CRÈME CARAMEL

I recall the exact moment
Aged seven, nineteen fifty four,
When I moved out of childhood.
Out to lunch with Auntie Barbara,
In Kennards swanky restaurant.
North End, Croydon, Department Store,
I sit opposite Auntie B
Look around at the finery,
Post war women in hats and stoles,
Silver cakestands, profiteroles,
Seamed stockinged legs, mingled perfumes,
Permanent waves, waitress service,
Heady stuff for inquisitives.
I don’t remember the main meal,
“Would you like something for dessert?”
She says, passing me a menu.
The choice is vast, ice cream sundae,
Banana split, Apple dumplings,
Even Knickerbocker Glory.
I fixated on these two words,
Crème Caramel, sounds exotic,
“I’d like a crème caramel please.”
“Are you sure dear, not an ice cream?”
I insist on Crème Caramel.
Cornucopias of Ice cream
Piled high with wafers and syrups
Sail past our table as I wait.
Eventually mine arrives.
A small white china ramekin
Filled with glazed, almost burnt, sugar.
Inside my head I’m mortified.
I don’t let on, I smile sweetly,
Aunt B looks on, in sympathy.
I pick up the teaspoon and crack,
Sugar shatters like broken glass,
Cream coloured custard oozes forth,
Scoop some into sceptical mouth.
I learned that it’s not the biggest
Nor the flashiest that is best.
Now sixty five years further on
There’s only one dessert for me,
Crème Caramel, brulé of course.

Harry Rogers, in the Red Bedroom, Saturday 18th July 2020.

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