You can learn a lot about people by simply reading the words on their t-shirts. In an instant, you can know which teams they cheer for, how they vote, where they vacation, and which motorcycle they drive in their fantasy life.
One of my favorites was a shirt I saw on a darling white-haired lady one summer while we were in an ice cream shop in Florida. She was sitting at a picnic table in the shade, along with three or four of her grandchildren, happily enjoying huge scoops of melting ice cream. Her shirt read, “Life is Short, Eat Dessert First!”
I read the shirt quickly and thought, “yeah, yeah, cute saying on a cute lady” but didn’t think too much about it until a few weeks later when we were back home and I saw a car with the same saying on a bumper sticker. It reminded me of that day at the beach when my family was having such a good time together, away from the stresses of real life and our fast-paced routines.
Something triggered in my head and I thought how funny it would be if I served dessert first that night at the dinner table. I never let my children have sweets before dinner time, and I wondered what their reactions would be if we sat down, said the blessing, and then I pulled a pie out of the fridge.
The more I thought about it, the more I became certain I needed to make the idea a reality. I still had several hours before everyone got home from school and work, so I decided to make each of their favorite desserts: chocolate sheet cake for Ron, lemon icebox pie for Smith, and Will’s never-varying two scoops of lime sherbet.
Let me just tell you this: Do it. Do it tonight. The expression on their faces and the uncontrollable laughter and delight around our table that night is one of my favorite memories of all time.
I don’t know why I had never thought of serving dessert first before that night, and now that I’m writing this, I think it’s about time for me to do it again. I feel like I just blinked and suddenly those cute little boys wearing matching bathing suits have become huge teenagers well on their way out of our door once and for all.
Life really is short…painfully short at times. So tonight, I’ll do it if you will. Throw the good parent handbook out of the window, and dig in. Eat dessert first.
Smith’s Favorite Lemon Icebox Pie
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 Tablespoons sugar
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
For the crust, preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in a bowl until combined, then press mixture evenly onto the bottom and up side of a 9-inch glass pie plate. Bake in middle of oven 10 minutes. Cool completely, leaving oven preheated.
For the pie, whisk together condensed milk and yolks until combined well. Add juice and whisk again until mixture is slightly thickened. Pour into crust and bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely, cover, and then chill in refrigerator for at least 6 hours.
For the whipped cream, just before serving, beat cream and powdered sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve pie cold topped with whipped cream.