Summer is over and as each work day winds down the pleasure of tea on the lower deck watching people fish in small electric motored boats helps me get to the end of a long day. The days are shorter and the length of time we have to linger outdoors is slipping deeper into fall. More leaves are still on the trees than off so a blog about raking is still to come.
When the weather grows cooler we’ll move inside and watch the heron float across the water from the kitchen window as we re-infuse our morning pot of green tea for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Tea in the afternoon has long been my excuse to stop everything and eat sweets. The trouble is, like everyone, I really shouldn’t eat sweets so I try not to. Most days I just drink the tea and head out for a walk.
My mother in law was a first generation Italian woman who thought that coffee and cake was a cure for just about anything that ailed you. Showing up at her house in the afternoon I could pretty much count on a hot cup of coffee and a piece of carrot cake and warm conversations. In her later years she couldn’t remember why things worked the way they did. Like how the trees grew all those leaves or how they put a carrot into a cake.
“Carrots in a cake?” she would exclaim. “I just can’t picture it.”
“They shred them.”
“Shred them? What’s that?”
I saw we weren’t getting anywhere. “They just call it carrot cake because it’s orange like a carrot.”
“Okay, that makes sense,” she said.
“Doesn’t it?” my husband sighed as he cut another piece.
Old habits die hard and I think we keep up the tradition of tea time in some sort of misshapen loyalty to her coffee and cake routine.
However, the old adage that some calories just aren’t worth it, is true. Like an Entenmann’s brownie is not worth one morsel of the calorie or sugar count. The opposite is also true. Some temptations have more value than others like a dessert that reminds you of childhood.
But I seem to have the worst timing for when to be good or bad.
Eight years ago we were traveling home from Cooperstown and we stopped off at Hartmann’s Kaffeehaus in Round Top, New York for coffee. We found the shop in Fodor’s New York which wrote, Desserts are serious business at this simple cafe-bakery, where a “periodic table” of sweets hangs on the wall. The Fürst Pückler torte—layers of marzipan, butter cream, sponge cake, and apricot jam—could put you into sugar shock.
“That sounds too sweet,” I said as the waitress waited for my choice. “I’ll have the sugar free strudel.”
The plates arrived and for the next half an hour I listened to my family moan in ecstasy with each mouthful.
“It can’t be that good.”
“Better,” my son said.
“Think of the best dessert you ever tasted,” he said closing his eyes and smiling as he swallowed. “This is better.”
“Ten times better,” my daughter added.
Rob rubbed it in more. “I’d let you try some but there’s so many different areas to taste you wouldn’t get the full effect.”
“No, I’m good.” I said picking over my dried out, sugar free apple strudel.
Just when i think I’m done regretting that experience they keep pulling me back in. Recently we were in Gleasons and they offered for one day only; homemade pistachio ice cream inside an anise flavored pizzele with a thin layer of chocolate.
“Those are my three favorite things,” Rob said.
I agreed to split one.
“This is delicious,” I said.
“It is,” Rob agreed.
I could sense something.
“But…?” I prodded.
“But nothing will ever compare to that marzipan cake we ate that time in the Catskills.”
I don’t know why I even bother because I certainly don’t need the calories. I also don’t know who is better off. Me who never tasted it and doesn’t know what I’m missing or my family who understands that nothing will ever measure up to The Fürst Pückler.