There’s something exciting about dessert in our house — shocking, even. Dessert rarely appears at the table, even though we have no specific rules about sweets. Every now and then one of the children will make a request — usually cookies, a love they inherited from their dad — or I'll feel nostalgic for something like cobbler, vinegar pie, or homemade Magic Shell over ice cream. Dessert is not a required course and we definitely don’t need it to survive. However, because my husband and I come from different cultures (I am all South Carolina, while he is half Serbian and half French) he’s been known to claim his Gallic heritage as the reason he must have dessert. But he comes by his love of dessert honestly...
Not only does his mother enjoy the more-than-occasional indulgence, she makes one of the best apple tarts I have ever eaten. And good luck getting the recipe, which exists in her head, in French. She works too quickly for me to decipher the technique or guess the exact ingredients. I can only wait and hope.
Her masterpiece is exactly what an apple tart should be — a sheet of lightly sweetened, thinly sliced apples, served over crisp pâte brisée, with just a hint of Calvados. One time, as she was making the tart, surely slipping in secret ingredients when I wasn’t looking, she wondered aloud what the children would have for dessert. I was confused. The Calvados couldn’t possibly be the issue. The tart contains very little. Besides, my husband may or may not have had a teeny taste of Champagne as an infant, before he was even put to the breast. Why would the children need a separate dessert? She worried that they wouldn’t like the tart. Enfin, after much discussion, she capitulated when I insisted, “Dessert is optional!” If my children don’t know a brilliant apple tart when they see it, they can certainly do without. And they are no dummies: They love that tart as much as I do, and I hope they appreciate the luxury of having a French grandmother who knows her sweets.
How often do you eat dessert? Is it optional or do you crave something sweet to finish your meal? Will a piece of fruit do the trick? (It seems to for the French — and they do know their food!)
(Image: Anne Postic)