Sunday, August 23, 2009


Baked Alaska-For-Two at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, across the table from Mr. Wonderful in an inch-wide tie.

The lights were low, the velvets and brocades of the room muting the soft murmur of conversation at romantic tables lost in the candlelight, and I was wearing my pale blue peau d’ange cocktail dress with the matching bolero and a corsage of pink glamellias.

Dessert was brought out high above the shoulder of the waiter, presented with a flourish, and ignited to applause from several tables around. In a center depression in the lofty, golden-tipped meringue, half an eggshell cuddled a sugar cube soaked in lemon extract, and the perfume was amazingly exotic. The little blue flame blazed for a moment, then the waiter deftly divided the cake onto two plates, poured a pool of raspberry sauce, and discreetly disappeared into the twilight.

It was golden meringue and vanilla ice cream and a slightly dry cake layer, but it took its cue from the ambiance of romance in the air, and was a memorable feast, borne forward for years as a special moment etched in time. Lovely evening, but he was not to be my Mr. Wonderful---I met HIM later, and he was well worth waiting for.

But for the moment---that captured-in-a-bubble niche in time which seemed to hover over real life like a floating cloud---it was impressed upon me: a decadent dome containing the chocolate of eons, a Waterford pitcher of poured peach blossoms, an eight-hour lunch at the French Laundry, eaten with a runcible spoon from Careme’s own service---those are NEVER going to equal that Baked Alaska.

Anyone remember a particularly wonderful dessert or any other special dish that stands out in memory? Grandma's cobbler, Mom's special way with chocolate cake or hot cocoa, your own first efforts at baking a cake or cookies---all memories most welcome. I love the history of cooking almost as much as the cooking itself, especially personal histories, with meaning to the one remembering.


Nail said...

I do remember a beautiful anniversary cake that you made and presented to all of us after a most wonderful dinner. Daddy's eyes got as big as saucers as it was his anniversary and he had totally forgotten! Their wedding was 68 years ago today if memory serves me correctly...

Pear tree cottage! said...

O! that was so lovely to read - knowing your mr wonderful was "yet to come" around the corner. My memory of a wonderful meal with my mr right! was as simple as the beginning of our love affair. a crayfish bough from the fish house and a lemon cut up around it, two simple glasses and a bottle of bubbles that tickeled your nose.....O! yes the waves and the sun going down on a warm night on the beach "our purfect moment" our wonderful meal. Lee-ann

racheld said...

You are quite right, Baby Sis---but I DO think, that a lifetime of gentle hints and downright reminding from you and me kept his record absolutely perfect before and after that.

And Lee-ann---I'm so glad to see you here today, and so delighted to see that wonderful memory you share with your Dearie!! How romantic!

But "a crayfish" must not be the same as our Southern "crawfish" which are like teensy lobsters. It takes a great platterful of the little red fellows to make a meal.

Is that the Australian term for lobster or prawns?

Anonymous said...

What a vivid picture you paint with words.

I have memories of my dad (who seldom baked) making banana pudding. He had the recipe perfected and that dessert always reminds me of him.

You have a lovely blog.

racheld said...


There's something wonderful about an evocative taste or scent, giving us a remembrance of someone associated with them. If he really BAKED the banana pudding, did he stand the 'nilla wafers up around the sides of a pyrex 9x13?

That's the memory I have of the only person who I ever saw put meringue on a banana pudding and bake it. She'd come in the door at church suppers, clasping a that still-hot dish by the handles with two big potholders, and the crowd would part like the sea. (Then get in line quick before it was all gone).

Our family's pudding was always cold, the custard made one day and the assembly of the dish done the next, usually in a tall trifle-type dish or a particular translucent Tupperware of the perfect size for the recipe, which kept it fresh and creamy as long as it lasted in the fridge.

And thank you---I'm very glad you visit, and especially delighted that you joined in the comments. I hope you'll do so often.