by Greg Schwem

I have always fervently supported my children in their extracurricular endeavors. My only rule is that my personal health and safety not be in danger.

With my eldest, now 15, this was never an issue. I felt perfectly safe sitting in the audience watching, listening and occasionally cringing as she labored through piano recitals. Ditto for her various sporting events although often I had to restrain myself from confronting over caffeinated Little League parents. The two years that she spent in competitive cheerleading were a test; several times I was convinced I had suffered permanent hearing loss after spending entire afternoons in gymnasiums pulsating with a combination of hip-hop music and shrieks from mothers whose little darlings had just executed a "round off flip-flop combination," whatever that means.

But my 10-year-old has discovered a new passion, one that I fear will take years off my life if I don't intervene immediately.

She loves to bake. Specifically, she loves to bake desserts.

It started innocently enough. A tin of blueberry muffins here, a batch of chocolate chip cookies there. She looked oh so cute in her little apron while greasing baking sheets. The results tasted delicious, for it's pretty difficult to screw up cookies made from pre-mixed dough. All you need is an adult who knows how to turn on an oven and a timer.

But a recent birthday party netted her a cookbook authored by the Hershey Company. Yes, THAT Hershey. It was actually three separate cookbooks bound into one and it became immediately clear that none of the recipes contained lettuce. Granted, there were a few main-course items sprinkled throughout, but nothing that trainers from "The Biggest Loser" would recommend. Spicy Cocoa Sloppy Joes anyone?

I failed to see the distinction between each book title. "Sweet Treats" was followed by "Decadent Delights," which gave way to "Timeless Treasures." Naturally every recipe contained at least one Hershey's ingredient, easily identified since all were written in capital letters.

Take, for instance, the SPECIAL DARK Truffle Brownie Cheesecake she recently whipped up. Say the name aloud and you can almost feel your belt straining. Even worse, she baked it on a Sunday, when my exercise ritual consists of a two-hour nap in my hammock. Not exactly the proper warm-up for consuming a delicacy that, if you add up the calories, resembles our country's national debt.

As my little girl worked the electric mixer, I glanced over her shoulder and silently read the ingredients: 6 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 eggs and 1/2 cup of HERSHEY'S COCOA.

That was just the brownie layer. She hadn't even started on the truffle cheesecake part. Skipping ahead, I saw it contained 3 (!) packages of cream cheese, more sugar, more eggs and more vanilla extract. Add 1/4 cup heavy cream and 2 cups of HERSHEY'S SPECIAL DARK chocolate chips. Then toss in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes and make sure a cardiologist is on speed dial.

I laughed at the last sentence: "Cover and refrigerate leftover cheesecake."

Leftover? Did Hershey really think something like this would go temporarily uneaten? Not when its creator is 10. I ate three pieces because, as I previously mentioned, I am a supportive parent. What choice did I have?

"Daddy, did you really like it?" she asked after I had weakly pushed myself away from the table.

"Like it? I LOVED it," I mumbled, as it's difficult to talk when a layer of cream cheese coats your tongue. "What else is in that book?"

It was like asking Mitt Romney what else he would change about the Obama presidency. Suddenly the floodgates opened as she showed me all the recipes she had marked for future meals. How soon before Thick and Fudgy Brownies with HERSHEY'S Mini KISSES Milk Chocolates graces our table? Or Rich Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars? If I live until Christmas, Holiday Double Peanut Butter Fudge Cookies await.

Realizing that I may have co-created a future five-star pastry chef, I have no choice but to increase my exercise regimen. Twenty minutes on the treadmill has become 30, the spin-class instructor knows me by name and I recently completed a personal-training session with a dude who looks like he's never even heard of the Hershey company.

"Drink lots of water, get plenty of rest and above all, watch your diet," he said.

I'm planning to invite him over for dinner very soon. I dare him to pass on the Fudge Bottomed Chocolate Layer Pie.

(Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad"


Humor & Satire






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