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Verses from my Kitchen: Sweet Disposition: Raspberry, Mint and Pistachio Crumb Tart

May 3, 2011

Sweet Disposition: Raspberry, Mint and Pistachio Crumb Tart

I remember when the sadness fell over me. I can almost pinpoint the moment when the emotional dagger pierced my skin. I had been the happy-go-lucky kid with a smile that was always painted on my face until that time. And then it ended. Suddenly, and without warning.

I grew up with my mom but as is the case with most split-parent households, I spent time with my dad. Although the majority of my time was spent in the brick house I grew up in, I would visit my dad on weekends and once in a while in between. One day that changed. I moved in with my dad full-time somewhere around age 13. It was different, but it would be fine. I thought.

It wasn't long after I settled in before the routines I had grown up on disappeared. The daily visits in the kitchen with my mom making dinner were replaced by nightly visits to diners and restaurants and take-out meals in front of the television. I didn't blame him, it was merely different. Besides, this was the least of my concerns.

Not long after that, I think I was 14, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. A small lesion on his lip, previously thought to be a cold sore, was cancerous. He underwent a biopsy and treatments. One domino fell after another. And things deteriorated faster than the speed of light.

What was a minor scare turned into full blown war on his body. Within a few quick weeks he was in the hospital preparing for surgery and his future was a question mark. This was his new home. One minor surgery followed another. Then the word spread like the cancer. It had moved into his throat and there was no telling what would happen next. They needed to act fast.

I spent my days like a working man back then, although I was just a kid. I would pack my lunch and head to school and run through the front doors as soon as the bell signalling the end of day echoed down the halls. I would head downtown on local transit to sit beside my dad, numb to the world on one drug or another. And I would sit doing homework beside him and stare at his scarred face, ready for battle with eyes wide shut.

I would leave right before visiting hours ended and catch the train and bus home. That bus ride took on a familiar tone. I would fall asleep against the cool metal beneath the window each night and the bus driver would wake me up the same way, "Son, this is your stop." I would rub my eyes and exit the bus and take that lonely walk home. And I would make myself dinner and fall asleep on the couch.

The cycle continued for weeks. The only solace was the sweet snacks I would pick up to eat with my dinner every night. It was a metaphor for my life at the time, in a way. That sweet dessert or pastry was the one sweet spot I looked forward to and it ended up being my lone sweet disposition in a day full of emotional strife. I was lost in a moment of happiness when I didn't deserve to be happy.

The battle raged for some time until he faced his biggest obstacle yet and went under the knife for 8 hours. I spent that night at my Uncle's, somewhat oblivious to the fact that this surgery was different than the others. I was kept away for my own good, as if outside the gates with something important happening beyond my reach.

I was lucky.

My dad survived that battle. I went on visiting him as he tried to communicate with a children's Etch A Sketch, drawing and writing what he needed. His lips were sealed, literally. But he was alive. For weeks he ate what fluids were hooked up to him. But he survived.

It gives me hope that with the right set of circumstances anything can be beaten. And I always look back to that time and appreciate the small sweet moments we're afforded. It might be a hug after a bad day, thank you note when you least expect it or something like this Raspberry, Mint and Pistachio Tart. No matter how difficult a situation can be, there is always room for happiness. No guilt required.

How many times do we indulge and feel guilty. Why? It usually puts a smile on our face or soul and takes away the pain, even if it's just for a minute. That's not a bad thing, is it? It wasn't for me. Believe me, I needed it. As silly as it sounds, it kept the light shining when it was darkness all around me.

From my kitchen to yours, happy eating!

Rasperry, Mint & Pistachio Tart

The Goods:
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups raspberries
  • 2 tbsp. pistachios, finely chopped
  • small bunch mint leaves, torn
  • 2 tbsp. icing sugar and more for dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a rolling pin, roll out half the puff pastry into a rectangle and trim the edges with a pizza cutter. Place on a parchment sheet-lined baking sheet. Brush the pastry with beaten egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake the puff pastry for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven.
  2. Using a small saucepan, mix half a cup of the raspberries with the icing sugar and simmer until combined. Mash up a bit with the back of a fork. Remove and cool. Meanwhile, mix the creme fraiche and brown sugar until combined.
  3. Spread the creme fraiche mixture over the puff pastry and drizzle the raspberry sauce over top. Top with the remaining whole raspberries, some torn mint leaves and some crushed pistachios. Dust with icing sugar.
  4. Serves 4-6.

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At May 3, 2011 at 10:10 AM , Blogger A Thought For Food said...

My friend... I'm sure this was a tough post to write. But how beautifully written this is. This is both heartbreaking and utterly inspiring at the same time.

This tart is stunning... and refreshing... I can see how this could bring a smile to your face.

At May 3, 2011 at 10:25 AM , Blogger Marnely Rodriguez said...

Amazing writing, my throat just knotted up reading it. Your words are so powerful, thank you for sharing. And the tart, as Brian says...is stunning indeed!

At May 3, 2011 at 10:55 AM , Anonymous Steph @Lick My Spoon said...

I couldn't agree more -- beautifully written. thank you for sharing this with us -- and that tart! a summer stunner

At May 3, 2011 at 11:14 AM , Anonymous SMITH BITES said...

ah Mike ~ such hard life lessons for a young boy, a teenager who had to grow up mighty fast. i am so thankful your dad survived and that you have him here . . . fabulous writing and an even more fabulous tart!

At May 3, 2011 at 11:17 AM , Anonymous spiceblogger said...

Such a touching story to share.
It is a sweet thing to be able to look back on moments and appreciate...
I've lost my mom and my step-dad both to cancer, but the moments I try to hold onto are the happy ones. A glint of recognition full of love here; a touch of understanding and compassion there; a smile; a hug; a moment of silence.

Thank you for sharing something so personal.
And that tart looks amazing!


At May 3, 2011 at 2:02 PM , Blogger Lemons and Lavender said...

The lessons we learn at a young age from being "in the bed," or beside the bed are transforming, profound, and forever change us. Quite often those experiences shape us into the people we are today. At the tender age of 14, the wisdom you had to find that little bit of comfort in the most difficult of circumstances says so much about you. Your depth of human understanding is evident and poignantly captured in this post. Well done on both counts!

At May 3, 2011 at 2:43 PM , Blogger Inga´s Haven said...

what a touching story .. i´m happy for you that your dad made it :) unfortunately we are not all that lucky....

very nice post

At May 3, 2011 at 5:30 PM , Blogger Kimmy Bingham said...

I just teared up reading this. What a powerful and poignant story. Amazing writing, amazing message. I just lost my uncle (who was like a second dad) and my mom's best friend (like my second mom) last fall/winter to cancer within 6 months of each other.

It's amazing the stranglehold this disease can put on your life whether you survive or can't kick it.

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story with us all and making us all stop and think.

At May 3, 2011 at 6:32 PM , Blogger Janis said...

Your writing took me far into that little boys head and I totally forgot you were talking about yourself. Beautiful post. Thank ypo for letting us get a glimpse of that little boy.

At May 3, 2011 at 7:26 PM , Blogger ABowlOfMush said...

This tart looks stunning and so delicious!!

At May 3, 2011 at 8:19 PM , Anonymous Kate@Diethood said...

Mike, thank you for this post! I have goose bumps all over, but more importantly, I am just soooo glad to know that little boy! And his tart!!

At May 4, 2011 at 1:14 AM , Anonymous Dan Clapson said...

The initial picture for this post (i.e. before I clicked 'read more') is, like, legit Food and Wine quality! So awesome. P.S. Bring some tart with you to DC, ok?


At May 4, 2011 at 9:49 AM , Anonymous RavieNomNoms said...

That looks soooooooo good!! What a perfect thing to have during the summer. Fabulous tart!

At May 4, 2011 at 11:30 AM , Anonymous Jill Colonna said...

I feel silly writing this since I was pulled in to your post by the gorgeous combinations of flavours, and the words tart & crumb! THEN I read your writing. Stunning piece, heart rendering words from start to finish. Gosh, thank heavens all ended well and as you say, it makes us appreciate even the wonderful small things in life. Cheers!

At May 4, 2011 at 11:34 AM , Blogger Kitchen Riffs said...

Really great post.

And the recipe looks good, too.

At May 4, 2011 at 12:18 PM , Blogger Farmgirl Gourmet said...

Fabulous post! I know what its like to have a parent fight for their lives from Cancer so your words struck a major cord! The tart looks absolutely divine!

At May 4, 2011 at 5:06 PM , Blogger Kristen - Dine & Dish said...

I have a lump in my throat reading this... beautiful prose and pictures.

At May 4, 2011 at 5:13 PM , Blogger wenderly said...

Absolutely beautiful. I'm so glad that we shared the same post name today...serendipity.

I look forward to stopping back!

At May 4, 2011 at 5:58 PM , Blogger Natalie said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing such a personal, emotional part of your life. I was really touched. And I also want to make that tart. ASAP :)

At May 4, 2011 at 7:38 PM , Blogger Michael Lewicki said...

Than you for all the kind words. It is greatly appreciated and doesn't go by unnoticed!

At May 4, 2011 at 8:52 PM , Anonymous DessertForTwo said...

Wow. Such a powerful and wonderful post. Thanks so much for sharing a part of your life with us. Wow.

Thanks for the little reminder that it's ok to indulge sometimes. I shouldn't feel guilty for enjoying a sweet dessert after dinner. It makes me smile and it brings me joy. And what's so wrong with that? Nothing, as you say :)

Thanks again. Also, your photos are stunning and this tart looks delicious! Take care!

At May 4, 2011 at 10:09 PM , Anonymous Sneh | Cook Republic said...

Thank you for sharing a difficult time and those poignant moments from your life. And thank God for little mercies. If it weren't for tiny and sometimes bigger than tiny indulgences, we wouldn't be able to make our way through the maze of this life!

Gorgeous dessert too !:-)

At May 5, 2011 at 7:01 AM , Blogger Lick My Spoon said...

I stumbled upon your post somehow and I'm so glad I did. I have never visited you blog and this single post of yours gave me goose bumps- like I know you, like I was there sitting in the hospital next to your dad, watching you do homework. I come from the other side having survived cancer so I can somewhat understand your emotions as my family went through the same as you. My best wishes are with you and your family. Will follow you on Twitter to get more blog updates :)

At May 5, 2011 at 9:04 PM , Blogger Maria said...

Such a touching story! This recipe is so gorgeous, it has all ingredients I adore.

At May 6, 2011 at 11:29 AM , Blogger Mary @Delightful Bitefuls said...

Thanks for sharing that story...

This dessert is divine... will be trying soon!

Mary xo
Delightful Bitefuls

At May 10, 2011 at 2:47 AM , Blogger KonstantKraver said...

Raspberry, Mint and Pistachio what a lovely combination. Your story is touching and inspiring

At June 10, 2011 at 6:30 AM , Blogger Leslie said...

I just found your blog and read this, what a beautiful post. I didn't expect this from a food blog but you really touched me. I grew up with a sick mother and can relate to your story. Thank you!


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