I know I will sound a bit mushy, but even a cuppa chocolate can bring you down memory lane.
You may remember the famous madeleine quotation by Marcel Proust from A la recherche du temps perdu: "I raised to my lips a spoonful of the cake . . . a shudder ran through my whole body and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place." [...]
"And suddenly the memory revealed itself."
"The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it...." but "....as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me .... immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents."
It's funny how many times a whiff of perfume perforating the air, the flavour of a dish or a tantalizing sip we take send us to a different world we once were in and thus, makes our return simply magical.
Same as in Proust's story, my mother had given me this big sweet bread named cozonac in Romanian. It's made with white flour, yeast, milk, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, saffron, lemon or orange rind and zest, and stuffed with chocolate, walnuts, Turkish Delight or raisins soaked in rum overnight.
I have never attempted such a difficult task, but I enjoy having a slice a day, relishing every bite and going back to the hot kitchen, seeing my mother kneading the sweet aromatic dough and there I am, stealing a tiny, gluey tidbit... How many times hasn't my mother found me with the finger in the pie, literally speaking? Guilty pleasures are made of these short instances that shape our life as adults: the love we were loved with, the tenderness with which we were often reprimanded.
|Sweet bread with raisins, Turkish Delight and stuffed with rich, dark chocolate. Vintage serving tray.|
Coming out of the stream of consciousness, I must say I crushed some fresh leaves of mint in the mortar and pestle till they oozed their green sap, mixed them with Dutch dark cocoa, brown sugar and scalding hot milk.
A surprising combination: something old (the sweet bread) and something new (the hot chocolate), something hot (the milk) and something fresh (the mint).
What a trip!
And I will end with the excerpt from Du côté de chez Swann in French because, as Shakspeare rightly acknowledged, "translators [are] traitors", aren't they?
"(Ma mère) envoya chercher un de ces gâteaux courts et dodus appelés Petites Madeleines qui semblent avoir été moulés dans la valve rainurée d'une coquille de Saint-Jacques. Et bientôt, machinalement, accablé par la morne journée et la perspective d'un triste lendemain, je portai à mes lèvres une cuillerée du thé où j'avais laissé s'amollir un morceau de madeleine. Mais à l'instant même où la gorgée mêlée des miettes du gâteau toucha mon palais, je tressaillis, attentif à ce qui se passait d'extraordinaire en moi. Un plaisir délicieux m'avait envahi (...)"