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By Mark Leyner
It doesn't take a forensic psychiatrist to explain the origins of my obsessive love for pudding. For me, pudding is all about the polymorphic erotics of being fed. More than just a cheap thrill in tough times, pudding turns me into a baby bird waiting there, gape-mouthed, for some sweet, pre-chewed pabulum.
What if you could condense the evolution of gastronomic pleasure from the very first mammalian sip of mother's milk to everything savored and swallowed over the millennia into one single alimentary act? Sound crazy? And, friends, I'm not talking about hot, steamy Christmas puddings, bread puddings, figgy puddings, crème brûlées, or zabagliones. I'm talking about the store-bought, ready-made pudding you find in the refrigerated section of your supermarket. I'm talking six plastic four-ounce cups of cold, thick, dizzyingly sweet pudding for around $2. I'm talking Swiss Miss. I'm talking Kozy Shack.
And actually, I've refined the act of pudding eating even further, down to its Eucharistic essence—a single spoonful. Two ounces. Seventeen cents' worth.
Here's how it's done: Scoop out a tablespoon of pudding from the plastic container (butterscotch is regarded by pudding illuminati as the epitome of flavors); put it in your mouth; do not move it around or disperse it in any way with your tongue; swallow the glob intact and let Mother Gravity slowly draw it down. Remember—this is as much about how it feels as it is about how it tastes.
Anticipation of that single sweet glob is the fuse that drives me through the day. A tablespoon of pudding is the perfectly titrated dose. It's a fugitive pleasure, swallowing a syllable. That sweet, thick syllable—pudd. The -ing is simply the slide down the throat, the pudd as it bids adieu... The parting of the pudding is all sweet sorrow.
A cowboy's shot of whiskey in a saloon sends the cowboy west, far from Mama, toward trouble, exile, and ultimately into the sunset. But the spoonful of pudding has a completely opposite vector. It sends you back, back east, back to Mama, toward the dawn, all the way to Eden...before the fall of mankind. Prelapsarian paradise at only 17 cents per glob! That's what I'm talking about.
Mark Leyner's most recent novel is The Tetherballs of Bougainville
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