i was wondering today (or lately, rather) (romantic notions, as always): what’s the best way to fall in love for you? is it “from friends to lovers”, “from excessive checking out to lovers” or is it that much praised “coup de foudre”? how did it happen for you, happy couples? well, since the only relationship i can refer to are the ones in the past (ahem), i only have a relatively narrow sample to rely on for my argumentation. of course, i have a handful of very, truly happy with each other couples to look to. i don’t know their stories in profoundness. but from my very manageable sample of happy relationships success stories, i’m a firm believer of the “coup de foudre” fraction.
i have been with someone, once, that used to be a really close friend at first. it was nice, don’t get me wrong. but so many bumps on the road to happiness, and so much can go wrong. na-ah. and the older i get, the more i say no to friends to lovers. as for excessive dating… i think it’s just downright annoying. by the time you finally agree to be exclusive you might as well check in to rehab for a year and get yourself a new set of nerves…
so, out of all the possible ways to fall in love, i’ll choose “coup de foudre”, please. because my set of nerves is already a bit battered as it goes. love at first sight is just the easiest way out, yes. and honestly, it means you can lean back and wait for it to happen, because there isn’t so much as a single thing that you can add to accelerate or influence events.
yet, it knocks you off your feet – and yes, it’s disturbing! but it’s actually also the best thing about it! no matter how long you’re single and how many times you’ve learnt to be alone and dealt with everything from bills to career to social life to travel alone, how many times you’ve only had your loneliness to keep you warm at night, or how many times you defeatedly swore off love because you’ve been disappointed yet again… it’s that sudden, unexpected “coup de foudre” – that’s very rare of course, or it wouldn’t be special – that suddenly feels like everything makes sense again. the years of waiting, the secretly longing and wishing and envisioning a nice encounter with a nice guy comes to a halt and suddenly, everything you’ve always dreamed of is outdone. not just met, but actually topped with a cherry – and sprinkles. yes, cynics probably say “it’s just fascination – it’s not profound”. yes, and, well, no. because it’s also more. it’s chemistry, it’s fate, it’s your body that just knows. and it’s your soul, the treacherous little twat, that goes like “oh hello, there you are! i’ve been looking for you!”, and probably gives you away much too early in the game. everything just simply, magically, effortlessly clicks. it’s this triumphant, surprising sensation of “yes, it does exist” that gives a whole new meaning to the concept of love. you will want to hug yourself with glee and smile like a smug little cow, and you won’t be able to hide it. you lose power and control and the plans you had for life and your mental 11 points checklist for a potential hubbie just fell over board. you wave it goodbye this one last time, and then you just let yourself fall and wallow in all of those sweet, new, rare sensations.
so, to sum this up: when it eventually, finally, or by chance and fate and a strike of luck, does so happen to happen to you, out of a million people, that brief moment of pure, mutual understanding and romantic magic, it means that you’re most certainly or definitely unprepared for it to happen. tell you what: you can never, not in a million years, be prepared for ‘coup de foudre’. you just can’t.
but here’s the thing: you need to be prepared to be unprepared. you need to be prepared to be spontaneous and life loving, to embrace the moment, simply go with the flow and seize the day (or night). you need to remember to enjoy this, enjoy this a lot. you need to remember to gaze into the guy’s eyes, to soak up his laughs and his stubble and his cheeky replies. you need to remember to remember everything. you need to remember not to care (too much) about what you’re wearing or not wearing, weather you’ve shaved (i do very much hope you shaved) or weather your hair is in place. just lean back, thank all your lucky stars and maybe your dead grandma that this event can turn around your day (and potentially your life) from ‘dull’ to ‘meaningful’ in an instant.
i’m delieberately stopping here as i want you to wallow in the sweetness of the prospect, of the unpreparedness and the unimaginable, that you sometimes meet at the strangest of moments. may a certain coup the foudre light our eyes, flush our cheeks and make us want to sing, inwardly. and most of all: may it happen to all of us, once in a while, or over and over again, that we feel significantly unprepared by someone, somwhere, somehow, and be knocked off our feet. and may we enjoy every blissful, waking second of it – while the spark lasts. there is always tomorrow, and a second, more elaborate glance there after. but we can deal with that tomorrow. first, it’s just us, and this rare love at first sight. all else can wait.
individual chestnut torte
makes about 4 tortes with 2 layers of sponge, each
for the hazelnut sponge: 5 eggs 125 g sugar
1 pinch salt
125 g flour
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking powder 50 g ground hazelnuts 50 g melted butter
for the sponge, separate the eggs. cream together hte yolks, sugar and salt until white and fluffy, for about 10 minutes. sieve in flour, cornstarch and baking powder. add the nuts. carefully melt the butter and when not too hot, add it to the dough as well. whip the egg whites until stiff and fold in, too. cover a large, rectangular baking pan with parchment. pour the mixture onto the pan and smooth with a spatula. bake in a preheated oven at 190 c / 380 f for 25 minutes. remove from the oven, slide onto your work surface and immediately hide under an inverted baking pan, to process steam under and keep the sponge moist. let cool. once cool, cover well until used.
for the chestnut mousse:
125 g chestnut puree (for vermicelles)
1 cup finely chopped caramelized chestnuts
125 ml heavy cream, whipped
100 g mascarpone
30 g sugar
1 egg whites, stiff
2 gelatine leaves, soaked
beat the yolk and sugar until white and foamy. add the chestnut puree, finely chopped caramelized chestnuts and the mascarpone and stir to combine. melt the soaked gelatine (still dripping wet from soaking) in a small saucepan on very low heat. add a tablespoon of the chestnut mix to the gelatine, then add the gelatine liquid back to the chestnut mix. whip the egg white until stiff peaks form and whip the heavy cream. fold both, egg white and whipped cream into the chestnut mixture. sweeten with more sugar or chestnut syrup if needed. pour mixture into a piping bag with a big round tip. store in the fridge until used to assemble the cakes. note: make sure the tip of the piping bag is large enough to squeeze out the finely chopped, caramelized chestnuts! ahem.
for the coffee syrup:
2 espressi, cooled
0.5 dl cognac
0.5 dl chestnut syrup (or simple syrup)
combine everything and sweeten to taste with some sugar or more chestnut syrup.
cocoa for dusting
dollops whipped cream
caramelized chestnuts or marrons glacés, chopped
start by cutting out sponge circles with a patissier ring of the desired size (mine was maybe 6 cm in diameter). place a sponge circle at the bottom of a ring. sprinkle evenly with the coffee liquid, until the sponge is nicely soaked (but not too much) with the liquid. now pipe the chestnut mousse in a 1-2 cm thick layer onto the sponge. if necessary, even out with a spatula. add another layer of sponge, sprinkle with the coffee syrup and add the chestnut mousse layer. smooth the top with a spatula. refrigerate for at least 3 to 4 hours. before serving, slide onto a plate, dust with cocoa. with two hot spoons, shape a nice dollop of whipped cream and place it in the middle of the torte. garnish with an amarena cherry and more of the caramelized chestnuts. serve with a smiling face and flourish.