My grandmother is 86 years old as I write this, and I couldn’t love and adore her any more. Her skin is folded in a thousand different ways- the aging of a body that has birthed 5 children and nurtured 12 grandchildren. She is a kind-hearted matriarch in every sense of the word. When she speaks, I want to soak up every word and never, ever forget the lilt of her voice, her hand gestures, every millisecond of her mannerisms.
It took me a few years of dining out with her as an adult to recognize her unwavering fondness for crème brûlée. It is sometimes the first thing she notices on a menu and if it’s there, she usually orders it for dessert. At some point between sitting down at the table to the first glance at the menu and finally to the satisfying crackles of metal spoon hitting hardened caramelized sugar, the name ‘Revelstoke’ always emerges. As in, “Grandma, this is good! What do you think? Is this as good as Revelstoke’s?”
And because Grandma is sweet and polite, she will usually reply that, “Yes, it is good! But no, not quite the same as Revelstoke’s…”
It took until just a couple years ago for me to ask her what exactly was it about creme brûlée at Revelstoke. She talked about how the one and only time she’s even been to Revelstoke, British Columbia was in the 70’s and it stands as the only time she’s been helicopter skiing in the Canadian Rockies. Her eyes sparkle when she talks about coming down from an adventure of deep snow and few ski tracks to eat in the lodge with her husband and dear friends, Penny and Ron.
“Yes, and what is it about the creme brûlée? What on earth made it so special?” I ask her.
“Well, I don’t know…It was this old shack there in town…It’s probably not even there anymore. And the chef was a Swiss man, I think…Penny and I ordered it the first night and just thought it was the most divine dessert we’d ever had. So we ordered it every night we were there! And we had the most fun eating the best dessert we’d ever had at this little place. But it really was good…creamy…no grit…and not a drop of liquid at the bottom.”
My wonderful grandmother, having grown up as a child during the Great Depression, can recount a time when she experienced a culinary luxury like it was yesterday. And so she orders it again and again, at nearly every restaurant she’s visited since the late 70’s. Almost 40 years of creme brûlée. And maybe it’s not so much that she hopes to finally find an equally perfect incarnation of creme brûlée as it is that she is seeking an equally perfect incarnation of that moment. The feeling that the world has conspired to bring you nothing but goodness.
So I will tease her lovingly as I notice that they have her favorite dessert on the menu. And we’ll continue to order it again and again so I can hear the story at least once more.