I tried a Madeleine the other day, not from a diner, mind you, but a reputable French bakery. This was after a treat of a posh-lunch at Le Grenouille with my friend Anita, and an almost sublime heaven taste of a meal. I’d thought the final touch of that lemon cookie would send me bolting down 52nd Street to find a pad and pencil and start a literary hadj that would wind me up somewhere grand. But I was, in truth, too full to bolt just then. So I thought I’d try a little later. There’s a new café on the corner of Sixth and 12th, a Café O that has supplanted the still-lamented Joe Juniors of “they don’t make em like that no more” diners. This new incursion is pretty good, all the ambience you could want, New School kids and oldsters huddled over lattes and teas, and really really fine $3.00 ultra chocolate chip soft as butter with nuts inside cookies. But no lemon zesty Madeleines, and, sorry to report, nothing that made me go “Oh, remember…” So I’ve missed that particular train.
Did start me thinking, though, about family cookies, and how lucky I am to have been born to parents who were still a part of that Cooking R Us generation. My Cornish grandmother made Pasties, which, we were told, were the food that the miners took into the tin mines for lunch. We—my cousins and I—thought these meat-onion-potato pies in a thick crust (everything cooked up at the same time) were gourmet heaven. For us, they were the taste of the old country, even though we had no idea, and didn’t care about Cornwall (foolish children). This Grandmother also baked “Ranger cookies.” Oatmeal and coconut and hard as rocks. Whence the name? Beats me.
What happens now at dinner out, when possible, there are biscotti, which are mainly coffee go-withs, and, for me, carry no memories, except of previous dinners with biscotti, unending series of reflections on reflections, finally all to pale in comparison to the where and when one is and one becomes when even thinking of a cookie of one’s childhood.