Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The REAL shortcake

Some time last week, I wrote about my passion for the Japanese strawberry shortcake, and interestingly, this past Saturday, I ran into the _real deal_ of a shortcake - the kind with dense biscuits, sliced strawberries, and that rich cream of a sauce. It looks nothing like the Japanese shortcake either, and I distinctly remember the first time I encountered one of these biscuit shortcakes. I was at some breakfast joint, either in NH or MA, and they brought one of these out for me when I ordered a strawberry shortcake. I was so very confused. Never one to shy away from new foods, I tried eating it, but I couldn't get over how dry and crumbly the biscuits were. I simply did not like it - I felt betrayed and let down, since I was expecting to see my light, airy strawberry treat.

Over the years, I've grown to like biscuits - enough to make them myself - and I've learned to appreciate that heavy, sweet, dense cream in smaller amounts. When I saw that there were free strawberry shortcake samples by the kitchen stage at the Ferry Market Building, I promptly got in line, pretending to watch the show. The show was winding down, and I couldn't see much of anything from where I was, but I waited patiently to be presented with my share of the biscuit shortcakes.


Several years ago, I would not have bothered to wait in line for these things. Now, I shoved it down as a filled myself with glee. These biscuits were buttery without being too overwhelming, complementing the sweetness of the cream, which was lemon-flavored. The subtle tartness of the strawberries tightened the flavors together nicely, and I found myself really enjoying this shortcake. Then, it occurred to me - the last time I had a biscuit strawberry shortcake, my best friend in NC, Gwyn, made it for me, while we spent a peaceful Sunday morning together. I realized that I like food when it evokes pleasant memories, and perhaps my ever expanding love for all kinds of different foods is a reflection of my fortunate richness in life, full of the fun and wonderful friends...

1 comment:

Uchipu said...

Flan or Pudding or Purin?!

Well the Shortcake story inspired me to write about my exprience as a new chick in the US waaaaaay back when.

The difference between what we believe is one food item or the other is startling when it comes to names and culture associated with it.

Take, for example, "pudding".

And here's a dictonary meaning:

And here's some history behind the mystrey that is Pudding:

Pudding in UK is usually something that is savory, as in either blood pudding, something made out of bread, cream and fruit (bread pudding) or what Americans may consider as a "pop over". Basically it's a mish-mash of stuff that is gooey.

Pudding in US is usually a creamy thing, held together by gelatin - as in chocolate pudding, rice pudding, tapioca pudding, vanilla pudding. Yes, there is supposed to be custard in it, but I rarely see a real custard pudding.

Pudding in Japan...is more like a Flan. In Japan, it's typically custard based, more that of consistency of a jello, with carmel sauce - so yea, it's a Flan.

I don't know if anyone has actually tried to decifer how a Spanish desert "Flan" turned into "Pudding" in Japan. It's much to one's speculation...but my guess is that the dessert came to Japan sometime during the late 1800s, when Japan finallyed decided to open up its borders to foreign trade.

"Flan" in Latin is "Flado", and it means custard. The Europeans who brought this to Japan, probably used the word "Pudding" as the lines were a little bit blurry about this sweet custard dessert back then. Pudding, back then in a dessert sense, meant a flat cake like object and had custard. So Flan became to be known as "Pudding", and eventually, because of our lack of the "ding" in our normal alphabet, it turned into "Puring" or "Purin".

...so you might imagine my surprise when I ordered a "Custard Pudding" and got a bowl full of strange yellow gue of a cream...Good thing it wasn't in London, or else, I would've been really scared!!

As I was getting depressed that I won't be able to enjoy my favorite dessert, "Purin" in the US, I was shortly introduced to "Flan" at a French Bistro-Diner in NYC. Then I started to notice that "Flan" was often sighted at various restaurants ... and has always been! It's just that I didn't connetct Flan=Purin. I mean, who knew?!

...hmmm...I wonder if there are any other foods that are named differently or have the same name and look different that I've been missing out on?!

O, and somewhere in the Flan<->Purin connection, "Creme Brulee" must exist.