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Gran’s Cookbook - An Accidental Crumble / Delphine Gauthier-Georgakopoulos




Rebecca had a craving; irresistible, undeniable, urgent. She yanked open all the kitchen drawers until she located Gran’s old cookbook. The delicate, flowery cover of lavender and rose petals had faded to washed out mauve and antique pink. Inside, her mother’s tears had stained some of the yellowed and brittle pages, but Gran’s loopy calligraphy was still legible. 

Mum had apologised when handing it to Rebbeca. “Your grandmother wanted you to have it. I could not resist taking a peek. I…” She had rubbed her eyes and sniffed. “She said you were to pass it on to your own daughter one day… if you ever…” Mum, visibly upset, had turned about to rejoin the gathering of mourners in the living room. 

Rebecca held the volume to her nose, searching for remnants of long lost herbs and spices. A hint of vanilla tickled her nostrils. She turned the pages with care and grinned when she found the right recipe.

 

Ingredients:

Flour: 150g/5¼oz

Butter: 100g/3½oz

Sugar: 80g/2¾oz

Fruits: 3 apples or pears

Cinnamon (optional)

 

She peered through the cupboards, cursing. When was the last time she had gone shopping? All she had left were an open packet of cannelloni, a cup of garbanzo beans, coffee, sugar, and three bags of chamomile tea. The fridge was empty but for half a glass worth of milk, a double cream, three eggs, two courgettes, and one chicory that had seen fresher days. In the fruit bowl on the counter, a lonely, darkened banana threatened to putrefy within the hour. She held her nose while she threw the rotten fruit in the bin. Rebecca shook her head and gagged. She had not been herself of late.

She reached for her purse and dashed to the corner shop; the thought of a sweet crumble hastening her step.

She grabbed a kilo of flour and perused the fruit stand, letting out a muffled shriek at the sight of Pink Lady apples. Rebecca lifted some up, felt their weight, her index finger searching their skin for blemishes. She picked the discarded, imperfect ones; those resembling the fruits from her grandmother’s garden. She placed her basket at the till.

“Wait!” She spun around and sprinted to the fridge to add salted butter. “Because it tastes so much butter.”

The crappy joke was lost on the middle-aged shopkeeper, who glared at her, sighed, and asked, “Need a bag?”


She nodded, blushing. 


Recipe:

Cut the fruits into small pieces.

Work flour, butter, sugar with your fingertips.

Place the fruit at the bottom, the crumble on top.

 

Rebecca switched her espresso machine on and opened the metallic container standing next to the humming appliance. She inhaled the nutty aroma before spooning the powder into the portafilter and placing her favourite cup under. While she waited for the dark, creamy liquid to filter through, she tapped on her phone and soft soul music filled the air.

The mechanical purring stopped. She lifted the cup to her lips and burned her mouth with the first sip—she always did. It made her think of caramel. I could caramelise the apples! She snorted and rubbed her tongue against her palate to soothe the soreness.

Singing along to the melodic tune, she settled at the kitchen table to peel the apples and cut them into tiny cubes. Once done, she melted some butter and sugar in the pan. The sugar caramelised as she stirred it with a wooden spoon to stop it sticking, then she added the apples and the cinnamon.

Once the apples had softened enough for a fork to prick their flesh easily, Rebecca worked on the crumble itself. She remembered her grandmother’s advice: “A crumble needs a light touch.”

Gran had been a wonderful cook, unlike Mum... Rebecca’s mother was the kind of ‘cook’ who served slightly frozen meat, mushy things that masqueraded as vegetables, and moulded dessert. The kind to serve a pretty plate of food poisoning with every meal. “Because presentation is everything, dear.”

Her grandmother’s husky voice materialised like a gentle summer breeze. “The butter must be cold, and the mixing done delicately with the fingertips. Overworking it destroys the crumble.”

 

Baking: 180 degrees/Gas Mark 4 for 35 minutes


Having warmed the oven, she scooped the caramelised apples into a baking tray and sprinkled the crumble on top before placing the dish inside.

As she washed the utensils, nausea rose in her throat for the third time that week. Had she caught some sort of flu or was it the thought of her mother’s cooking?

Half way through baking, a sweet aroma escaped from the oven, making her mouth water in anticipation. Then her mouth watered too much, and she darted to the bathroom.

After retching, Rebecca brushed her teeth and washed the cold sweat off her face. As she patted her cheeks dry, the oven timer broke the silence, reminding her of her craving. Except, she didn't want a crumble any more; the smell, just the thought of it, everything about it disgusted her.

Back in the kitchen, she turned off the oven and put on a pair of thick gloves to extract the dish and leave it to cool on the counter.

Rebecca swallowed bile and gasped.

She bolted down the hall, snatched her purse, fumbled with her keys, and ran to the chemist.


Serve the dish hot, warm or cold. Bon appétit!


She crumpled to the floor, tears trickling down her cheeks. She wiped them with the back of her hand, a hint of apple and spice floating in the air. An unexpected smile lifted the corners of her mouth. Now she’d have someone to leave Gran’s recipe book to, after all.



/


DELPHINE GAUTHIER-GEORGAKOPOULOS is a Breton writer, teacher, mother, nature and music lover, foodie, dreamer. She loves butter, needs coffee, hates easy opening packaging, and likes to create stories in her head. She lives in Athens, Greece. X/Facebook: @DelGeo14.

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