For someone like me who is primarily a visual learner, there is a danger that the experience of being any where, let alone somewhere out of the everyday can be only partly experienced. I often worry that I am missing out on a big part of what there is around me because I spend so much of my energy concentrating on the things that I see.
I became acutely aware of this issue while at lunch at the Osteria de’ Peccatori in the Piazza di S. Firenze today. It does not take much to persuade me that dessert is a good idea and I am well up for trying something new. The menu I was handed offered, amongst a large selection, something called Creme Catalana. The waitress didn’t have a word of English and my tentative “Come?” only elicited a display of hands indicating size (I’m still sure I was asking her “What is it?”).
What appeared in front of me in no time at all was a round ceramic dish about 25cm in circumference and a couple of centimetres deep, filled from edge to edge with a glistening brown and gold coloured burnt sugar glaze. The rich fairy floss smell that drifted up from the plate is making my mouth water even now as I remember it. The glaze took no small effort with the spoon to yield but when it did it broke with a loud crack and a new aroma of oranges replaced the warm sugar smell. The buttery smooth and soft creme underneath added a new layer of texture to the visual temptation. The first spoonful was a contrast of brittle, hard sugar glaze and silken creme filling on my tongue and the tastes … sugar and orange and creme …
I wonder if they will let me come in another day and just have a dessert course?