How it Started

When I was 12, I found a blank ledger book. It was a treasure beyond treasure to me. I debated and debated about what to do with it - it had to be something special. Finally I decided to make a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see in my life and then cross them off when I had accomplished them. At first they were simple things, but soon I was adding dramatic things, impossible things, but things still worth dreaming about. Oddly enough, putting them on the list somehow made them attainable. I have kept the book and updated the list my entire life. Here is the story behind some of the entries - successes and failures, embarrassing and proud moments, laughter and tears - the ridiculous to the sublime!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Eat a Flaming Dessert - DID IT

What is it about lighting your dessert on fire that makes it so intriguing? My first experience with a flaming dessert was onboard our first cruise.  It was one of those old-style cruiseliners where dinners were ridiculously formal.  Someone at our table ordered Cherries Jubilee. It was a production worthy of Luci and Ethyl.

First a tall, skinny solemn-faced gentleman wearing a tall skinny toque (chef's hat) goosestepped to our table.  He looked down his long, skinny nose and gave a barely perceptible nod to us all.  With his hat included, he looked to be about seven feet tall and maybe weighed about 120 pounds! Our waiter (seriously - greased back hair and a Boston Blacky pencil-thin mustache) in his white tuxedo followed immediately behind pushing a gleaming, stainless-steel cart. The chef stood and watched as the waiter assembled the plates and pans in a carefully choreographed production. I expected him to pull a rabbit out of his sleeve or something.

The chef whisked some ingredients together then nodded to the waiter who produced a long, long, skinny match, turned the dial on the gas hotplate, struck the match a couple of times before it lit, then applied it to the burner.  At which point we heard a muffled "Poof" and the entire cart was on fire, including the front of the waiter's white, quickly singeing, tuxedo.  He turned off the gas, but to no avail.  Apparently, there was a leak in the gas line and, judging by the flame pattern, gas had spilled all over the cart. The two of them pasted on strained, phony smiles and made a hasty but dignified retreat, pushing the flaming cart out of the dining room.  The waiter kept patting at the flames on his jacket with a dinner napkin as they walked - not ran, from the room. They maintained their dignity the entire way out, but you could see a touch of panic in the waiter's eyes.  The dining room had grown very quiet as everyone stopped eating and watched the spectacle.

About 15 minutes later, our waiter returned with a bandaid on his chin and a pristine white tux jacket about two sizes too big. He addressed the woman who ordered the cherries, "Madam, due to an unfortunate circumstance beyond our control, we will not be serving the Jubilee this evening.  May I interest you in a Pineapple Upside Down Cake? (pronounced Pin - appleh).  I got the giggles at that point, I just couldn't help it.

I finally got my flaming dessert a few years later in New Orleans where a frazzled, perspiring waiter whipped up Bananas Foster in a crowded and noisy Brennan Brothers restaurant on Bourbon Street. No pomp and circumstance here - the room temperature rose as orange flames leapt toward the ceiling.  A huge bowl of ice cream and bananas soaked in rum was set in front of me still fully ablaze. I scooped out a spoonful still on fire!  The waiter rolled his eyes and said, "Not yet."  What fun.

Here's a photo of my attempt to make a flaming Bananas Foster at home.  I couldn't get a really big flame on it, but it was delicious all the same!  Anyway, why would I want to burn all of the alcohol out of the rum?


Jennifer said...

I love your description of your first experience, how hilarious, I can totally picture it! My first experience was not quite so dramatic, but is up at the top of the list of things I will always remember. It was at a restaurant on the Champs Elysees in Paris. We (my mom, Casey, and I) had just left a Burlesque show, where my mom,(who doesn't drink) enjoyed too many white russians; we then went to have Crepes Flambee at a cafe. They brought the cart over, and lit the pan, and my mom stood up, yelling, "ooh, look at the pretty fire, and jumping up and down", we were quite the spectacle in the crowded place, but it sure was yummy!

Kathy Gleaves said...

I cannot picture your mother that undignified! That would have been fun to see.

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