Darling, Mendiant is your word of the day. It is your word for every day and double for the bad days. A mendiant makes your hair longer (or shorter if that’s what you want); it makes your teeth gleam, your back straighten, your eyes sparkle and your enemies lie vanquished at your feet begging for forgiveness. Which you will bestow although the bastards clearly don’t deserve it, but a mendiant is slowly melting in your mouth so your soul is full of mercy and grace.
What is a mendiant? Well, Darling it is a taste heaven which gives you the strength, in the immortal words of Garrison Keillor, to do what needs to be done. In commonplace terms it is a small puddle of dark chocolate on top of which a few pieces of nuts and/ or dried fruits have been sprinkled, but it is really so much more.
It is a shot of courage (almost as potent as a champagne cocktail) which gives one the feeling of being in a hot-air balloon – sailing along above dull worry and care.
Most are made with pistachios, pecans, almonds, citrus rinds and cranberries. Cherries and currents are fine. Some (sigh, I should slap them but I am, as we all know, Far Too Kind) use ginger and pineapple. Others use walnuts and blueberries and, although of course we strongly disapprove, I have not vivisected any of them. Do you note this angelesque leniency?
If you, darling, if you need a bit more ‘oomph’ (think EC665 Tiger attack helicopter) – get a Florentine. A Florentine is a circle of dark chocolate (let’s not mention the heretics who use white chocolate, the Spanish Inquisition is coming for them) with chopped nuts and orange rind. (Can you believe – some soulless, Godless apostates use OATMEAL? It is not to be borne. Child, I see you put oatmeal in a Florentine and I will burn my Hermes scarves rather then let you inherit them. Standards. Standards. Standards.)
You, perchance, are getting the drift – almonds and dark chocolate will cover 95% of the crises in life. And those wise and wily Europeans know this. The Spanish (so charming!) add honey to create turrón de Alicante (hard almond nougat) and turrón de Jijon (soft almond nougat). We approve. [This yumminess is also known as torrone and yes, you can use other types of nuts but not peanuts or it is Hermes scarf meets Zippo lighter.]
Germans go one step further – spices, honey, almonds and chocolate for Lebkuchen. Of which we also approve.
As for those milk-based whateverie-thingies – custard, creme brulee, creme caramel, flan – no. You are not four years old. Eat those when you need to sleep (and no, you don’t get points for serving with kiwi and drizzling with liquor. They are baby food.)
Now you will notice that these treats are from France, Italy, Spain and Germany – where are the English treats you ask? They are on an island where they have been exiled to because the people in the UK (sigh) believe that a RAISIN has business being in a dessert. It does not. Never has, never will. What the English think they are doing putting raisins into every dessert and pastry, I declare I have no idea but they need to stop it now.
Yes, fine, dump raisins in your Christmas fruit cakes but otherwise forbear! Raisins are forever banished to gorp/ studentenfutter/ trail mix – whatever you want to call the sawdust assortment eaten by people who (shudder) hike. Raisins don’t belong in chocolates (or scones) whatever the English bleat. If I find that you have put raisins in my mendicants, I swear I will dump a triple espresso on your baby pink cashmere sweater. Standards. I said standards.
You will also notice that there is nothing from Northern Europe. Now you might trust a Northern European with a pastry, a Kringle, a Danish, a Stollen but as a people they are spare with their joy. They get excited over a boysenberry and practically giddy over a lingonberry. Now shall we remember that lingonberries are TART and need sugar to be palatable? And what kind of sugar is used in northern Europe? Coarse sugar – that kind that comes in hard little clumps reminiscent of cat litter.
Have you even seen a northern European when they first try an American-style, soft cinnamon bun, smothered with soft sugar icing? It is not a pretty sight. They have an existential crisis, wail, ugly cry then call their grandparents and scream, “Why did you serve me cardamon buns with 1/2 gram of cat-litter sugar? Why didn’t you give me this when I was a child? Why am I only learning about proper bakery products NOW?”
Have compassion and give them a mendicant. It helps make everything better.
(image by Charles Robinson)