My first two novels, Three Junes and The Whole World Over, feature chefs as major characters, so readers tend to assume that I love cooking. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that I love eating (alas!), which makes cooking a means to a delectable end. One of my greatest pleasures is bringing friends together for a good meal. I believe that dinner parties—often simple, casual affairs where the kids are banished to eat pizza in front of a movie while grown-ups cook and drink wine in the kitchen—are deeply nourishing to the soul as well as the body. So it’s natural that some of the most crucial scenes I write take place over meals.
In I See You Everywhere, the story of two very different adult sisters, the eldest, Louisa Jardine, prides herself on her culinary skills (though she’s an artist and writer, not a professional foodie). Yet she also admits that her “favorite strategy for holding panic at bay” is to immerse herself in feeding others. At a crucial point in the book, when she is struggling simultaneously with her health and her prospects for becoming a mother, she makes an elaborate meal for her boyfriend that culminates in a painful quarrel . . . and, ironically, a flawless soufflé, which emerges from the oven “lofty as a delusion.”
Harking back nearly 20 years, to a time when I became obsessed with mastering, even inventing, soufflés, I summoned up for this scene one of the most unusual desserts I’ve ever made, the Spiced Tea Soufflé from a wonderful 1970s cooking classic called The Making of a Cook, by Madeleine Kamman. Its bold assortment of ingredients includes crystallized ginger, orange rind, cloves, macadamia nuts, and, for its bergamot perfume, Earl Grey tea. Taking the liberties of fiction, I made Louisa’s confection an “oolong-ginger” soufflé, simply because I love the exotic echoes in the word oolong; “Earl Grey” didn’t strike the right note. In real life, however, I’d stick with the original version. It’s divine.
Julia Glass photo credit: Peter Ross
Spiced Tea Soufflé
Adapted from The Making of a Cook (Weathervane, 1971) by Madeline Kamman
1 heaping teaspoon (1 teabag) Earl Grey tea
Yield: 6 servings