If There Were A Hell For Diabetes


. . . I know where it would be. On Monday night my husband and I, depressed about a movie we’d just seen, decided to grab dinner before heading home. The only place open was Fenton’s Ice Cream parlor, an Oakland institution that is known for serving up ice cream sundaes the size of children’s heads.

I’d been to Fenton’s before, but only for takeout. This time we were actually at a table. As we waited for our grilled cheese I started glancing around the restaurant  and suddenly realized that I was in diabetic hell. The place was packed, and everywhere you looked were people happily indulging in whipped cream-covered ice cream concoctions that would foil the attempts of even the world’s best carb counter. Waiters traversed the room with gigantic banana splits; the slurping of milkshakes filled the air. I caught myself staring at a table of 8 people, spoons in hand, sugar-crazed smiles on their faces, and looked away only to have my eyes alight upon a 7-foot-tall blown up black-and-white photograph of a small boy staring wide-eyed at an enormous ice cream sundae.  It was like we’d somehow stumbled into a Dionysian orgy of hot fudge and maraschino cherries. And the worst part? They all looked like they were having so much fun.

I couldn’t help it: I was surrounded by an ice cream feeding frenzy and I needed to try some. So we split a “small” mint chocolate cookie sundae. I held my pump in one hand, my spoon in the other, and stared up longingly at the small boy and his ice cream sundae, eager for the moment when his joy would become mine.

And then, as I took my first long-awaited bite, waiting for a carbohydrate-fueled euphoria to course through my veins, I realized something: Fenton’s sundaes are actually not that good. Yes, they’re enormous. Yes, the waiters are fast and loose with the whipped cream. But the ice cream is too sweet; the fudge not quite rich enough; the cloud of whipped cream tastes like it came from a can. I still ate too much — and suffered some blood sugar consequences — but I have seen the truth. At Fenton’s at least, the fantasy of its ice cream is just not worth the insulin.

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