Tuesday, September 1, 2009

On learning not to brûlée Everything

Old habits die hard, apparently. I probably shouldn't have dipped back into brûléeing, but it was too delicious to resist. When I first made crème brûlée, I was so excited, nay, euphoric, about it all that I made it repeatedly, put on a few pounds, and vowed never to eat anything without a crystallized sugar top, ever again.

This posed a great deal of problems for everyday life. Breakfast was doable, as brûléed oatmeal is a thing of beauty. Lunch was harder to figure out, and dinner nigh impossible. I hit brûlée-rock-bottom when, after a proper workout, I tried brûléeing cottage cheese. I had healthy, protein-filled intentions! Honestly! Unsurprisingly, it was awful. And so began the weaning process - I gave my demerara sugar to a neighbour to abolish any and all temptation.

That being said, one of my first truly Happy memories in Dublin centered about crème brûlée. I know it's a pretty fantastic thing, to be able to live in Europe, really I do. But when I first started out in Dublin I was...overwhelmed. Everyday had a strange sense of inertia, if that makes sense. Kirk came to visit right around his birthday, and I wanted to show him my gratitude the only real way I knew how - through food. I was focused and militant in my prep work, but apparently slightly distracted by my company - I forgot about time, time to cool the custard, time for the water bath, how much time it takes start to finish. By the time I was ready to let it cool in the fridge, it was 2am, I was tired and a little weepy. And embarrassed. I may have bragged slightly about said brûlée to said man. So, dejected, I went to sleep with a wee sad space in my stomach (and ego).

But. Jet lag reared its head, and we were up around 6am, and famished. Opportunity is best appreciated when it presents itself as an edible thing. We fired up the broiler, threw in the chilled brûlées, and had an absurdly decadent post-birthday-breakfast.

There's a sentence in The Hours (Michael Cunningham) where Clarissa Vaughn, the modern Mrs. Dalloway, says to her daughter -

"I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn't the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then."

Our poor stomachs ached from the cream, egg yolks, sugar, coffee, more cream, more sugar. Jet lag struck again, and we slept till noon, impossibly full.

It was happiness. Right then.

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