Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Blow against the Tyranny of Cinnamon

Don't get me wrong: I actually love cinnamon and so did my sainted mother, gone on these 16 years passed. I remember the buttery toast scored with a cinnamon sugar mix allotted to us on the rare occasions when our good behaviour coincided with her having the inclination allow a breakfast chock full of unhealthful sweets. Years later, during my "curry phase" - a time when, influenced by a good friend's infatuation with a girl from what used to be called Bombay - I was spending untold hours mixing spices and fussing over the likes of machcher jhoi or tangy vindaloos. And cinnamon was almost always there, sweet even subtle handmaiden lending its unique mouth to my creations.

BUT - my Mama never would let the cinnamon bottle even step down from the cupboard when she composed her magnificient Northern Spy Pies, the gustatory pinnacle of my first 4 decades. Her lovely face would scrinch in disgust not only at the very thought of contaminating the tart with cinnamon but, more so, at the unfathomable ubiquity of this barbaric practice of adulteration.

And the abomination continues. Not long ago I was in a truly magnificent little restaurant here in Prince George (yes, Vancouver, there is good food beyond Hope!), Cimo's where they served up a dessert themed on apple pie that would have been magnifico without the seemingly mandatory conspicuousness of that tropical bark.

Actually, to be uncharacteristically fair and honest, I need admit that the dessert was still magnifico even with, perhaps because of the damn cinnamon. But my concern and point stands that as soon as any prospective betrothal of apples and pastry is contemplated, even the best of pastry chefs reach for the cinnamon like a mindless automatons. I wish that some of the better ones, whose handiwork otherwise brims with originality would try just once to be cinnamon-free.

And, lo, my wish has been granted. yesterday on British Columbia's CBC show, All Points West, gourmajournalist Don Genova and the host waxed on about a serendipitous creation, Tarte Tatin Benoit, kind of an upside down apple pie baked in a skillet. I damn near ate the radio! This morning I hustled on down the information highway to the good Don's website and found the recipe which to my consummate delight, is "sans canelle". Merci to Benoit (who, it turns out, was not our Canadien icon, Madame Jehane Benoit but rather an epicurean maestro. name of Benoit Guichard of Jamin in Paris's 16th arrondissement). Like his forefathers who stormed the Bastille, Guichard has struck a telling blow to the a great tyranny that cinnamon has exercised over apple desserts. Vive la liberte!