Friday, July 21, 2006

More about the Ice Cream Treat

That is, what I did with the Apricots the other day. Clutched with the idea of this notorious classic French ice cream dessert, I enthusiastically mentioned to everyone I knew my plan to make a Bombe Marquise. Everyone, including Isabelle, gave me a blank stare in return and the conversation didn't go very far.

At first I thought maybe they thought it was impolite to tell them about the luscious treat I was going to prepare and not invite them to come share it. The only real response I got came from Sebastien's Catalane aunt who flashed a brilliant smile and said that when she was my age she also embarked on ambitious cooking projects. This puzzled me because it's really not that ambitious, sorbet, and putting it into a mould is a cute way, and a very classic French way to serve it at the table for guests, right?

I posed the question to Loïc, who is my punching bag for all questions cultural, while we were in the car. Why the flat reception? Quietly as he drove on the way back from our evening out, he said it carefully and with the tact expected from him: "Lucy, what is a Bombe Marquise? I don't think they knew what you were talking about." Ah. The white lines blurring towards us like darts on the road, I reflected back to the evening.

Swatting at bees and sipping wine in the heady evening twighlight, there I was repeating it as if perhaps I hadn't pronounced it correctly. "Bombe. Bombe. You know what that is? With sorbet?" Blank stares. At least I didn't get the classic furrowed brow and squint. Oh well. There in the car I realized that I had once again stepped over that little line, that line marking the end of common knowledge and had entered that lovely solitary little world of culinary esoterica without even trying. I less than gracefully stumble across that line rather often, sigh. It was time for a hearty laugh.

More and more, as I am able to fully engage in fruitful conversations about food from which I glean lots of precious and desirable knowledge, I have to watch what how far I take the conversation. There is a line between a food enthusiast, of which there are many in France, and in many places one would not expect, and a card carrying certified food freak.

I suppose being a food freak is acceptable in general. But not at meet and greet buffet receptions overlooking the river valley, receptions involving relatives that we don't know very well. Not only was I the token American, but I was also the token food freak. It is easy to develop a strange reputation if I'm not careful.

At one time, I thought I was saved, born again, able at long last to talk about food to everyone, because everywhere I went, everyone, from all walks of life, were ready and open to an enthusiastic discussion of food. My hairdresser, raised in the depths of the Limousin, ready to argue for 45 minutes about 9 different species of cherries and their uses, the ladies I used to ride the bus with, my colleagues, even the garbage man and bus driver were ready at the drop of a hat to discuss the weather for meringue, Corsican smoked meats, what kind of potato to use for a tartiflette, whether to add crème fraîche to a pâte brisé, merits of aged vinegars, etc. Then I go and gush like an idiot about a Bombe Marquise at a family buffet and everyone wonders what planet I came from.

The Bombe is actually more of a European thing than purely French, since the whole concept of ice cream is said to have come from Italy, having been readily adopted by the English and the French at roughly the same time, and flourishing through Victorian times and into the 20th century with these cute fruit shaped ice cream treats as the social foil at garden parties and the likes. But even when served in England, the Bombe was always referred to as a French delicacy.

For this particular recipe, the Apricot sorbet has a bit more body than the Chablis sorbet, which follows in line with the whole concept of the Bombe. The logic is that the shell of the bombe is there to give some structure and support to a more delicate inside.

The name comes from the shapes of the moulds, which were very common in the late 18th, 19th and early 20th century kitchens of homes that had the luxury of ice houses. The moulds were made of copper mostly, and sometimes had the most delightful shapes and patterns. At first, before they started getting decorative, the mould was the container the ice cream was made in. They poured the custard and turned it in the salted ice, kept it cold, and turned it out of the mould when it was ready for service. This quickly evolved with the times to more and more complex moulds and layers, varied layers for the inside part, including frozen fruit purees, whipped flavored creams, custards, etc., and moulds made especially for making evenly distributed pretty layers, containing a more stiff outer support and a delicate inside. It is often noted that the purpose of having two layers is also to give some variation to the textures and flavors.

When the weather is terribly hot like it has been all week here, this really is a pretty good way to cool down. My guests were delighted in any case.

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Blogger wheresmymind said...

I love your final plating...the little sprig of mint looks like it is jumping off the plate!

3:31 PM, July 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would be delighted to be your guest too: it looks AMAZING!!!

6:20 PM, July 21, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thanks for your comments. Next time you come through Lyon, you be sure to give me a call.

3:54 PM, July 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yum yum!!! I am glad to see the pic! It is gorgeous!

4:43 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Béatrice, en fait c’était ton souhait de regarder qui m’a poussé à faire des photos! Merci! Avec la chaleur qu’on a en ce moment, c’est difficile de trouver de l’inspiration, et cette fois c’était toi qui m’a inspiré de continuer sur ce chemin.

10:08 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Banlieue Blog said...

wow.....I just stumbled on your blog through a 'comments' beautiful...looking forward to checking in often!

9:16 PM, July 26, 2006  
Blogger Lisa said...

WOW. this looks too beautiful to eat!

(but i think i would still eat it. ha ha)

6:11 PM, July 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the second mold from the left, in copper. We've always called it "The Emperor's New Cloche."

Lovely dessert. Even lovelier tale of its genesis.


2:00 AM, August 09, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thanks for the comments everyone!

7:28 PM, August 18, 2006  
Blogger Sheri said...

Absolutely lovely! Your story is wonderful too. I can relate as I, too, have been the food crazy American in foreign lands :) All of your posts are inspiring and visually stunning. I come here often. Merci beaucoup!

7:42 PM, January 19, 2008  

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