The 20th anniversary of The Simpsons is being celebrated soon, and our recent long-overdue trip to the dentist reminded me of one particular episode in which Lisa is persuaded to give in and get braces on her teeth just like all the other Springfield kids when she is shown the “Big Book of British Smiles.” Now, you can save your wise-cracks about British dentistry, because while I am prepared to defend my countrymen and say that British teeth are, in the same way as British food, improving rapidly, and it is in the American mind that many of the horrors of yesteryear live on (in both cases), I agree on the whole that Americans have the healthiest, whitest and most expensively tailored maws on the planet. Indeed, one recidivist snaggle-tooth aside, I have American orthodontics to thank for the fact that my smile is much less “British” than you might expect.
It is illustrative, though, of this prevailing American viewpoint that I can vividly remember – upon my return to England after a couple of year-sojourn in America in my early teens – being pilloried by my class-mates for wearing a retainer. And, desperate to fit back into England and be more English than those who’d never left, I immediately removed the offending wires and relegated them to overnight retainerdom forever. Said rebellious fang is the likely result of this.
The fact that I had not been to the dentist in five years until last week, is also illustrative of my fear of the dentist, of which the likely source is some Victorian-style tooth-extractions I underwent in the UK, involving giant needles, poorly administered Novocaine, a pair of potentially tetanus-laced pliers, a dental assistant restraining me by the forehead, and spots of blood all over my neatly-ironed white school shirt.
Our teeth are one of the least remarkable, yet most important elements, in the process that takes up most our spare waking moments – food, and the enjoyment thereof. A fact that was brought home to both Amy and I when we received stern warnings about how long it had been since our last visits to the dentist. It might be slightly comical for the dentist to ask you a series of questions about your dental hygiene routine requiring more than grunts for answers when his hands are immersed up to the wrist in your head, but his admonition that we were close to having serious gum-disease removed all the humor from the situation. It was a reminder that while we are scrupulous in our scrubbing of pots and pans, sharpening of knives, and oiling of chopping boards, we had been neglecting one of our key culinary tools that, unchecked, would have seriously affected our ability to enjoy our favorite thing.
The moral of the story, therefore, is if you haven’t been to see him/her in a while, we personally recommend you make an appointment with your dentist so sooner rather than later. The longer you leave it, the more unpleasant it’s likely to be when you do finally have to open wide and bear your not-so-pearly whites. And, if a greater incentive is needed, check out the slideshow above.
Only for those of you who’ve been to the dentist recently, here’s a quick and easy recipe for an espresso pannacotta which will both attack and stain your enamel with sugar and coffee…
Espresso Pannacotta (makes 8 small or 4 large)
2 cups (500ml) double (heavy) cream
8 tbsp cold espresso coffee
4 tbsps superfine (caster) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
Add cream and sugar to a saucepan and stir over gentle heat until sugar is completely dissolved.
Bring mixture to a boil, and simmer for about 3 minutes, adding your vanilla extract and espresso. Stir well.
Sprinkle in powdered gelatin and stir until completely dissolved.
Remove from heat and pour mixture into espresso cups or dariole molds and cover each tightly with plastic wrap, making sure to press wrap onto surface of cream.
Refrigerate until set – at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
To un-mold pannacotte, pour some hot water into a bowl. Dip coffee cups/molds into hot water and turn a couple of times. Then, run a knife around inside of cup to release pannacotta. Invert onto a plate, shake a bit and pray it all comes out in one piece.
Serve with fresh berries or, as we did, kumquats.