Kitchen Mystic by Paulette Licitra

The Deconstruction by Karen Cantrell

Patisserie de Pakistan by Gregors Johnson

Meals of a Lifetime by Rebecca Keller

Ode to Risotto by Donald Newlove

Fully Committed by Doug Sovern

Biscuits and Gravy by William Blomstedt

Keeping It Tidy by Alan Linton

If I Knew You Were Coming by Alisha Lumea

On Your Only Day Off by Nicole Edwards

Bagpipes and Pan Fried Smelts by Ted Radakovic

Joseph Conrad’s Dark Linguini by Giovanni Berchtold

Missing Something by Jean-Luc Bouchard

We Love You, Mayonnaise! by Alona Martinez

Japanese Food by Esther Cohen

Raw Köfte by Hardy Griffin

Proust's Soup by Giovanni Berchtold

A Sacred Virgin by Paulette Licitra

on a friday evening by Keith Leidner

Ropa Vieja by Raul Palma

Deidre's Last Meal by Esther Cohen

Wired by Alan Linton

Chestnut by Katherine Gleason

The Moon is an Outdoor Sandwich by Patty Houston

Garlicky Greens by Lois Marie Harrod

First the Shell, Musical; Then the Custard, Irrevocable by Sarah Begley

Meals of Choice by Dorian Fox

A Low Table by Christian Aguiar

The Sylvian Fissure by Rosalie Loewen

Two Versions of Eating Potatoes by David Spiering

Conch Salad by Michele Ruby

Hopper by Michael Onofrey

Caution: Coffee is Hot by Gary Scott

The Fairy Part by Alberto Giuseppe

Foie Gras by Judith Edelman

Rosemary and Olive Oil by Gail Gauthier

Mario's Shoes by Natalie Parker-Lawrence

Cake by Marianne Villanueva

Retreat: October on Copper Mountain by M.E. Parker

The Sandwich Diaries by Angus Woodward

But There Was No Star Anise by Andrew Martell

Fruit Route by Susan King

First the Shell, Musical; Then the Custard, Irrevocable

by Sarah Begley

November 2013    

Down the road they run, squealing, the white cake box swinging between them, their feet crunching the gravel beneath their Skechers. They both have a hand on the twine keeping the box tied together and it breaks only once on their way back to the country house one girl’s parents have rented for the month of July, but luckily none of the canelés fall out onto the ground. After that they take turns with the box and laugh even harder for whatever non-reason is their favorite today. (The mother, who has asked to be called Maman this month, sees them from the window when they run up the drive and feels relief that they’re home safe, though the bakery is only a half-mile down the road. It’s just different in a foreign country, and with another woman’s child in your care.) Something about the Aquitaine grass scratches more than the lawns at home when the girls flop on their bellies, heads together, peering greedily into the now-open box. The guest-girl’s parents had sent her with spending money—paper Euros zipped into her carry-on at the airport—for just this kind of treat.

Between thumb and forefinger they each hold a canelé: a brown, fluted, cylindrical, egg-sized cake that keeps its shape when pinched. They squeeze them a few times, giggle at the sponge-like puffing. Then the first lick (they’ve perfected the process): dragging the tongue over the skin, a course and sugary and stretchy shell for the insides. Ready? Ready. The first bite must be big: it decapitates the pastry, ripping off the thick, chewy skin to get to the caky inside, butter-yellow and full of air bubbles. Now the gooey center is visible—not at all a separate entity from the outside, it’s all the same batter, only less cooked-through, closer to its raw state. They prepare for the next bite by placing their tongues on this center, so it’s the thing they taste most. Only a few bites and lots of chewing remain, and then the girls get hysterical with laughter. They have crumbs on their little-girl lips (which will turn into teenaged-girl lips soon enough, too soon, Maman thinks in the kitchen) and a caramel taste will coat the creases of their smiles until dinnertime.

Maybe the next time they eat canelés will be in college: they’ll coordinate their semester abroad from separate universities, manipulate their way to Bordeaux at the same time, repeat the bakery tradition every Sunday after nights of too much red wine and laugh again, more grown-up now, but still over intimate silliness. Or: maybe they will reunite in a Manhattan bakery in their late twenties, catching up on lost time and trying to remember what made these plain sponge cakes so appealing when they were young. Or: maybe the end of this summer will bring a huge fight (I knew this would happen, Maman will think, they spent too much time together) and they will never talk again, forgetting each other’s favorite colors by the time high school begins, and when the guest-girl next eats a canelé at the age of forty-five in a bakery in Paris (a vacation she will take alone), she will look out the plate glass window at children in Catholic school uniforms and nearly cry, wondering why that custard center tastes so familiar.

  Sarah Begley works for She lives in New York and is an alumna of Vassar College.

Photo used under Creative Commons.