Tales from

the Loir

A Weekly Column

January 30, 2002 - THE BEST I EVER HAD

Aprille and I were invited to a kind of potluck dinner last summer. It was one of those perfect summer nights when daylight lasts until eleven o’clock. All the guests sat at one long table along the bank of the river. Dinner was à la bonne franquette (something simple) but most of the women brought their own special desserts as if it were a competition.

Maybe it was just my imagination but during a conversation with the lady across from me, I got the distinct impression that she wanted to have sex with me. Then Aprille tapped me on the shoulder asked:

“What did you say to that lady?”
“Why do you ask dear?” I replied.
“Well, she looks like she wants to have sex with you.”

Well, I guess it was not just my imagination after all. I had just told the lady that her Tarte Tatin was the best I ever had. Americans love apple pie but this little scene demonstrates how important it is to the French. It is one of those things so seminally basic to a culture that it evokes emotion.

Apple pie has long been a symbol of American-ness but Tarte Tatin is strictly French. It is basically apple pie baked upside down and served hot. It was invented by a clumsy cook in the village of Lemotte Beuvron in the Sologne region of France. Stephanie Tatin already had a reputation for being an outstanding cook before she and her sister, Caroline, took over the ownership of the Hotel Tatin in 1888. Stephanie who had a reputation for not being very bright managed the kitchen while Caroline dealt with the guests and managed the Hotel.

Apple pie was Stephanie’s specialty that she always served perfectly crusty, caramelized and ready to melt in the mouth. But life was not easy for her because she worked from early in the morning until late at night over her hot ovens and copper pans. One particularly busy day during hunting season, she was startled by gunshots and turned the pie upside down. She went ahead and put it in the oven wrong side up and then served this strange dessert without giving it time to cool. It was delicious and became popular all over France under the name of Tarte Tatin.

The Recipe


150 grams of butter
125 grams of sugar
1 Kilo of apples
1 Pie pasty


Butter a high-sided pie pan with 150 grams of butter.
Sprinkle 125 grams if sugar on the butter.
Peel 1 Kilo of apples. Cut them in quarters and place them side by side with the curved side down. Fill the gaps with larger slices of apple.

Start cooking on a low flame for 10 to 15 minutes to monitor the beginning of the caramelizing. After caramelized to your taste, place it in the oven at 200 C (400 F)for 1/4 of an hour.

Take the pie out of the oven and arrange the pie pastry slightly larger that the pie pan over the top. Put it back in the oven for approximately 1/4 of an hour.

Once cooking is finished, take it out of the oven and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Place a serving dish over the pie pan and turn it over quickly. Serve it as is.

The apples will be impregnated with the natural caramel resulting from the combination of the cooked sugar, butter and the juice of the apples, taking on the smoothness and exceptional taste that characterizes the genuine Tarte Tatin.

Tarte Tatin is taken so seriously in France that a brotherhood was founded to protect the true secret of preparing this dish and to promote its consumption. It is called La Confrerie des Lichonneux de Tarte Tatin. The Grande Maitre du Secret published the above recipe so it is not really a secret. The purpose of the association is to protect the original recipe from being perverted by people who want to put ice cream on top.

There is an annual celebration to honor and defend the origin of Tarte Tatin and to induct new members to the Brotherhood. The last celebration was in September. I hope to attend the next celebration to sample the traditional Tarte Tatin and compliment the cuisinieres.

Check the official website of Tarte Tatin for the next event and how to join. http://www.tarte-tatin.com/.

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January 23, 2002 - Miranda This
January 16, 2002 - Charlotte Observer Interview
January 9, 2002 - Walnut Wine
January 2, 2002 - Sloe Gin
December 26, 2001 - Winter Solstice
December 19, 2001 - Relais d’Antan
December 12, 2001 - Winter Foods
 December 5, 2001 - Steak and Kidney Pudding
 November 28, 2001 - Pigs III
 November 21, 2001 - Pigs II
 November 14, 2001 - Pigs
 October 31, 2001 - The Ghost of Chateau Chevre
 October 25 - Battle of Poitiers
 August 22, 2001 - Confrerie
 August 15, 2001 - Liberation
 August 8, 2001 - Le Cyclop
 August 1, 2001 - The Finger
July 25, 2001 - La Resistance
July 18, 2001 - System D
July 11, 2001 - The Accident
July 4, 2001 - Ange Pitou
June 27, 2001 - Feu de Saint Jean
June 20, 2001 - Geoffroy Martel
June 13, 2001 - Saint of the Day
June 6, 2001 - Escapade dans le Berry
May 30, 2001 - Learning French
May 23, 2001 - Pete and Manny
May 16, 2001 - Les Journees des Aubepines
May 8, 2001 - Armistice Day
May 2, 2001 - May Day
April 25, 2001 - Les Manouches
April 18, 2001 - Trôo
April 11, 2001 - Le P'tit Jules
April 4, 2001 - Men and Their Caves 
Archive of Weekly Columns Jan-Apr 2001
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2000


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