The Vicarious Bite
My husband and I went to a neighbor’s surprise birthday party last Saturday night. It’s always exciting for me to go to this home. The couple is exotic. The birthday man was a concert pianist turned executive of a company that bottles hydrogen peroxide. He has an adorable Belgium accent and is movie star gorgeous. His wife, who is also stunningly beautiful with a tall, slim body crowned by a head of flaming, (not from a bottle) red hair, was an opera singer turned wife, homemaker and mom.
The house is enchanting. It actually looks like an Italian villa perched high on the hill overlooking its own vineyard (all the neighbors are wondering when our resident herd of 36 elk will decide to frisk among the rows of baby grape plants). The two children (nine and five) have their own quarters! The children’s quarters would suffice for most of us to live in beauty and comfort for the rest of our lives.
We arrived with our donation to the potluck, hot chili from my freezer. (I’m on a low carb diet so beans are out until I weigh 120 pounds.) I always make double batches of stews, soups and chili and freeze half. For this party I mixed three different batches (no two are ever alike) spanning three different seasons from last year. The combination was an interesting melting pot of past chili feeds. If anyone would have asked for the recipe (which they didn’t) I wouldn’t have had one.
One of our neighbors brought a homemade German Chocolate Cake for dessert. Michelle is the best baker in the neighborhood and the cake looked alluringly attractive. Nelly (my inner child) said, “We can have some can’t we?”
“No, sugar is poison, remember what we read in Why We Get Fat?”
“We’ll it’s Pascal’s party and it wouldn’t be nice to not join in the cake part of his birthday. And you’ll hurt Michelle’s feelings if you don’t eat her cake.”
“No, we won’t be stepping on anyone’s feelings by passing on the cake.”
“But, I WANT some!”
“Don’t get sassy with me Nel and if we stare much longer at that cake, somebody will think we’re stoned or something. Now let’s go find someone to play with.”
We left the table and found several good conversations to take our mind off the treat. The party was fun and I was basking in the collection of happy people. Suddenly I heard the tinkle of a spoon on someone’s wine glass and Nelly piped up, “It’s time for the cake!”
Instead of an announcement to sing and blow out candles, the entire group stopped talking and sent their attention toward the “tinkler.” I heard the voice of my husband who loves to give toasts. (He used to be a television anchor man and he has a great toasting voice.) But instead of a toast he said, “Thank you for your attention. I’d like to take this opportunity to talk to you all about . . . . . . . Amway.” The party erupted into hysterical laughter! I got to roll my eyes and give that helpless look only a spouse can give. The party resumed. Terry loves this joke (he doesn’t sell Amway) and it works every time when we’re in an elevator. He’d never tried it at a party, so he was quite pleased with himself at the response.
I like to watch
Finally it was time for the cake. We sang, Pascal blew out the 46 candles; the cake was cut and passed around. Nelly was upset when I declined the sumptuous plate of chocolate decadence that was offered to me. It was at that moment I suggested to her that we use our “vicarious bite” exercise. In my book The Mouth Trap: the butt stops here! I discuss how to use our ability to watch someone else enjoying eating something we’d like to eat and get imaginary joy just by watching.
I picked Shannon. Shannon is the woman on the cover of The Mouth Trap book. She’s such a great sport and allowed to be photographed with a mousetrap on her lips. I told her about the “vicarious bite.” She immediately understood the concept. Then I asked her, “Could I watch you take a few bites of your cake?” She laughed and said, “Sure, let’s sit over there.” We sat on bar stools surrounded by a throng of busy cake eaters who had congregated in the most inviting room in a home, the kitchen.
Shannon cut into the cake with her fork and scooped up a bite about the size of a cherry tomato. I sat about eight inches from her and carefully watched as the cake-filled fork moved slowly from the plate to her mouth. When she opened her mouth and put the bite in, I moved within four inches of it and watched as she began to delight in that first bite.
I'll have what she's having...
"Ummmmm,” she moaned, her eyes slitting closed to enhance her sense of taste. I watched as her mouth moved and her tongue did its perfect work until it was time to swallow. She opened her eyes to see my face too close for comfort, but expressing utter joy in her experience. She burst out laughing and I could smell the rich chocolate on her breath.
“Oh, Shannon, that was good! Take another bite.”
“You direct where.”
"Right there in the frosting between layers. Get the cake on both sides and the frosting.”
“No a little to the right!!”
“Oh yeah, this is gonna be good. Oh my, ummmmm, ohhhh, this is so good!"
”Ummm, yes, I can taste it! Ummmm.”
Just short of making a scene like Meg Ryan made in the restaurant in When Harry Met Sally, Shannon and I enjoyed that cake. I think it was as good for me as it was for her. And I didn’t have to eat poison!
An interesting note: If you notice on the cover of my book, Shannon is a very thin person. My guess is she’s 5’8” and weighs about 110. Two bites were all she wanted of that cake and she told me she was completely satisfied. As was I.
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