When we were kids, Sunday lunch was always special. Of course, first came Sunday morning mass and all that…
The kitchen would be all a-bustle with Nana, my aunt Cissy and my mum Cynthia cooking up all sorts of East Indian dishes: potato chops, chicken khuddi curry, pork vindaloo, pulao, tossed salad…
And this was always followed by dessert. Mum rotated between making caramel custard, blancmange, jelly, fruit salad or lemon soufflé.
But sometimes, dad bought a family pack of my Nana Evelyn’s favourite ice cream – butterscotch (dotted with bits of praline).
Nana, who a scant five minutes ago had declared, “I’ve done well.” (Translation: “I’m full.”) would perk up immediately.
“Butterscotch ice-cream!” she would say with relish.
“But Nana, didn’t you just say you were full?” my cousins and I would tease.
“When it comes to dessert, I always have a separate stomach,” would come Nana’s prompt reply.
I must have been about five or six at the time, and I fervently hoped that Nana, who was all-knowing (and all-seeing despite her cataracts) was right about this. I guess I can lay the blame solely on my genetic makeup for inheriting my Nana Evelyn’s second stomach for dessert. I suspect, the rest of the Pereira Clan has it, too. 😉
And, going by our recent Christmas and New Year feasts, it looks like this “second stomach” crosses all sorts of cultural and regional divides.
In fact, the Japanese actually have a word for it: Betsubara. To break it down, Betsubara is a combination of “betsu” meaning “other,” and “hara” meaning belly. Yes, that second belly specifically for dessert you always knew you had!
So how come this happens? How come you’re groaning that you can’t possibly have another forkful of fried chicken or morsel of moussaka, that you’re stuffed to the gills on fish curry-rice – but the moment dessert is served, you miraculously have space for brownies – with ice-cream and fudge sauce on top?
I suspect it has a lot to do with Hedonic Hunger. Your brain tells you that you are full. But when it spies something pleasurable, especially sweet stuff like dessert, it releases endorphins (those feel-good hormones) which, in turn, releases dopamine and stomps out the feeling of satiety.
* One school of very scientific thought – I won’t reveal my sources;) – seems to think that you can have ice-cream on a full stomach. As it melts, it trickles down through the tiny gaps between the other food you have eaten. I concur.
Do you have a separate stomach for dessert? Or do you prefer savoury foods? What’s your favourite dessert?