In my last post I invoked ‘the Inverted Dessert Test,’ planning to make a link to some previous post in which (I was sure) I had already narrated the explanation for that arcane term. A quick check, however, reveals that not only have I not discussed this vital cultural phenomenon, but nowhere on the Web is there a reference to this culinary criterion, requiring me to supply this morning what has hitherto been lacking.
Where to start? I can only begin where my own experience of the IDT began, in my first year at Bowdoin College, during the reign of Arthur Portmore as Steward (was there an alternate House title for stewards?) — though Art may not have been the originator. On weekdays at 10 PM, the Steward would open the kitchen and enter the walk-in refrigerator, coming forth with various morsels that although still nominally palatable, were not fully fit for serving as dessert (‘pudding’, for my UK friends). These savoury collations were enthusiastically received and consumed by members of the house who were particularly peckish, nay, ravenous due to their having ingested substances that contribute to heightened appetite. Often that appetite made even the least promising leftovers look attractive — but sometimes there were no suitable leftovers on offer (either too little was left over, or what was left over was still presentable).
On particular days, though, controversy might erupt over whether servings of pudding (here it usually involved actual pudding pudding) had lain unwanted long enough to qualify for Open Kitchen consumption. In such circumstances, the Steward would invoke the Inverted Dessert Test: a serving of pudding (or other dessert) would be brought forward and, with suitable drama, held upside down over the woodblock table in the centre of the kitchen. If, after ten seconds, the pudding still adhered to the bowl without falling to the table below, it was deemed to ahve passed the Inverted Dessert Test, and was brought forward for the hungry rabble to consume. If on the other hand the pudding dropped to the table (or so threatened to drop that the Steward concluded the test before actual clean-up was required), it was back to the walk-in for another twenty-four hours of ageing.
Hence the name. Hence the allusion.