Wednesday, April 16, 2014

apples and pears


day one.

"so. you will have the pear or the apple?"
"with the calvados. the pear or the apple?"
"the apple?"
"no, the pear is very special. you will have the pear."
"just as you say."

some time passes.

"how do you like it?"
"it's great. sweet but the sour cream gives balance. it is like a tarte tatin made with a treacle pudding sponge instead of the usual pastry. do you make it?"
"ah, no no no. my mother makes all the tarts. one day someone gave us a big bag of pears from their tree and it was too much to eat. they were all going soft. so she tried this thing and that thing to use them up and then she came up with this masterpiece. i think she blanches the pears in some alcohol and then there is brown sugar and she puts the paper on it and then takes the paper off. when it is baking, you know? but it is a secret, the receipt. she will not tell any of us. one time, she was in a very bad accident and had to go to the intensive care. she woke up and the first thing she said to me—i was there with my sister—was 'you must write down the recipe or else if i die there will be no more tart.' so we found some paper and were getting ready to write it down when the doctor comes in. 'what are you doing?' he asks. so we tell him we're writing down the pear tart recipe in case mother dies and he says 'she's not dying, you idiots.'"

day two.

"so your mother makes all the tarts and pies?"
"oh yes. she also makes the apple pie which all the tourists like because how can you come to amsterdam and not eat apple pie? except for the cheesecake. it is a new york style cheesecake. this guy used to work for a bank nearby and he came here for lunch every day. then he retired early and moved to the country but he came in two, three times a week to have lunch with his cronies. at first it was like 'while you're down in the basement, can you bring us up some tomatoes?' and then it was 'can you cut the tomatoes before you bring them up?' now he works here one day a week and he makes cheesecake. he brings a suitcase full of dessert with him on the train."
"maybe i'll try the apple pie this time."

day three.

"i'll have a beer and a slice of the pear tart, please."
"so. you like the pear more than the apple?"
"the apple pie is good but the pear tart is excellent. do you run out of it every day?"
"my mother hates it when we run out of the pear tart. because then she has to bake more of it. she lives in a house in my garden and i have, i have—what is the word for this?"
[from the kitchen, the smallest one in amsterdam:] "the word is 'enslaved.'"
"thank you. i have enslaved her. she says it is bullshit. '73 years old and i bake five days a week. what kind of retirement is that?' she says. it is true. i tell her this is an active retirement."

van kerkwijk
nes 41, amsterdam