The Tart, Today

Enough drama, let’s talk about food!

You are someone who can make a meringue. The trick is to come up with a plan for it after it’s cooked. Dry and hard? It’s a cookie! It’s crumbles to put on top of a fruit compote! It’s the top layer of an elegant parfait! Or did it turn out sticky? No, it’s marshmallowy! Stack it with some berries and cream and it’s a pavlova! Too sticky to stack? Dollop it with lemon curd, stick it in the freezer, and slice it into something gorgeous! This combination of enthusiasm and creativity, along with wilful ignorance of rules related to tradition and language, is why I’m such a hit in Germany. Also, my sarcasm.

God, I miss winking and people who wink.

If you live in Munich and you want a perfect tart, you go to the French bakery on the corner and you buy one. If you live in Western Colorado and you want a perfect tart, you carefully assemble ingredients, painstakingly follow instructions, and end up with a really gorgeous tart. If you used to live in Western Colorado and now live in Munich, you can’t possibly compete with the local bakery and are thus free to make an imperfect tart! Hurrah! Throw some nuts in the food processor, then some butter, sugar and salt, pour the flour in straight from the bag, add cream cheese if you think you remember that in a recipe from 10 years ago, give it a whizz, and dump it out right onto the Silpat on the baking sheet. Give it a quick mix with your hands, roll it out, plop some fruit on, fold the edges over, sprinkle on some sugar, and bake it (at the temp the oven automatically turns on to) until it smells great. If you’re nervous about the texture, eat it while it’s hot with some ice cream or yogurt. If it looks like the bottom got cooked through, let it cool until it’s sliceable. You can let the kids fold up the edges and put it in the oven and watch it bubble up and when you eat it together you are so proud of yourselves! It is yours, this tart that you made with your wisdom and patience and forgiveness and care, and there will never be another one exactly like it: the things we know right now, the fruit that is ripe today, the kids who are home from school and willing, they all change.

I have a little happiness hiccup every time I think about how I might feel when I reflect back on the memories of excited kids peeking into the oven window at our once-in-a-lifetime tart. At best, I’ll miss them after they’ve left the house. At worst, well, it will be the worst. Either way, it won’t ever be like this again and, even though we just ate that tart yesterday, I miss it already.

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