Today I am making a lemon tart. Lemons. Ever since I met Amelia Bedelia as a child I have had a thing about lemony things. Lemon meringue pie without the meringue.
Pastry. I have made pastry all my life. Sometimes it works while other times it is a disaster. It either won’t roll, it sticks to the bench or it crumbles as I try to put it in the pie dish. Last time I forgot to put the beans into the pastry shell while baking and then wondered why the pastry rose and filled the dish.
Ground almonds, I need to grind the almonds, I need to grind the raw sugar. Then I add the flour, the butter and create fine breadcrumbs. Cold water is added ever so slowly.
Today the pastry rolls perfectly, it goes into the flan dish and then I reach for the beans. They are in a jar with a pretty lid. I bought this jar soon after I married and have used these beans each time I have made a pie or a flan or a quiche or a tart. They are over thirty years old and look at them. Misshapen, burnt, smelly, but they have lived in my cupboard in this jar all this time. This time I open the jar and pour the beans into the flan.
The beans really should go out. Memories of other pies, fruit pies, the time I added salt not sugar to the pastry time, meat pies, lemon tarts, countless lemony tarts. Not once have these beans complained about losing their beauty. Silently they have filled empty pastry shells, gotten hot and dry in the oven and then been poured back into a jar and thrown carelessly into the back of the cupboard until next time.
“Beans, I really need to get rid of you.”
“I am going to use you one last time and then put you in the bin.”
I pour the beans onto the pastry shell, and put the dish into the oven. One last time. Then they are going. I go to my shopping list and write “dried white beans” for my next shopping trip.
I put the jar into the dishwasher. Its never been washed, not once and it is like I am about to erase its relationship with these beans as it has watched them age. In my mind I see the lid covered with luscious fruit that is red, orange and blue with German writing around the edge. I remember the jam in the jar from thirty years ago. It was rich and delicious. It was the kind of jar I wanted to keep forever. A perfect home for my blind beans.
I pick up this lid and look at it closely and see faded fruit covered with rust. It looks jaded and tired. I hold it in my hand and wonder when that happened and how it happened without me noticing.
A new jar with a new lid with new beans is too much. A new jar will get buried and hidden in my crazy cluttered cupboard. This jar, and this precious lid are a part of making pastry and I am not ready to replace it. When I need my baking beans, I know what I am looking for and I can find it without thinking.
While the pastry bakes blind using my beans one last time, I turn to making the lemon curd. I juice the lemons, crack eggs, cut butter and add them to the bowl. As it cooks, I can smell the lemon and the thick buttery texture is begging to be tasted. I get a small spoon and scoop some out of the pot, into my mouth and soak up its lemon richness. I think about Amelia Bedelia and her lemon meringue pie. If she came for dinner tonight, I am sure she would ask for the largest piece of lemon tart, even though there is no meringue and then demand an extra large serving of ice cream.