What does it say about the English language that only a little "s" separates the absence of a desert from the excess of dessert?

What does it say about the English language that only a little "s" separates the absence of a desert from the excess of dessert?

That koan-y question was the initial thought that passed through my brain -like a scuttling cloud of meringue - when I was asked to write about desserts.

My second thought was that while we humans obviously need food to survive, we don't need dessert. Dessert is a luxury. In fact, no less a food writer than the brilliant M.F.K. Fisher wrote, "Probably one of the best ends to a supper is nothing at all."

That's undoubtedly sage advice, but for those times when "nothing at all" simply won't do, isn't it nice to know we can always count on a bite of dessert for a tiny mood-brightening lift?

Certainly for me it's reassuring that in this unpredictable life so fraught with strange and tangled storylines, I can always conclude the narrative of any dinner on a sweet note and with a happy ending. You can't really say that about a lot of other things, can you?

So which desserts to highlight? Well, in case the cave you've been living in isn't equipped with cable or radio, let me clue you in that we're currently, uh, enjoying "the most wonderful time of the year." So while I love a gooey and baked-fresh cookie or a teetering slab of creamy cheesecake as much as the next sweet-toother, I thought I'd rule those types of simple treats out in favor of more seasonally appropriate and hence decorative fare.

What I wanted was edible art. Thus I went on - and successfully completed - a quest for some rare desserts that are as aesthetically pleasing in dished-up presentations as they are on eagerly awaiting tongues.

Because, you see, in the English language, only a little "a" separates a plate from a palate. And the following dinner-enders sweetly demonstrate the potential for a relationship between art on a plate, a palate and a palette.

Happy utterly beautiful and utterly delicious artful desserts, everyone! (See, I can have happy endings in my writing, too).