’t recall. We baked cookies or buñuelos for special occasions, made cakes for birthdays, ate ice cream on hot summer days, or pan dulce especially when it was cold outside, and had a feast of desserts at Thanksgiving. But after every meal? I shudder to think of how much I would struggle with weight now if I had grown up gobbling desserts after every meal. As it is, it’s not easy.
I notice the less advantaged people of Mexico in my visits and the wholesomeness of much of their diet. They can’t afford pies, doughnuts, soft drinks, frozen things in boxes and packages. They must depend on food at its origin: the vegetables, the legumes, and the fruit. And often the meat is cooked into a soup and accompanied with tortillas. It’s ironic that some of these people with a few pesos a day eat a healthier meal than some of our more advantaged children here in the U.S., let alone those who fall through the cracks here.
If I could do anything to change the meal planning in the school where I teach, I would advocate serving dessert only once a week and offer the student a plate of fruit after their mid-day meal. There would be a revolt to be sure; sugar cannot easily be taken away. But at some point peace would prevail (I think) and these children who are accustomed to such a high intake of sugar in one day would become accustomed to living with less of it, becoming healthier adults as a result.
Papaya is an example of what we ate at home as a snack or something to offer a guest on a hot day, or simply a dessert after a meal. What’s there to prepare? You just peel a cold papaya, remove the seeds, chop or slice and arrange on a platter. Papaya is one of the fruits that contains the highest concentration of Vitamin C, potassium and beta-carotene. The custom in Mexico (or Laredo) is to serve a platter of papaya with salt and lime juice, squeezed at the last minute. Its sublime tropical flavor on a summer day beats any baked dessert anyone can put before you.
- salt to taste
- Mexican limes
- Peel the papaya and remove the seeds.
- Cut in slices or 1 inch cubes.
- Arrange on a platter and squeeze lime and sprinkle salt before serving.