This is going to be a little odd in comparison to my normal posts, but I hope all y’all can roll with it.
While cleaning out the garage, I came across a menu from a memorable meal from the last millennium. Back in 1999, I was obsessed with Iron Chef. I had started watching it on a local channel, KSCI (Channel 18 in Los Angeles) when it was broadcast in Japanese without subtitles. [Apart from maybe a dozen or two words, I don’t speak or understand Japanese.] And as it turned out, friends of mine (the Carltons, whose residence is mentioned in the photo) were going to be in Barcelona for the New Year, and I was temporarily house- (and cat-) sitting. Well hey, what’s the point of taking care of a house nicer than one’s own if you can’t throw a party there?
So I decided that I would invite a few select friends to ring in the New Year. As all the intellegentsia know, the new millennium actually was set to begin on 1 January 2001, but I was ready (in Prince parlance) to party like it was 1999, which indeed it was. And while I was unwilling to restrict myself to a single hour’s cooking time, owing to my lack of sous chefs, I wanted to sorta kinda replicate an Iron Chef meal. I chose as my theme “Pear Battle,” given that pears were in abundant supply, and they could be deployed across a variety of courses.
Sometime during the afternoon immediately prior to the meal, I asked The Bride to scavenge for a couple of ingredients that I had neglected to bring, but which were key to the menu’s success. While she was out and about, I began to assemble the shortcakes for the dessert.
In the process of making the shortcake(s), I underwent a moment’s hesitation about how exactly to ensure they were up to spec. I had vaguely remembered something about minimal processing, but I wasn’t really clear as to why, as I hadn’t made shortcakes for something like a decade. It was then that my deceased Canadian paternal grandmother, Nanny Al, decided to drop by to give me some advice. Appearing life-size (and quite surprisingly corporeal) in Bob and Susan’s kitchen, she told me, “Don’t overmix the batter or it will get gluey.”
Fair play. Bizarre, especially since I hadn’t been drinking, but fair play. The shortcake was spectacular. The meal was a success (due, at least in part, to the remarkable beverage options). And Nanny Al beamed up the way she had beamed in, entirely unbidden, a wraith whose apparent sole purpose in (after-) life it was to rescue her grandson from goofing up some baked goods for a party he was (co-)throwing. Well done, Alice. I miss you all the time, and I’m grateful that you jumped in when I needed your expertise as a baker, part of the rich (and possibly, at least to some degree, genetic) inheritance you bequeathed me.
And you’re more than welcome to visit anytime to give me a little advice… even when it’s not at the dawn of a new millennium.