Bite Down on This: An Overdue Trip to the Dentist
& Changing Tack, Espresso Pannacotta

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)
espresso pannacotta
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.

25 thoughts on “Bite Down on This: An Overdue Trip to the Dentist
& Changing Tack, Espresso Pannacotta

  1. Wow, I love your variation of Panna Cotta. I have got to try out. You also reminded me to go for a dentist check up here in Switzerland. I am used to do it when I returned to Hong Kong my home town.
    Have just been in Universal Studio Florida a few weeks ago and had a picture taken with Simpsons, you make me feel lucky as a lot of friends envy me with that picture : )

  2. I f**king hate the dentist. Since my benefits renewed in January, I am a main staple of his office. Something urks me about his perfectly straight square teeth…

    Anyways, no need to worry about teeth when all you have to do is the gum the panna cotta.

    looks yummy

  3. And this looks like a good recipe if you come back from the dentist and your teeth hurt!

    I love my dentist…. I met him in a cooking class I was teaching when I first moved to Boston. When finances were tight for me, he’d let me pay my bills with food and cooking lessons.

  4. I had not one but TWO root canals recently. You could have punched me in the face i wouldn’t have felt anything. Espresso panna cotta is surely a comforting way to end the day after all this torture. I would have stopped by your house if i knew. hehe.

  5. A & J, the book of British Smiles is not complete without the Pogues singer…get him in there quick!

    I adore panna cottas but you might want to keep the dentist happy with frequent visits…the alternative is savory panna cottas and baby food for the rest of your life! lol

  6. I just went to the dentist for the first time in 4 1/2 years. I had to go to a new one since my old one retired. I picked someone who is nearby and took my insurance and it turned out he was (no joke) 80 years old with totally arthritic hands. He did all the scraping himself and I bled everywhere. I think I’ll wait another few years before going back and certainly not to him!

  7. Peter – Shane McGowan is his name, and we consider including his teeth/gums, but we were wary of grossing our readers out, plus, technically, he’s Irish.
    Zchef/Dana – i feel your (collective) pain. there’s nothing so awful as a “major” visit to the dentist. Having my wisdom teeth pulled was about as bad as it’s got for me, so far. I can only imagine what two root canals feels like, not to mention if administered by a shaky hand…!
    Margaret/NP/Elra/Julia – you’re absolutely right, panna cotta requires no teeth at all. I think you may have inspired me to write a post on foods that require no chewing/are perfect for the enamelly-challenged.

  8. Yum on the pannacotta note… I’d totally gum on that!

    As for teeth, i’m always getting “yelled at” for not flossing regularly when I see my dentist! Read an article recently showing a correlation between flossing/gum disease/heart disease, though… so I’m thinking I might rethink my habits. Hard to break out of BAD habits, though!

  9. Beautiful panacotta!
    But yes, you’re right, teeth are serious eating tools that need looking after. I so often think about this at work because I deal with a lot of old people who really struggle to keep their weight up because of all the problems they have with their teeth (or lack of teeth more commonly!).

  10. I’m lucky I have a good dentist, I still hate going though. Three fillings last time Eek! I’m a lot more careful now, I don’t want any more!

    The panna cotta looks fantastic, I’m a bit of a coffee junky so this is my kind of dessert!

  11. Oh my goodness – I loved the slideshow and the post. I am an American who visits my dentist every six months and have a mouthful of straight white teeth that’s living in London. I must admit when it comes to teeth the Brits have been the butt of many jokes. My husband and I have actually got an acronym – BTB. It stands for buck tooth brit. I know its a little mean, but man have we seen some interesting arrangements for teeth here in Britain.

    Espresso panna cotta – yum. A little baking soda + hydrogen peroxide and the evidence will be left behind.

  12. I get my teeth cleaned twice a year, and a full exam annually. I don’t pay for all this insurance for nothing! That said, I am blessed with good genes – wouldn’ta been able to afford my straight teeth until adulthood, elsewise.

  13. my dentist says i have beautiful teeth. 34 and no cavities… but they are crooked as sh?t… i wish i had this panna cotta when i had all my wisdom teeth pulled.

  14. i have great teeth, white and straight. i go for 3 cleanings a year. all is well.

    except i had 2 teeth extracted and implants put in which took a year and cost $10k. yup. you read that right…

    great panacotta. delish…

  15. I love Panna Cotta….and I also love going to the dentist. No kidding. A few years back when I finally started working for a company with employee benefits I was DEEEElighted. But the company sucked. It was misery. The benefits weren’t worth it. My present job only has regular dental every 9 months instead of 6 which is disappointing, but still worth it for not wanting to stick my fist through my monitor on a daily basis. And did I mention that I love panna cotta? Almost as much as my dentist.

  16. I went to the dentist yesterday. 😐 Need two fillings, so another appointment has been scheduled. Funnily enough the dentist remembered me after 2 years since my last visit and I’ve only seen her twice in my life so far. I guess it’s difficult to forget the heavily pregnant woman we squirmed like a wuss while she was doing her job, and afterwards apologising for being pathetic… (trying to think happy thoughts)

  17. Sorry but I would hate if everyone on this side of the pond had ridiculous looking teeth like many of our american friends! I find them ‘stepford’ like in their approach to dentistry, and as a formal dental nurse who has seen many many many smiles, I prefer the odd snaggletooth, a little peg, or a lovely overbite to add to someones character!

    My man has a chipped front tooth, and its one of the most attractive things about him!!

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