Today is Bon Appegeek’s second anniversary. I’m marking the day with a long post that has taken more than two years to write. There’s a recipe at the end. I promise.
After several years of on-again off-again reading, I finally started volume 4 of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (À la recherche du temps perdu), entitled Sodom and Gomorrah. After you spend your life reading mostly English and American literature, French literature is a shock to the system. I should have suspected something back in junior high when every single one of Guy de Maupassant’s characters engaged in rampant adultery or random copulation, in light of which I wonder why I didn’t read more French literature. Have I mentioned the whores? It should not surprise me that Proust covers these scandalous topics and augments them with the gomorrahesque twist, a popular American dance in the fifties (I might be wrong about that).
My complaint about Proust, wonderful writer though he is, is that he often writes about fine dining but rarely describes the food. He doesn’t even include photos. Recipes? Forget it. Oh sure, he can write ten pages about his love of hawthorn flowers and twenty pages about the beauty of a church facade, but an author who has nothing to write about, say, the delectable sauce atop a succulent pheasant, won’t get read as quickly as he might. Yet many readers, botanists and architects probably, claim he was brilliant.
Proust’s greatest contribution to food writing was to glorify the madeline. I read the famous passage with all due attention and was riveted by it—not because of the madeline, which I’d already baked and read about a great deal by then (food bloggers adore madelines)—but because of the unusual tea he drank with it. Nobody discusses this magical elixir. True, the tea alone didn’t trigger Proust’s epiphany, but it did dissolve the madeline and release the flavor that would catapult the shell-shaped cake into food blog stardom and forever alter literary history. You’d think the tea would get at least as much attention as Robin gets in the shadow of Batman. (Nothing about Sodom or Gomorrah implied by that Batman and Robin reference. Until this parenthetical.)