A Harte Appetite

flickr user albedo20 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

I have much for which to thank the nuns of the Catholic Church. After all, one of them taught me how to read.

But I’m almost equally grateful to Roman Catholic nuns for their role in inventing and perfecting some of the most heavenly pastries on earth.

Collectively called convent sweets because they originated in the convents of Italy, Spain, and particularly Portugal as far back as the 15th century, they ultimately made their way far beyond the Iberian peninsula.

What do award-winning cookbook author Rick Bayless, Food Network Iron Chef Bobby Flay, nationally acclaimed pastry chef Gale Gand, and Chloe, my  granddaughter, have in common?  They all began their culinary education by slaving over a hot light bulb.

Chloe, just like those three celebrity chefs when they were youngsters, has been the recipient of an Easy-Bake oven, which, famously, can produce cakes, cookies, pies, and other goodies using only the heat generated by an ordinary 100-watt incandescent bulb.

A Harte Appetite: Caviar

Jul 29, 2019
flickr user Aleksandar Cocek (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

While he was Tsar of Russia, Peter the Great had his ambassador deliver a gift of fine caviar to Louis XV, King of France.  When, with great ceremony, the young monarch tasted his first mouthful of the precious stuff, he became nauseated and promptly spit it out on the carpet at Versailles.

These days even a royal might think twice about such unmannerly behavior, for caviar is, as Inga Saffron notes in her detailed history of those fabulous fish eggs, “the world’s most coveted delicacy.”

flickr user mahohn (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

Though Southeast Missouri's muggy summer climate may occasionally test it, I've always held the conviction that there's something special about alfresco dining. Whereas Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, one of the high priests of gastronomy, put it, the universe is your drawing room and the sun your lamp.

Perhaps it's because the great outdoors enhances the appetite and produces, as Brillat-Savarin observed, "a vivacity unknown indoors." Whatever the reason, I don't think I've ever been to a picnic I didn't enjoy, even if, the affair ended in rain.

flickr user m01229 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

I have a confession to make.  For years I have been making a chocolate cake that everybody raves over. Once I took it to a committee meeting and one of the committee members said it was absolutely the best chocolate cake he had ever tasted.  Another time I took it to a party and people actually fought over the last slice.

Without fail, whenever I serve it, somebody asks for the recipe.  Well, the cake does contain some flavorful ingredients—Kahlua, sour cream, and almost a pound of chocolate.  But, and here’s the confession, it begins with a mix.

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