January 24, 2008
Sometimes I will get one of those email questionnaires from my friends - you know, the ones asking you to fill out a bunch of trivia about yourself. I never know what to answer. "What's your favorite movie?" That one varies depending on my mood and the intensity of my desire to impress whomever sent me the email. "What's your favorite place?" Always something vague. I guess a beach? My couch when the house is warm? The park?
There is only one question I can ever actually answer. "What's your favorite food?" Hands down, bar none, no ifs, and, or buts about it, it's my grandma Lena's Napoleon. I only have one bone to pick with the question - Napoleon is not food. It is ambrosia from the gods. Eating it with a cup of tea in her kitchen (sadly all too infrequently since she lives in San Francisco) is so deeply comforting and relaxing that I can't even fully imagine or remember what it feels like unless I'm actually doing it.
Do you know what Napoleon is? It's layers of initially flaky pastry mixed with layers of custard. The custard soaks into the pastry, moistening it just enough to no longer crumble. It is served chilled, and as you bite into it, the sweet creaminess of the custard coats your tongue in a feeling of safety and contentment. It is the quintessential dessert - less demanding on the palate than chocolate, less flamboyant than cake, edible in far greater quantities than cookies.
And yesterday I got to make some for myself for the first time. My amazing grandmother baked and sent me the pastry pieces. Sorry, folks, get your own super awesome grandma. This one's taken. I nervously made the custard, put the layers together, and today got to enjoy my bliss. Totally amazing. Even better, I got to share it with Misha and Lara. He loves it. Her verdict? "Poyon cake is yummy yummy yummy! More poyon cake pweeze!"