The motto this time of year seems to be, “Out with the old, in with the new.” Fair enough, but there are some “old things” worth holding on to, if you ask me. I mean, I think we’re all pretty pleased that the leisure suit died in the 1970s, never to return. But other innovations are timeless, no matter when they first appeared.
I feel that way about recipes. Sure, there are some recipes so trendy, so gimmicky, and so overdone that after a year or two, the public smacks a huge “Out” stamp on it and christens a new dish as being “In” (helloooo molten chocolate cake…). It’s not that those dishes aren’t good; it’s just that they somehow seem to identify so strongly with the zeitgeist of a certain era that people see them as “passé.”
But there are other recipes that, no matter when they first appeared, are just good. Tarte Tatin dates back to 1889, but I would still stab someone with my fork for that last, caramelized bite. And I don’t even know who made the first chocolate layer cake and when, but I do know that the best old-fashioned chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever made appeared in Gourmet in 1999.
In my family, we have lots of those recipes, from various decades and sources. This chocolate mousse charlotte is one of them. My mother first made it in 1981, when it appeared in the October issue of Bon Appetit. That’s right. October — 1981. And since then, she and I, our aunts, friends and neighbors have all made it countless times. Why? Because it’s good. Really good.
Admittedly, in an earlier era, I had a much easier time finding soft ladyfingers, which made this an easy go-to dessert. Were French ladyfingers a trend of the past? Maybe. These days, I’ve found that I need to make the ladyfingers myself, making this less “no-fuss,” but no less delicious.
So as we move into 2008, I will gladly watch the world dispose of certain things (can we please, please be finished with Paris Hilton?). But I’ll always hold this recipe dear, no matter what year it is.