I had a lovely lunch at a great place near my house.
After lunch, I had planned to sip my (bottomless) coffee and nibble a butter tart. As far as I’m concerned, butter tarts require coffee, and coffee is highly improved by butter tarts. A symbyotic relationship, if you will.
The place was pretty busy, but I managed to order my refill and tart. The anticipation of the sweet, sweet dessert distracted me from my reading, but I was strong.
The coffee came soon thereafter. Now, I like my coffee quite hot (I usually drink it all within ten minutes of when it’s poured; after that, it’s too cold). No sign of the butter tart, though, which was a key component of my dessert plan. The staff was running around, but I thought ‘how difficult is it to toss a tart on a plate and bring it over?’
So I asked again for my butter tart. She apologized for the delay and said there was a backlog of dessert orders. Again (and at this point I began to get a bit suspicious) I wondered how long the preparation of a butter tart could take. At most, I thought, they might have to unwrap it if it’s been in the fridge, or something.
My coffee growing ever colder, I kept a close eye on the waitstaff. A sinking feeling grew in my belly as I saw one of them bring what looked like a butter tart on a plate, past me and into the kitchen. ‘What now,’ thought I. ‘Perhaps there is something wrong with it and they need to get a new one.’
Soon she emerged from the kitchen again, butter tart on plate. She went to the counter and pulled out - gasp! no, it couldn’t be … no, it is … a whipped cream container.
Here I will confess to a personal revulsion for the stuff. No cream - whipped, iced, mixed with coffee - has crossed my lips in years. This is why I order desserts like butter tarts, which don’t have any cream involved.
[And yes, there is an enormous difference between cream and butter. For one thing, butter tarts are about butter. If og had intended for them to be served with cream, I expect s/he would have called them something different.]
[And besides, what on earth does a butter tart need whipped cream for? Even if I loved the stuff, I might still think it was overkill.]
When I saw that silver tankard of foulness directed at my dessert, I almost leapt from my seat to knock it out of her hands before it could touch my precious. My calmer head prevalied as I convinced myself it was probably nothing I couldn’t scrape off and leave on the plate. Little did I know, however, the damage had already been done.
When the confection was finally brought to my table - coffee half-finished, cold, nasty - I saw that the situation was much worse than I had imagined.
Maybe the thing had been fresh and delicious before it had been put in the microwave. And even if it hadn’t been, I’ve eaten plenty of butter tarts of a wide variety of freshnesses, they really last quite a long time in the fridge.
But it certainly didn’t survive getting zapped. The crust was chewy, for one thing, which is not exactly how I like my pastries. (I failed at picking it apart with my fingers (which is the usual way I eat butter tarts with my coffee, because they’re usually served cold, and without adornments like whipped cream) and also at eating it with the spoon they had provided. A more serious instrument - one with serrations, most likely - would have been necessary to break the crust.) And the filling was gooey with the heat, which caused the butter to separate from the sugar.
I thought it may be less awful once it had cooled a bit. (As it turned out this was also folly.) So there I sat with cold coffee and a hot butter tart that I had to allow to cool. Oh, the irony, the painful irony!
I had always figured that something that amounts to butter and sugar, mixed together, would be pretty difficult to mess up. I was tragically wrong.
The whipped cream, as it turned out, was completely irrelevant. I - me, who has never left a dessert unfinished - could stomach no more than two bites of it, even the parts that remained untainted by the uninvited dairy intruder.
Now I ask you. Have you ever heard of such an indignity befalling a humble butter tart? Do people actually find the experience improved by whipped cream and microwaving? Really? If so, I weep for the state of humanity.
Not to worry, it’s okay, it all worked out. It was touch-and-go for a minute there but I managed to get a peanut butter-chocolate square at the place down the street, and that filled the sweet-dessert-shaped hole in my soul.
But I think I’m off butter tarts for a while.