I was recently looking for desserts to serve at our annual rock-n-roll marathon. This is a big get together where friends bring a song list with three of their favorite songs from a pre-chosen era and each list gets played. The penalty for bringing commercial top 40 songs is cleaning up afterward. This makes the music interesting. It provides a great opportunity to laugh at mistakes, reclaim victories, and complain about songs that remind us of awkward moments. As I was riding around the neighborhood, I decided to stop in the local supermarket’s bakery section to scan their selection and I was amazed by the huge assortment around me. I was surrounded by endless Cakes, Cookies, Muffins, and Pies.
There was a time when purchasing a Kringle, meant a trip to the Norwegian Bakery and Cheesecake had to be purchased at the Italian Bakery, while the Rugelach could only be found at the Jewish Bakery. And so it went. Times have certainly changed but the demand for old-style desserts remains. To see a high-quality supermarket’s bakery section, making sure that the desserts are made with traditional ingredients and finishing at such a high level of production is simply amazing. Today, people are much more knowledgeable about the food they eat because of online knowledge bases and shows like “The Kitchen” and “Chopped” shown regularly on the Food Channel. It seems to be a requirement that today’s pastry chefs acquire international culinary skills.
Puddings were presented in the cooler section. Most puddings originated in as “porridge”. Rice pudding began around the 1300’s and was the food of Royalty. It has become a sensation again over the past year or so. There is a rise in its consumption and, a restaurant in New York that specializes strictly in rice pudding dishes. Read more about it at MissFoodWise.com
Traditional recipes started around the 12th century. Recipes were invented and passed down through generations. Many of these inventors became our first great chefs. Cherry pie was originally enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth I, while Lemon Meringue pie was invented by a Swiss baker during the 17th century for the upper crust of society (no pun intended).
I appreciate thoughts on creating “new desserts”. But is there really such a thing? All desserts originate from somewhere. From other continents and other times altogether. So cross over desserts, for instance, would demand “a little bit of Asian flavoring, and a little bit of Brazilian”. Intercontinental combinations are popping up everywhere and with some very tasty results. We are in essence combining old traditional recipes that will be included in cookbooks of the future.
Food extends far beyond sustenance. It is a ceremonial delight. Something people look forward to. A mixture of textures that make a human being feel transported into a fantasy land of sugar plums and chiffon. The ritual of fine food is a celebration of the senses. Yes, food is an art but it is also a heartfelt comfort and a healthy one when enjoyed in moderation. “Take small bites” is my advice as you circle the table and feel the excited frustration of trying to decide which one.