Morning Meditations: My Grandmother and Mid-Century Lessons to Live By
Do you know how some recipes you first make might seem to take an eternity to get under your proverbial belt? They could appear complicated at first, too many ingredients you just either don’t have in stock or either can’t afford (truffle oil comes to my mind), or simply you just don’t have the energy to do? I know exactly how you feel. Here is a sliver of good advice: to quote the legendary Julia Child, you “have to have the power of your conviction!” In other words, if you really want to create it, you absolutely and whole-heartedly can. Find the confidence and go devilishly at it. The homecook can’t be frightful whether it be a crêpe Suzette with a dramatic flambé or a towering croquembouche.
Speaking of desserts, I remember it was about a year ago around Easter that I decided that it was time to learn how to make a chocolate mousse. Mousse, or desserts presented in elegant champagne glasses for that matter, always remind me of my extravagant grandmother; enchanting her guests with a sprawling and flawless 3-course spread and stiff cocktails, live music and a fashionable party dress, impeccable hair with a poodle curl which was all crowned by a hostess of undiluted attention and mid-century pizazz. You know the sound a snap makes? That sound was her.
Then there is me.
The husband and I were entertaining about a year ago in our Prague attic apartment for a party of 10. I was forming billowy egg whites by hand, tempering my chocolate, and of course adding the sugar to sweeten the pot. I returned to our party a bit flushed but with my trusty glass of Rulandské šedé in hand and apron-free I was able to compose myself. After all, I had time waiting for the mousse to set. What came a few hours later was every homecook’s worst nightmare. My first culinary crash-and-burn. It turns out that European chocolate, unannounced to me, has a higher sugar content than the U.S. thus sending my guests on a diabetic odyssey to gags-ville. It was inedible. Standing from above the coffee table, one-by-one they all set down their champagne glasses after the first taste. “Sorry, honey, I just don’t fancy sweets,” one guest that should remain nameless said with a pucker and watery-eyed look. “Shit,” I thought. “Oh, shit.” But what does every host do? You pick that glass up in front of everyone, shove it in like nothing is wrong, and go about your party as if you never tasted something more delectable in your life. (To be completely transparent, I gagged a bit myself in the privacy of my kitchen).
The moral? 1. If you fail a recipe, the more incentive it should be to get back in the kitchen and “have the power of your conviction!” 2. Never apologize, under any circumstances. Snap.