Sunday, November 4, 2012

French lemon tart... in memoriam



 
Today’s your birthday. I call you, you’re playing with the kids. You’re picking lemons, to make a tarte. You love making that lemon tarte, and we laugh because it's the fifth week in a row you've made it. We’re excited about tonight’s meal, a new restaurant, it will be fun. You wonder what dessert will be. You do have a seriously sweet tooth. Do you remember how you ate all 12 madeleines I brought you at the maternity hospital? 

Later, we meet for our weekly hike.  We talk about our children, their hair, their mischiefs, their tantrums, their giggles. About our families. About Barbara and the opera. About the children's book you want to write. We talk about food, about last week’s meal, last year’s meal. We talk about morning light over LA. We talk about being tired. About how hard marriage can be. About past struggles and future travels. Not very much about future struggles.  

I tell you about my blog. You love the idea, you’re so supportive. You’re excited about it for me. I love that about you, you take on other people’s joys and make them your own.

We talk about tonight’s plan. Our children spending an evening together, growing up together. We laugh at the thought of being two old ladies, having the same conversation.

Denial.


 
 
That day is a figment of my imagination. It’s unfair. I fume. Why couldn’t I get that day? Why did this happen? How in the hell is it possible? I want to scream. I don’t know to whom, so I don't. I hate that you’re gone. Should have been me. I hate that good things have happened since. I hate that good things come out of tragedy. It wasn''t supposed to turn out this way. You bailed on me. I'm pissed.

Anger.

 
 
What if it had been me? Less people would have gotten hurt. What if circumstances had been different? If I try to be as good a friend as you were, as open and giving as you were, as good a mother, sister, daughter as you were... If I learn to share other people’s joys as genuinely as you did... maybe then you won’t be gone, somehow.

Bargaining.

 
 
You are gone. We will not grow old together. I listen to songs that make me think of you, with a lump in my throat. You meant more to me than I meant to you. Terrible things happen. They will happen again and again. Nothing will ever be the same. Time passes, fades things away. Details we desperately hang on to, to keep our head above water and not drown in sorrow. There’s that lump in my throat again. Sometimes it’s so heavy it goes right down to my heart, pulling me down to darker depths.

Depression.

 

You are gone, and you are with me, every day. I go through the motions of beating sugar and eggs, pouring butter, squeezing a lemon. Putting the tarte in the oven. It’s strange. You went through the same motions in your kitchen, while kids were playing nearby, a long time ago.

Wonderful connections and friendships have occurred since you left us. Amazing generosities and moments of true joy. It does seem terribly unfair it had to happen that way. But I am grateful for them. You’ve taught me a lot of things. Mostly unknowingly. But your final lesson is the most important of them all. Never take life for granted, and cherish those you love. Nothing else truly matters.

With a heavy heart, I think of you today. I shall have a slice of my ever imperfect tarte au citron. Perfection doesn’t exist. If it did, you wouldn’t be gone.  With every bite, I am thankful for all you have brought into my life.

Acceptance.


 

Tarte au citron - French lemon pie

Serves about 6

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 25 mn

Age for babies: 12 months above, because it is very sweet.

1 1/2 cup pastry flour
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup butter + a bit to butter the pie pan
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 egg
The juice of one lemon

Preheat the oven at 375°F.

Place 1/3 cup butter in a hot water bath to melt it (a ramekin in a pan with water will do - or in a pinch, melt in the microwave).

Meanwhile, make the dough (pâte sablée) mixing the flour with about 1/2 cup of soft butter. You can do this by hand or with a food processor (with dough blade). Add 1 or 2 tbsp of water to get it moist enough to form a workable dough.

Butter the pie pan (I used three smaller ones, you can use a larger one, 7 inch diameter for example).

Spread the dough in the pie pan(s) using your finger to even its thickness throughout. (Use some flour on your hands if the dough is a bit sticky).

In a bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg, until it's white and foamy.  Whisk in the 1/3 cup melted butter, and the lemon juice.

Pour the lemon mixture into the pie pan(s) with the dough. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the crust is crumbly. Put another 5 minutes in the broiler to brown the top. (Note: the lemon filling will remain very soft and almost liquidy. It firms up some when it cools down).

Let cool, and enjoy with some mint tea and good company.

 
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8 comments:

  1. So beautiful it made me cry. I often find my mother and grandmother by my side as I'm in the kitchen. Sometimes tears are shed, but mostly I find myself telling my two year old son all the stories and hope I'm creating some for him. I'm grateful to be able to bring back loved ones whenever I prepare a cherished old recipe; it's a great gift.

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  2. oh my. nothing new to add, but can't leave this page without saying i was here. thank you.

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  3. Ditto to anonymous. You have an incredible voice, Helen.

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  4. wow, thank you for your words. I've needed to write this for a long time, I didn't expect to strike a chord this way. I'm very grateful.

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  5. Beautifully written and so heart-felt, Helene x

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