In 1998, I was looking for a Christmas gift for my father, when, sometimes that happens, I ran out of ideas and, coincidentally and quite by chance, Hermès had just launched their Rocabar men’s cologne, a very elegant fragrance that seemed perfect for my father. All problems solved. I bought the entire range. My father was delighted and smelled fine for weeks and months.
Today, however, when looking for a new piece of soap at my parents’ place, I found one of these gifts still untouched: the matching soap, stuffed in a drawer, next to various cosmetic items like tooth brushes, dental floss, lotion tonique aux plantes, toothpaste (white, extra white, and diamond white), shampoo (dandruff, extra volume, extra body, and some arctic prunes elixir), and other little helpers that we can’t live without, it has been waiting for the last 21 years to be finally taken out of the box and into the shower. I guess, some things just seem to need the right moment…
When you are supposed to put rosemary on a cake, you know it’s going to be different from your usual hazelnut extravaganza. Truth be told, this fine herb was the only exceptional ingredient of this recipe, all the rest, puff pastry, plums, sugar, cinnamon, and quince jelly, sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it? But once you’ve put the plums casually on the puff pastry and sprinkled the rosemary on it, your eyes won’t believe it’s not butter, sorry, they won’t believe it’s not pizza. Only when it’s out of the oven and into your mouth, its case is closed. It’s cake. No doubt. A very yummy, very Mediterranian cake. If you want to challenge your eyes, do try this at home!
When in Paris, it’s one of my strange habits to have the first coffee in the day in the Marais, don’t ask me why, there are perfectly fine alternative locations all over Paris, but no, it has to be the Marais, Paris’s oldest quarter, you won’t find much of Haussmann’s architecture here, it’s filled with beautiful hôtels particuliers, the residences of the aristocracy, erected hundreds of years ago, and still teaching us lessons about grandeur, in comparison, the front door of Mrs Kennedy’s lodging on Park Avenue appears to me like the back entrance to a dubious embassy of a totalitarian country with a laughable gross national product, sorry, New York, and don’t get me started on Trump and his golden tower, anyway, the Rohans and consorts had much better housing, one of those palaces, that’s what these hôtels particuliers really are, palaces, now houses the Picasso Museum. Then there’s Place des Vosges, a cliché, I know, but I have to pay it at least one visit each time I’m there, it actually looks nicest off season, in January, early in the year and in the morning, on a frosty day, void of people and tourists, under light snow, when only birds have left their prints, I like it in the rain, too, a little morbid, but I rather hate it when it’s full of people in summer, people with too much time on their hands ruin everything, loitering with intent, thirsty for a tan or whatever they do on a lawn – I do sound misanthropic, don’t I? Don’t get me wrong, I like people. Just not in places that look better without.
For family dinners, I’m always in charge of dessert. Today, it’s going to be raspberries with cream. It’s easily prepared, I open the fridge for the cream and the freezer for the raspberries, and I’m done. And then, all while sipping Chardonnay, I witness the rest of the meal being prepared, artichokes are being cooked, a vinaigrette is being composed, lots of French mustard and Italian olive oil form a beautiful entente cordiale, parsley from the garden is being “haché-menu”-ed, ever so fresh chanterelles are being cut, not from the garden but from the grocer, the table is being set, by whom actually, my father, I suppose, gee, that Chardonnay is really drinkable, and all of a sudden, I’m the last one missing at the table, I better join them, hey, they’re are having red wine, okay, fine with me, bon appétit.
Normally, for a nut cake, I need lots and lots of grounded almonds and some chopped walnuts, but yesterday I only had a tiny sachet of grounded almonds, just a mere 100 gramms, some bitter joke of an amount, so to speak, and if I weren’t as stress-resilient as I am, I might have burst out into tears. But then, out of hunting destiny down and kicking its ass, I decided to replace the grounded almonds with caramelized hazelnuts, the brittle priorly reserved for the glaze, and, while I was at it, use whole pine nuts as a substitute for the chopped walnuts, lots and lots of whole pine nuts. The result? Best nut cake ever! Unchanged recipes are for losers!
Luxembourg is known for gathering politicians from the European Community, some tax-friendly banking and its Grand Duke. It’s much lesser known for its flour. Why that is, I cannot tell you. It’s perfectly fine flour. Admittedly, neither wholemeal nor organic, at least the packaging gives no indication of it, just a fancy crown, meaning it’s of somewhat aristocratic origin, maybe the Grand Duke has a mill, who knows, Louis XVI was into crafts too, he loved making keys, metalworking or milling, where’s the difference, anyway, I’m very fond of this flour, however politically incorrect, and as for organic baking ingredients and political correctness, my apples take full responsability, they’re totally organic, all seven of them, and they take the lion’s share of that cake anyway, so it probably won’t pose a health hazard. Alerted as I was, I tasted the rum at large, just to make sure its aroma would complement the other condiments, vanilla pulp and cinnamon, finding myself totally at ease with my partially conventional, inorganic and man-made apple cake. Totally.