remembrance of things past

I’m having a Proust moment and baking petites madeleines.
Marcel Proust made these delicate, plump sponge cakes immortal ‘which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell’ in his classic book A la Recherche du Temps Perdu or Remembrance of Things Past.
And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and crumbs with it, touched my palate, a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life have become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory.
I know how he feels.
As you already know, I am a devotee of the sponge, madeleines included.  But for me it is the cup of tea which deserves the notoriety arising from Proust’s famous reflections that has, instead, been anointed to this little cake. Not that I’m complaining!  Tea and cake are a cornerstone of my life. I don’t believe there is a finer culinary combination – save a chip butty and tea, or tea and a large shard of milk chocolate. But there you are, tea features again and again. So on this warm afternoon, with weather you wish you could bottle, the smell of lemon blossom and sweet peas in the garden, I’m taking my madeleines outside to have with tea.
True to Proust’s account, I will dip my madeleines in a cup of lime flower tea, but I will also serve them (in a second sitting) with some heady Persian rose petal jam, freshly whipped cream and a stronger infusion of Ceylon tea and milk. As Proust says, ‘whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy?’


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