Sweet & Hazy: Childhood
A strep throat forced me to stay home. Ordinarily, I would have welcomed a day dozing in and out on the sofa with the companionship of daytime television, but we were scheduled to make chocolate cream puffs in Home Ec that day and I had been so looking forward to it.
I slept most of the morning but by the afternoon the antibiotic was beginning to win the battle. I pulled out my binder and looked longingly at the recipe I would miss. And then it occurred to me: All of the ingredients were right there in our kitchen. And though I was no stranger to making desserts, the puffs were a little daunting, which is why I was excited about learning the technique at school.
Did I dare attempt it on my own? The beauty of being home alone while everyone else was at school was the absence of mocking sisters looking over my shoulder. If the puffs turned out to be duds, I could just throw them away and no one would ever know.
But they weren’t duds, they were light, airy and eggy, but not too eggy. They were puffed high with hollow centers. So I carried on and made the custard. And then I made the ganache.
After dinner that night I split the puffs horizontally, filled each one with custard, replaced the lid and smothered it in ganache. It tasted a lot like the ones we would get at Sanders, but my ganache was better. The family was impressed – not bad for a seventh grader.
The success of those cream puffs gave me the confidence to attempt any recipe, any time.
Sweet & Hazy: Young Adulthood
It was a simple wedding, just immediate family and a few close friends witnessing the wedding of my no-fuss, cardiac nurse sister to a married-once-before cardiologist from the first two rows of the courtroom. A simple civil ceremony followed by a simple luncheon at my mom’s house.
But, oh, the torte. The torte.
There I was, standing in the middle of the living room with a dessert plate in my hand and a forkful of chocolate torte in my mouth. I was one with it. I was in the zone. That particular torte took cake to a level to which I had never before ascended. I don’t know how long I went on with my ode to the “amazing” cake, the likes of which “I had never had before,” but when I suddenly came out of my oblivion I saw a room full of amusedly bemused faces staring at me and my over-enthusiastic praise of the luscious layers of cake and mousse.
It was my first, unforgettable, introduction to the wonderful world of upscale pastries.
Vividly Savory: A Fairly Recent Repast
We made a rookie mistake and we were going to be late, really late. We did not know to factor in a backup of cars exiting Sanibel Island that time of day. We had a 7:00 reservation at Traders Cafe, and there was no way we were going to make it on time. So I called from the car and told them we would be late. The hostess said she would hold our table for 15 minutes and then she would have to give it away. We were only a mile and a half away at that point so there was a chance we would make it. We pressed on.
Thirty anxiety filled minutes later the hub pulled up to the front of the restaurant and I bolted from the car and sprinted to the hostess stand to ask whether, by some miracle, our table was still available. It was. And it was a good one. The two chairs on either side of it looked like thrones and the hub and I (well I anyway) felt a bit like royalty.
We both ordered one of the specials for that day and were congratulated by the waiter for choosing the two best items on that evening’s menu – mine was Chilean Sea Bass with Cilantro Beurre Blanc (the lightest, silkiest most perfect beurre blanc I have ever had – will probably ever have), Pico de Gallo and Shrimp Risotto. The dish was so good and memorable that I wrote about it once before here and posted its picture here.
The hub and I talk about it often. So often that when a recent discussion turned to what we would choose as our last meal, my daughter piped up that she knew exactly what mine would be and where. It was so vividly delicious that the hub and I talk about moving to Captiva just so we can hop on over to Sanibel once a week for dinner.
When it comes to the unforgettable items on my memory’s menu – sweet, hazy, vivid, savory – it’s all good. Really good.