Memories of my first visits to France, when I was very young, are full of the warmth of the sun, the scent of melons and peaches, the blue of the sea and a litany of tastes the like of which I had never imagined. A lifetime later I anticipate, at this time of each year, the pleasure of the materialisation, a distillation, of those memories as sunlight starts to paint the landscape with inimitable colour and the warmth draws the perfume out of every living thing. Nothing of our today transcends good memories of our yesterday, which are veiled in soft layers of delicious exaggeration.Remembering a perfect summer lunch in a tiny restaurant by the sea where both the food and the service were impeccable, implausibly retouched as that moment may be, will always overshadow the perfect moment of now which includes a wasp and the braying laughter of the people on the next table that have not yet passed through memory’s excellent editing suite. However, cooking from other people’s memories can be a very good thing depending on the choice of person whose memories are the source of the chosen recipes. Elizabeth David is one such person. Not only did she guide and advise on dishes that she had eaten but also recreated the atmosphere in which she had enjoyed them. My main delight in her writing is that she rarely created recipes; I say rarely, as opposed to never, as I am sure that there must be instances of this but of them I am happily unaware. Patricia Wells does the same, for the most part. Like Ms. David she records good things that she has eaten and, more importantly, who cooked them and where she ate them. This recording of good memories is the very best of food writing.
This modest apple tart, seen on the same summer day in two locations some 2 meters apart, is such a recipe. Ms. Wells records that she ate it at the home of Francoise and Gerard Potel, of the Domain de la Pousse d’Or in Burgundy, where she had organised several wine tasting dinners. It was Francoise Potel, a great home cook, who prepared it and so impressed was Patricia Wells that she added it to her “apple pie” repertoire. Those words, that preceded the recipe in her book “Bistro Cooking”, filled me with confidence and confirmed that the home of good memories is the place where good food resides.