Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Recipes ain't everything
The pastry shops I love keep going out of business.
The week before Maggie McCullough's closed some seven years ago, I bought all their brioche to put in my freezer. About three years ago, I brought my daughter to Babette's Feast to celebrate with her favorite pear tart as was our tradition, only to find a note taped onto the door. Not long ago, I stopped by the Belgian bakery in town and noticed it was now a bagel store. At least my daughter wasn't with me when I walked into the store.
The store looked more or less the same. The only difference is the food in the display cases. One was filled with bagels and the one that usually tested my willpower the most, the one showcasing beautiful cakes and tarts, was sparse and sad.
I asked for pear tarts, they had none. I looked at my other favorites: the almond croissants didn't have sliced almonds on the outside. The palmiers were thick and not of the right color.
(Rather then posting pictures of sad foods, I thought I'd post ones that reminded me of what used to be.)
"So, how long have you guys been here?" I asked, as nonchalantly and as non-accusingly as possible.
The woman behind the counter regarded me with suspicious eyes. "It's been a while."
I should have come more often, bought more pear tarts, helped them stay in business!
"We bought their business and all their recipes."
I looked up at her. There is hope yet. So what if the baked goods don't look the same. All I need is for them to taste the same. They have the recipes, so all is not lost!
I bought an almond croissant and a palmier and got into the car with my little baggie of hope. It was a while before I took my first bite because I knew my hopes would either be buoyed or shattered by it.
Recipes ain't everything.
The croissant was limp and unflaky and the inside undercooked. The almond paste was the only thing that tasted the same. The palmiers tasted the way they looked: inexperienced.
All those writing rules out there, they can't promise success. All the shows-don't-tells and three-act-arcs and what-the-character-wants will not give us the products that thrill and haunt and satisfy.
Recipes + experience + well-honed taste buds + desire + working at dawn everyday.
Oh, and maybe consumers who won't practice self-control when encountering our work.