Last night, when our friend Aesha came over, we ended up chatting for a bit about desserts that our mothers used to make. I told her that my favorite was coconut cream pie and she looked at me blankly, saying she didn’t think she’s ever had that. She told me that her mother made a pineapple cream pie that she loved. Then it was my turn to deliver the blank look. We started to describe these wondrous childhood treats and realized they were the exact same things with a different fruit. It was just a pre-made graham cracker crust, some vanilla Jello brand pudding, and Cool Whip. No doubt clipped from a magazine or on the box of one of the store-bought ingredients. It was in the pudding and the toppings where all of the magic happened. For me, it was coconut flakes and, for her, it was bits of pineapple. For both of us, it was an unforgettable and wonderful childhood memory, ranking as our favorite dessert during that time. Even though it was basically the pie equivalent of a casserole with even less involvement, it was an amazing treat! And though, I definitely love desserts, to this day, its the rarity of a particular food that always makes it the most special to me.
When Philippe and I are visiting Paris, we always have café gourmand, that incredible sampling of tiny desserts so nobody has to go through the pain of choosing just one. And though we tried to replicate the experience at home, we soon gave up trying, leaving it yet another rare occurrence. I’m secretly happy that it happened this way as it’s wonderful to have a special dish to look forward to when traveling as well. At home, I have lots of favorite dishes, but Philippe rarely ever replicates them and continually morphs his recipes over time. This has had the unintended effect of making each and every dish memorable since it’s quite likely that it will be the last time I’ll ever eat it. The other foods that rocket to the top of the list always have to do with the holidays. These are the annual dishes that only occur once a year. Only subtle improvements or changes are made to these, as they are meant to stay in their original form. And though my current food is all expertly crafted by my chef of a husband, I still have fond memories of those childhood treats that left a bit desired on the nutritional front. For example, my mother and I would, on rare celebratory occasions, get a pepperoni pizza with extra cheese from Pizza Hut and then watch the original broadway version of Sunday In The Park With George we’d recorded on PBS with a VHS tape.
In every case, the food itself was a supporting character in a beautiful play starring my own lovely friends and family. And that’s not really changed to this day. Each time I find myself with a loving memory about a particular dish, what I’m actually reminiscing about is the moment in which it occurred. A moment with my mother, a best friend, or my lovely husband. These moments with the people I adore most make me adore the food involved and elevate it to a status of being the most memorable of all. Like this ridiculously simply coconut cream pie. It’s not the world’s most amazing dessert and one that would cause chefs everywhere to cringe upon hearing the ingredients. But, on a Saturday in the 70’s and early 80’s, after I’m returning home after having a rough day at school, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. An unexpected expression of love, from a mother who always wanted to make me smile, and always knew the precise moment it was needed. Though the ingredients were ready-to-go and took no time at all to prepare, it was the final ingredient that made it matter. It was simply love. The same special ingredient that each of us will always find in that dessert you can’t forget.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Aureolin, Terra Cotta, and Indigo. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!