A discussion was had yesterday about how the restaurant would present creme brulee. A dish as classic as they come, and one I have yet to serve on my 4 month young menu, we debated the need for a nibble on the side of the ramekin, a cookie most likely.
“Classicists would argue that the dish stands alone, and needs no adornment,” I brought to point. “But they would also argue that it should never be flavored with anything but vanilla bean.”
Then someone said something that stunned me.
“Well, I don’t know who these “classicists” are, the dish was invented in the 1970′s by Le Cirque.”
I realized then and there that I had been functioning on the assumption that this dish, the noble creme brulee, was as old as France. I had no factual basis for this assumption. I just chalked it up to classic cuisine, taught early in my formal training at a learning institute based heavily on Escoffier.
But still, that couldn’t be right could it?
So I picked up Escoffier, and no dice. No recipe for creme brulee is contained in the monolithic tome. “Holy crap” I thought, could this possibly be?
Breath abated, I typed, “Creme brulee origin” into the google tool bar and waited for the results.
“It’s old!” I sighed.
Because google is arguably not a food historian, it gave me conflicting information as to the facts behind this dish’s origin. But one thing remains true, records of an egg and cream custard with burnt sugar on top date back to the 17th century. So my foundation remains stable.
It was just a little surprise to remember that I do function on assumptions every day. My brain fills in the blanks so to speak, making little guesses, hypothesis, connections between the things I do know to create a whole picture for me. It’s a good lesson to remember that those assumptions I haven’t solidified with fact are just that, and to speak of them as such, lest I unwittingly turn my assumptions into another young cooks facts!
And to all you creme brulee classicists who scoff at my brulee’s flavored with more than vanilla, you should know that the original creme brulee’s were most likely flavored with cinnamon, orange blossom and rose waters, bay leaf, or the peel of citrus. And you might want to sit down for this…… they were also likely were studded with candied fruits and nuts.