What do you think of when you hear the word dessert? Does your mind automatically go to ice cream, cookies, pies, or other decadent treats? Is it something you reserve as a special treat once in awhile? Do you only have it when you're eating out at a restaurant?
Those who avoid dessert because they worry about calories or think that dessert isn't good for them should think again. Let's reset our thinking and consider fresh fruit — served without any preparation or garnishes — as dessert, shall we?
Most of us have been trained to think dessert usually consists of some combination of butter, cream, sugar, or chocolate. We try not to have it too often, but it's definitely satisfying to close a meal with something sweet. So why don't you try ending the night with fresh fruit?
I grew up having traditional Chinese dinners cooked by my grandmother most nights. Her large dining table usually seated an assortment of extended family, and my grandmother always presided at the head of the table. After everybody finished dinner, we all knew what was coming: fruit.
Fruit has long been the traditional ending to Chinese meals, even in restaurants, where servers bring out orange wedges to close the meal. It's a nod to the fact that the main savory portion of the meal is over, but to be honest, dessert isn't a strong point in Chinese cuisine, and most restaurants don't even serve any besides fruit.
The Ritual of Fruit as Dessert
Meals at my grandmother's house were no different, and I loved how they ended. Children and even grandchildren weren't allowed to help out in the kitchen, but we were allowed to help with fruit. When everyone was finished with dinner, my grandmother would say, "Go get some fruit."
This was the cue for someone (usually me since I loved doing it) to go into the kitchen and pick out some fruit for dessert. There would usually be some gentle verbal nudging from my grandmother, like how there were some washed grapes or that the store had strawberries today, but I usually got to choose.
If it was a fruit that needed to be cut up, like watermelon or fragrant pomelos, I was even trusted to bring a small plastic cutting board and knife out to the dining table. Once the fruit was presented to my grandmother, she would ceremoniously peel and cut away, and then the fruit would be passed around the table.
I loved this simple ritual and do it now with my own family. I'm not a fruit-for-breakfast kind of person, so this is one of the few times I actually crave fruit during the day.
Fruit for dessert reminds me of seasonality, whether I'm tasting the first summer stone fruit or having yet another clementine in the dredges of winter. Fruit for dessert is my way of getting in a much-needed serving of fruit for the day. Fruit for dessert closes out the meal with a soothing ritual of preparing and eating what nature has provided us, and it gives me a chance to be thankful for it.
I'll never turn down the occasional scoop of ice cream or cookie for dessert, but fruit for dessert will always be my go-to sweet to end the dinner hour.