Let me be clear, I don’t give a flying fuck if Marie Antoinette said brioche, chelsea buns or if she said bugger all…I’m saying it now…”let them eat cake”. In particular, let them eat this cake. Amaretti biscuits have always been a favourite of mine. If memory serves me well, which caveat is close to an oxymoron, my first encounter with an Amaretti was pyrotechnic rather than gastronomic. There was a time in my life when lunchtime extended from the middle of the day to the end of it and involved very little eating. At some point in the drinking a tired and desperate owner/waiter/manager would bring coffee to the table in the hope that, in some sort of catering Esperanto, we would understand that this signified the end of the meal. What we understood was that the arrival of coffee merely signified a change from the vinified to the distilled. Amaretti biscuits were often delivered with the coffee and, as eating them was of no interest whatsoever, I became very taken with their delicate tissue paper wrappers and even more taken by them when I was shown that, when ignited with a match, they rose majestically from the table like blazing Montgolfiers. It was at a much later period in my life, after I had been shown the apparently more accepted and certainly less tiring version of lunch, that I was to become as infatuated with their flavour and crumbling texture as I had once been with the incandescence of their wrapping. But the story was to take another serpentine twist: we moved to the depths of the French countryside where there were no Amaretti to be had, not even for ready money. The Amaretti free years slowly passed until suddenly, this summer, a bag of them appeared, as if by magic, in the kitchen: the magic of Ryan Air had brought them to me in my thoughtful wife’s luggage. I was envisaging our intimate dinners in the dark winter evenings ahead illuminated by floating Amaretti fireballs when I noticed my Amaretti were naked…not a stitch of tissue paper between them.My upper lip stiffened and I resigned myself to memories. Suffice it to say that soon after this disappointment and just before all the biscuits were eaten I saw this very good recipe for a cake with Amaretti biscuits and raspberries which, as cake goes, is a pretty good combination, and so it proved to be.
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Roger, your recollections of burning Amaretti wrappers brings back the time when Suzanne and I would ask for a table near the rear of Thirteen and a Half (no longer extant) in Beauchamp Place. The table’s location meant that when we set fire to the paper (best rolled into a cylinder first) it rose majestically to a certain height where it was violently sucked into the exhaust fan. I have no idea how many small fires were started in the alley outside — we always left before we could be blamed.
Thank you for the memories.
No wonder Amaretti have abolished the wrappers….you and I could have started the second Great Fire of London nearly every lunchtime:)
Yes, Rog, those flaming wrappers were great fun, and sometimes the damage to newly painted white ceilings was rather amusing too! For us.
Cheers, Rich, keep on blogging.
Why did they paint those trattorias white…didn’t they realise that they just looked like a canvas ready for us to work on….good to hear from you:)
Oh memories, memories, So many uncles almost setting fire to their homes, so many aunties squwaking (spelling?) in Italian and flapping aprons which only made it worse! Gorgeous cake too 🙂
It really is a gorgeous cake and I had no idea how many of us were happily sending flaming wrappers into the ceilings of restaurants and homes….I was so happy in the late afternoon, still seated with mates in a smoke filled restaurant …and very often my client was one of those mates which saved me thinking of an excuse as to why I hadn’t gone back to the studio to finish the job:)
I think you can still buy them in wrappers, but sadly they no longer float when set alight. I do hope that Italy is a less PC obsessed than Britain and there’s still some fun in life. I love Spain which has not become a nanny state (yet) and there are still some things pyromaniac to be had. My favourite is the Correfoc, which requires a lot of burning:
I wouldn’t mind a taste of those cakes 😉
,,,and of course the brilliant French “bangers”…by which I mean fireworks and not the workers in rue St Denis:)
Oh yes, les pétards – the same or very similar (petardos) are very popular in Spain. Easily thrown or dropped off rooftops 🙂
the very word “petards” always makes me laugh as “peter” is the verb to fart:)
Me too, especially after seeing the Leonard Rossiter film, Le Pétomane, based on the life of Joseph Pujol:
What larks! And, BTW, I don’t see the point of a flying fuck….
…the mile high club might put you straight on that:)
Ah, OK…I hadn’t thought about height, only duration 😳 !!
…it’s never going to be as long as it’s high…or is that the other way around:)
You had me at “flying fuck”. Lovely post. Lovely cake.
God bless you, sir….always good hearing from you,Conor:)
Scenes from a wild past, especially involving drink and food ( or not actually eating) are great to remember, especially as age ( and perhaps wisdom) forces us to change our ways, not necessarily for the better. My past involved doing Macbeth scenes with prawn heads stuck on our fingers as talking puppets. Lucky day at the pub when they served whole trout- trout heads on fingers sounded more dramatic.
Now that sounds like MacFisheries rather than Macbeth:) ….is there such a thing as Macfisheries any more?
What a perfect summer cake, Roger. Marie Antoinette – and others – would be lucky to get their hands on it!
I’ve just been seduced by Gennaro’s wonderful lemon cake …..I’m very fickle with cake:)