Just Desserts

The Pastry Chef is responsible for making all the breads and rolls that the hotel uses as well as the desserts and ice cream, or gelato.  Today we were making tiramisu.

Tiramisu’ means “pick-me-up” in Italian, for the high energetic content of cocoa and the caffeine of the strong espresso coffee. There are many different stories about the origin of Tiramisu, but there is no documented mention of the dessert before 1983. Some claim that it was first created in Northern Italy during the First World War. Women made these desserts for their men to take with them as they were being sent off to war. They might have believed the high caffeine and energy content of these desserts would give their men more energy to fight and help bring them home safely.

Another story regarding tiramisu, however, said that during the Renaissance women made Tiramisu to be shared with their men during the late hours because they believed it would give them the energy to make more vigorous love later. A different take on this story is that Venetian prostitutes, living above cafés, would order this as a late night pick-me-up.

A less glamorous theory explains that the dessert was a way of salvaging old cake and coffee that had gone cold by using the leftover coffee and perhaps some liqueur to moisten the dry cake. The dish was greatly improved by layering it with cream or mascarpone, Italian cream cheese.

Regardless of the origin, Tiramisu is one of the most popular desserts in the world today and is available in all kinds of restaurants, not just those specializing in Italian cuisine.

We placed the goblets of tiramisu in the refrigerator in the pastry chef’s corner of the kitchen.  Then Roberto gave handed me the recipe for a moist, chestnut cake and told me make it.  He opened a can of chestnuts for me and I took them to the stove to boil them until they were tender.

That afternoon, I rode the bus home and checked my email at the internet café.

Craig had written:

“Well, the lasagna is gone.  What do I do now?”

“Craig, you know how to bake a potato in the microwave.  Just fix a potato and a nice salad.  You can do that. Or you can go to Whole Foods and purchase something that is already prepared.”  I didn’t add that there were zillions of restaurants in Annapolis, but Craig isn’t the type to go out and eat alone unless he is away on a business trip. I was surprised when I received an instant response.  He must have been writing emails right that moment.

“How will I know when the potato is done?  Does it have a pop-up timer like a chicken?”  Silly man.  Maybe he does miss me.

When I left the internet café, there were some older men playing the Italian card game, scopa, at a table set up on the sidewalk outside the café.  I stopped to watch for a few minutes but didn’t understand the rules of the game.  I should ask Paulo to explain it to me.

As I passed the ceramics shop near the steps to our apartment in town, the blue fish bowl beckoned to me and I decided today was the day to purchase it.

Potete darmi uno Sconto? (Can you give me a discount?)” I queried always on the lookout for a bargain.

“You pay in cash?  I give 15% off,” he answered.  I opened my wallet and counted out the Euros as he gently wrapped the bowl in tissue and bubble wrap.

“Grazie,” I said with a wide smile as I carried my prize down the steps to the apartment.


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