By Ezra Klein
“One day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?”
I won’t pretend to match Proust’s hallucinogenic ecstasy at the taste of his mother’s madeleine. Frankly, I can do without madeleines. I’ve got something better: Bisquick biscuits. With jam.
My beloved mother has many virtues. She is a kind and loving and endearingly eccentric. She is not a great cook. For my 21st birthday, she made me a special dish combining many different ingredients I enjoyed: Lasagna, with tomato sauce, ricotta, alfredo, sauce, jalapenos, olives…
But on the first morning I’m home, she makes me Bisquick biscuits. With jam. And they are the finest of foods (she once topped them with Lindor truffles, again on the premise that I liked chocolate and I liked biscuits: FAIL. Do not fuck with my biscuits). They taste like comfort. And also like jam. I will not post a recipe, because I do not want to know how they’re made. Presumably they’re the simple substantiation of maternal love and the dog hair that covers my house and the thousand pillows that obscure every bed and all the years I spent there and everything that home feels like, baked at 350 for about 20 minutes.
Since this is Thanksgiving week, and many of our dear IFA writers and readers are returning home, let’s open this up: What’s your madeleine?