You say merengue, I say meringue.
But really, I've just made my first meringue and I'm so thrilled I'm doing the merengue all around the kitchen.
Why so happy? I have to 'fess up that I've loved meringues since I was a kid. If half of food pleasure is texture, who can resist the squooshy mouth-feel a good meringue delivers, whether dry and crisp, like meringue cookies, or chewy and browned, or the heavenly meringues in Iles flottante, the classic French dessert with its "floating islands" of moist airy meringues that have been poached in milk.
But until now I've never been brave enough to try a meringue. Horror of kitchen horrors - they seemed as daunting as making the toast to the bride at a traditional wedding. They collapse, they weep. Accidentally touch the bowl just once with your baby finger and your egg whites will never whip up no matter how mercilessly you beat them. Forget it.
A failed meringue is as embarrassing as a failed politician.
The tipping point for me was helping my mom make her usual lemon meringue pie-to-die-for, the traditional Easter dinner dessert in our family. In fact, the recipe we used in the meringue teaching demo is the same one my nan used in her farm kitchens across central Alberta and passed on.
Younger generations, head's up: if you want to shake things up a bit by slowing things down, take out your ear buds and spend an afternoon making one of your favourite recipes with your mom or dad or whoever is the best cook in your life.
If food is one of the most sacred repositories of memory, and it is, along with scent, which also plays such a big part of taste, you will be so glad you did. Never mind the evocation of memories as you take the first bite. Whether it's now or years from now, as you roll out the dough or beat the eggs, you realize your arms and wrists feel like your grandma's or dad's did as they made the same pastry, whipped the same custard.
And so you become them in that moment, or at least feel you do, knowing something you can't possibly know, but knowing you do regardless. A living kitchen doppelgänger of those who've gone before you.
While the merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic, meringue is likely from the Latin "merenda" meaning light evening meal.
It is true you shouldn't touch your greasy fingers or even your ordinary clean fingers on the bowl or utensils, nor, for that matter, should you use plastic, as they all can result in oils spoiling the formation of the air pockets.
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