For years I’ve been ordering the same dessert at restaurants: “A single scoop of vanilla ice cream.”

I don’t have a sweet tooth or a big appetite, so after a satisfying meal I have little desire to gorge myself with a big piece of cake or pie or other decadent sugar bomb. But I like the lazy lingering that dessert offers. During family dinners when I was growing up, my mother would typically wait a half hour or more before bringing out dessert, silently requesting (in a way, bribing) us to sit and chat for a bit.

This dessert order – placed with the exact same wording every time – “a single scoop of vanilla ice cream” – has turned into a test of sorts. Will the restaurant accommodate it, if they don’t already have “a selection of ice creams and sorbets” on the menu? It’s always interesting to see how it’s served. Is it embellished with some sort of cookie, confection, or chocolate crumbs? Is it three scoops? Four?

I also like to see what restaurants charge for such a simple off-menu request. The first time I ordered this – at Cashion’s Eat Place in Washington, DC, I think – I was convinced they would charge me $8 or more. I am pleased to report that they, like most other places, usually charge less than $5.

Inevitably, placing this order prompts the above story. Thus, this dessert does exactly what I want it to do: it extends the meal and invites conversation. This never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Photo Credit: jtnt