EACH TIME we have people over for dinner, the same conversation takes place with at least one pain-in-the-neck during dessert:
"How about a piece of cake?"
"Oh, I really shouldn't."
"Are you sure? It's very good. Maple walnut."
"Well, maybe just a sliver."
"Here you go . . ."
"Oh, God, that's too much. Half that."
"No, better not. It'll keep me up all night."
"Are you sure?"
"Well, maybe half a cup."
"Cream and sugar?"
"Doctor says I shouldn't. He'd kill me."
"Are you sure?"
"Well, make it a smidgen of cream."
Let me say this to all you people who pick dessert to turn into health nuts: I don't know what the hell a "sliver" is, OK?
And I don't know what a "smidgen" is.
Or a "tad." Or a "tidbit."
Or that thing -- especially that thing -- where you hold your thumb and forefinger about an inch apart and say: "Just this much."
These terms are not, so far as I know, listed on the Official Chart of Weights and Measures. If you want to use those goofy terms in the privacy of your own home -- where, presumably, the other weirdos in your family are familiar with the lingo -- fine, knock yourself out.
But not when I'm the guy wielding the cake cutter, is what I'm saying. Because all I want to know is: DO YOU WANT A $* PIECE OF CAKE OR NOT?!
Sorry. It's just that . . . I don't know, it drives you nuts after a while. You ask a simple question and . . .
Here's the thing, too: People only act this way during dessert. For instance, you hardly ever hear anyone say during the main course: "Just a sliver of fried chicken for me, thanks" or "Oh, that's way too much broccoli; make it about half that."
And yet as soon as the dessert arrives, people feel compelled to make life difficult for the host by suddenly remembering that they're watching their weight or avoiding caffeine or whatever.
A friend of mine once put away a 16-oz. Porterhouse, lobster, french fries, onion rings, a loaf of bread and four Coors in a steak house. When the dessert cart rumbled up, he told the waiter: "Just a sliver of that pecan pie -- I don't want to be a pig."
Another time I was helping to serve cake at a birthday party when a woman said: "Honey, only a teeny-tiny- teeny piece for me."
So I gave her a piece the size of an M&M. Well. The woman gave me a dirty look and stomped away -- although not before I wrestled my present from her grasp. (The gift turned out to be a nice sweater, too, robins-egg blue and just the right size. The woman was not cheap, I'll say that for her.)
But what does that mean, a "teeny-tiny-teeny piece?" It has to mean "extremely small," right? After all, that's two "teenys" (or "teenies") sandwiched around a "tiny."
As to the matter of coffee with dessert, this, too, has become an endless source of annoyance at the dinner table.
Listen, when I ask whether you want coffee, I don't want to hear your medical history, OK?
I don't want to hear that coffee keeps you up all night. Or that it makes you "jittery." Or that it makes you beat a path back and forth to the bathroom.
I'm not with the New England Journal of Medicine, OK? And we're not here to kick around your bladder control problems.
All I want to know is: DO YOU WANT A $ CUP OF COFFEE OR NOT?!
(And what's with this "half a cup" business? If the stuff keeps you awake, try this: After the meal, go run eight miles with a 20-pound weight strapped to each ankle. Then drop to the floor when you get home and crank out 150 push-ups. Believe me, you'll be asleep in no time.
(If that doesn't work, try throwing back a few shots of gin. My guess is you won't make it to "Nightline." Plus you'll enjoy a comfortable night's sleep, providing you haven't passed out in the kitchen sink or someplace like that and wake up with coffee grinds in your hair and your neck crooked at a 45-degree angle).
My point is, it would save us all a lot of time and trouble if you people would just eat the cake and drink the coffee, OK?
Why you pick dessert to turn into nutrition fanatics is beyond me.