Nostaligia and Desserts

One thing I have noticed from talking to people about their dessert preferences and all-time favorite desserts is that, more so than savory foods, dessert preferences are largely determined by nostalgia. I'm not trying to get too philosophical here and I'm not trying to say desserts are all relative, because we all know that's not true. What I'm saying is that pastry chefs who play off comforting, nostalgic, childhood-longing feelings and flavors that we have surrounding dessert are seriously onto something. I think this is true for savory dishes as well, but it is overwhelmingly true when is comes to sweets.

I came to this conclusion from watching reactions people in my life have to certain sweet things and their complete indifference to others. For some it's cookies, rice pudding, and chocolate and for others it's key lime pie, wedding cake, and gummy bears. People have serious opinions when it comes to sweets. The faces of complete elation and utter disgust are so extreme in conversations I have with friends about their dessert preferences. People are often incredible defensive and amazed when you say you're not that crazy about one of their favorite sweets, they just can't believe it, but often enough it's because we don't have the same nostalgic feelings surrounding the specific sweet thing.

So often beyond just plain ol' personal preferences, peoples underlying favorites are determined by their childhood memories, special holiday sweets, and foods that gives them that comforting and deeply satisfying feeling. Here are some of my favorite sweet things:

1. chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, but not most chocolate cakes (they are often so dry and not chocolatety.
2. cereal (I think this was the most frequently eaten food from my childhood, my body is probably primarily made of cereal; cinnamon puffins anyone?)
3. apple pie (late summer, early fall was all about picking apple and making pie, but you've got to have great vanilla ice cream too)
4. blackberry crisp (also a summer favorite, picking buckets full, getting scratched up everywhere, and coming home with purple teeth)
5. really good strawberry ice cream from the Scoop in Fairfax, vanilla honey lavender ice cream too come to think of it
6. angelettes, a secret family recipe, sort of like a walnut shortbread, but better, the size of a quarter you can keep popping them into your mouth all day until you realize you've eaten a few sticks of butter
7. these cute raspberry teacakes that my sister and I made growing up, they were a rich buttery cookie with raspberry jam baked in mini cupcake tins. I haven't had them since I was little, where the heck is that recipe anyhow?
8. white nectarines, perfectly ripe, perfectly sweet, first good one of the summer seriously takes my breath away.
9. raspberries. with chocolate. or put on your fingers like little red thimbles and popped in your mouth.
10. hot chocolate with cayenne and sea salt, no marshmallow or whip creme, just give me the chocolate please and a roaring fire and a good book.

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