Monday, 23 January 2012
let them eat cake
This selection of books and magazines is the literary equivalent of patisserie delicacies. On days when only a pure sugar hit of pastel fancies and rich chocolate will do, it is to this library that I turn.
The exquisite interiors of Carolyn Quartermaine (a strawberry meringue with whipped cream), summer issues of French Vogue (tarte aux cassis), December Spanish Vogue and Rene Caovilla's 'Haute Couture in the Kitchen' (Concerto au chocolat), US Elle Decor (a multi layered millefeuille), vintage Lady Penelope annuals (lunettes framboises).
The discovery that visual delicacies could satisfy appetite has been a recent one. In my youth we would visit Raymond Blanc's first Maison Blanc patisserie shop on the pretext that it was essential to our course, since all of the staff had to speak French. Outside of French soil, we had never experienced anything like it, English bakeries were prehistoric with their fatty doughnuts, lacklustre bread and 'patisserie cream' a euphemism for a substance that is hard to describe; the texture of marshmallow, with a sickily sweetness, it could stick like superglue, stayed fresh for a week and was used to fill any pastry cavity.
La Maison Blanc was a revelation, with its light as a feather meringue and the delicate mix of sweet and sharp that is always just so, as only the French can do. We would choose a selection that was then carefully boxed and wrapped in pink ribbon.
On returning to our digs, we painted each other's toe nails in an array of pastel colours and ate cakes until we were fit to burst. This long predated the era of Urban Decay, our nail lacquer stash was scored at Rollers, a fantastic shop that sold a totally random mix of everything that can be imagined, but where nothing cost more than 50p ($1). Unfortunately around exam time the trips were more regular and accounted for much of the excess bodyweight that I carried long thereafter.
Raymond Blanc stayed close to his roots and now owns one of the most famous restaurant/hotels in Europe, the two Michelin starred; Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons;
I have yet to vist, but it is on my hit list for this year, I still have fond memories of his early attempts to educate the Luddites with some fine cuisine;