Every Saturday afternoon, my mother used to make the dessert for Sunday — a ritual I enjoyed helping with.
I grew up in the south west of France, in Bordeaux. Our small town, Preignac, was surrounded by vineyards where the grapes for sauternes were grown. Which is to say, we knew from desserts. Eating them, at least.
My mother was not a particularly good cook. In fact, nobody in the family was interested in cooking the way people are nowadays. But they talked about good food, praising things like traditional stews, prepared in the simplest ways and discussing the fine points of good chicken, good meat, good milk and cheese, bread, vegetables from the garden, wines from our cellar.
The Saturday afternoon dessert-making was an exception. My mother followed a recipe from a book, and I, being just a small boy, followed the pictures. I remember being drawn to what seemed to me to be the most spectacularly impossible recipe — it was for a soufflé glacé, which is not actually a proper soufflé. And not actually so impossible, either. It’s made of whipped cream and fruit purée — not unlike an English fool.
Ours was a triumph, and the praise that came with being the magician of the meal was delicious. Soon after that, I learned to make real soufflés, including the