I spent the afternoon sitting in Golden Gate Park and reading Le Dieu du Carnage. Yes, in French, because I am just that pretentious. A year and a half ago, at Christmas, my French host parents, Thierry and Catherine, sent me a copy of the script, which had recently premiered in Paris. To my chagrin, I didn't make the time to read it until now, when the Broadway production is one of the hits of the season. Yasmina Reza is now the first woman--and the first person who doesn't write in English--to win two Tony Awards for Best Play. Congrats!
Now that God of Carnage is such a success in the States, I wonder if it is going to popularize the traditional French dessert, clafoutis. (A good deal of dialogue is devoted to a clafoutis that one of the characters bakes, including the quintessentially French debate as to whether it is a cake or a tart.) If this becomes the next big culinary trend, I want everyone to know that I have been talking about this dessert to anyone who will listen--and cooking it when I get the chance--for well over a year. As The Minimalist says, this is "the fastest fancy dessert you can possibly make"--it looks much more difficult than it actually is.
A clafoutis is basically a pancake--a thick, eggy, oven-baked Dutch Baby pancake--with fruit folded into the batter. It is most traditionally made with cherries, which you do not pit. Keeping the cherries whole prevents their juice from running out and staining the batter; furthermore, the cherry pits somehow lend a delicious hint of almond flavor to the dessert. Some people will try to convince you that this "almond flavor" thing is just a myth. But trust me: it works.
It's cherry season here in California, so to satiate my God of Carnage-caused cravings, I just baked a cherry clafoutis. The first time I ever made clafoutis, I improvised the batter by modifying my dad's recipe for a Dutch Baby pancake (or as we call it chez nous, "oven pancake") but tonight I used Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything. Tasty, if not a complete success: it took a LOT longer to bake than the recipe said it would, and I prefer a slightly thicker batter.
All the talk about clafoutis in God of Carnage makes it fit into a rarefied subcategory of plays: those that include recipes in the course of the dialogue. Ever since my theatrical dinner party in Paris (a party encouraged, bien sur, by Thierry and Catherine) I have a minor hobby of noting when food gets mentioned in a play. So just as Cyrano de Bergerac includes a recipe (in verse, no less!) for Ragueneau's almond tarts, God of Carnage gives you enough information to let you replicate Véronique's clafoutis. It includes pears, apples, and bits of gingerbread crumbled into the batter. Yum! If I ever throw a theatrical dinner party in the autumn, this is what I'll be making.
Oddly enough, God of Carnage also fits into another subcategory that only I probably care to note: works of art that mention corporate shareholder meetings. (It's because of my job.) One of the characters, Alain, is a lawyer who represents a pharmaceutical company; he's stressed out because a study has just attributed negative side effects to one of the company's medications, and it's fifteen days before the annual shareholder meeting! He spends half the play on his cell phone, scheming to suppress or discredit the results of the study. In a sign, though, that I know far too much about corporate shareholder meetings for my own good, I thought "Wait, this play is supposed to take place in November. But if Yasmina Reza had done her research, she'd know that most French corporations have their annual meeting in the springtime!"