The Satanic Pudding
“Eighty six kilos,” I said, stepping off the bathroom scales, a gratified grin on my face.
“Well done,” said Mrs R, playfully sending a jet of hair drier warmed air in my direction. “How much have you lost – and put some clothes on, or I’ll be late for work.”
“It’s Saturday!” The look on her face reminded me that she had planned a busy day in the garden. “Just over a kilo in a week.”
I was unsure what the knitted eyebrows and the short silence meant, until, “At that rate you’ll disappear in less than two years.”
“Thank you, Lily Serna,” I said in deference to her mental arithmetic. “How do you plan to spend the super when I’m gone?”
“Oh, that’s easy. I’ll go on a world cruise, find myself a toyboy who enjoys wineing, dining and dancing – and the rest I’ll probably waste.”
I hoped that the wink was meant to reassure me that she appreciated my efforts to get into better shape, and squeezed myself into a pair of stretch denims.
“Do you want to know how I did it?”
“Are you suggesting I need to lose weight?”
“No,” I replied, unable to think of an exculpatory answer, while reaching for my smartphone. “I found an app that works out the kilojoules in everything you eat. Here, I’ll show you.”
Mrs R displayed her customary patience as I mansplained the features of the application and its comprehensive database of foodstuffs, listing their energy, protein, carbohydrate, sugar and sodium contents. “Look, it even has a recipe function which allows you to input the ingredients of your favourite meals, and then tells you how many kilojoules you’re going to consume.” I swiped my finger to bring up a new screen, ignoring the raised eyebrow that warned she would rather be working in the garden. “And the diary tracks what you eat for each meal. I just have to keep the total kilojoules below the target and—“
“Provided you can resist the temptation to eat more than it allows you.” Her interruption was just a little more forceful than I felt the level of encouragement my efforts warranted.
“It helps lead me away from temptation,” I said, with the zeal of the recent convert.
“Oh Lord, make me give up puddings, but not yet.”
“You can mock my Augustinian conversion,” I said prissily, secretly impressed by her misquotation of the Bishop of Hippo, “But I’d rather draw on the inspiration of St Francis of Paola, who swore by the benefits of a Lenten diet.”
“And of abstinence,” she replied with a disconcerting smirk. “Although not of beer. That last bit should suit you, at least.”
She was right, the Minim Friars of St Francis’ had founded a brewery in Munich, and I had a quick mental flashback to what I could fondly remember of an Oktoberfest during the misspent part of my youth, enjoying an unrecalled number of steins, before disgorging them into one of the Paulaner Brauhaus’ thoughtfully provided kotzbeckens, vomit basins with handles for support and a grill to catch false teeth.
“Anyway,” she continued smugly, “Thomas Aquinas was overweight his whole life and it didn’t affect his career.”
“I’m not entirely sure I’m prepared to emulate his example,” I said. “I’m not quite ready for chastity just yet, although I’m not surprised that a glutton might stretch the concept of venial sin to mitigate his risk of committing the first deadly one.”
Mrs R thrust a pair of gardening gloves at me, hindering further pontification on the subject of weight loss, and by the time the grass had been mowed, the fig tree leaves raked and the roses rendered to little more than leafless stumps, it was late afternoon. I found Mrs R in the kitchen preparing dinner, a plump chicken roasting with potatoes. I pulled the smartphone out of my pocket and opened the kilojoule-counting app.
I was in the middle of calculating how much chicken (breast, skin off), baked potato (brushed in olive oil) and spinach (steamed, no butter) I could eat without blowing my daily kilojoule allowance, when a suspicious looking box caught my eye.
“What’s that?” I asked, sounding like the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, distastefully regarding an heretical book.
“A self-saucing butterscotch pudding,” she replied, with a devilish glint in her brown eyes. “I’ve checked the ingredients, it’s very low in sodium.”
“But dangerously high in fat and sugar,” I replied, sanctimoniously.
“You don’t have to eat it, all the more for me and Jon.”
A decent interval after we had despatched the chicken, our son cleared the plates away. Mrs R placed three dessert bowls onto the bench and opened the oven door. The tantalising, mouth-watering aroma of hot butterscotch filled the kitchen.
“Well,” she said, her spoon poised to ladle a generous helping of the unctuous, caramel coated sponge into the third bowl. “Are you tempted?”
“Get thee behind me Satanic pudding,” I replied, holding up my crossed index fingers for protection, and watched them eat in the smug, self-righteous denial of my envious sugar cravings.