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Making Vínarterta  

It was a beautiful crisp autumn Sunday afternoon. All the ingredients for two cakes were laid out on the counter. The sun was streaming through the stained glass on the kitchen window casting beautiful coloured lights on wall. My sister arrived and we were ready for the annual Vínarterta preparation.

It has always fallen on me to prepare the prune filling. Everything was going well. We had started in plenty of time and were congratulating ourselves for working so efficiently and that we would definitely have time to play a game or two of Scrabble. I was admiring my sister's preparation of the dough and we were inhaling the sweet wonderful scent of ground cardamon. Suddenly, the unmistakable odor of burning sugar and fruit intruded. Curses!!! We tasted the acrid mess to see if it could be rescued, but of course, the burned taste had permeated throughout.

I stormed out in search of a small store that might be open on a Sunday afternoon and came back after a half hour search with insanely expensive prunes purchased from an upmarket Health Food Store. I carefully watched and stirred and watched and stirred (with constant warnings and choruses of "Is it burning??? I think I smell it burning....") and the prunes were perfect. I added the cinnamon and thought, what is that awful smell?? (Have you ever heard of cinnamon going bad? Neither had we. But now, whenever I use cinnamon, I always smell it first.)

Again, we tasted the prunes to see if they were really so awful... Aaaacckkk!!! oooh, get some water aaackk!! acccckk!!! So out I stormed again back to the Health Food Store to buy more EXPENSIVE prunes and ridiculously EXPENSIVE cinnamon. Back I came and prepared the prune filling again. This time all went well (well, almost all...)

The layers had been made magnificently by my sister (she already knew to bake only two at a time because of a previous year when I had tried to save time by baking four at once) and were sitting stacked and lightly golden waiting to be put together with the prune filling.

We sat at the table spreading filling on layers. Again, we congratulated ourselves that it was finally done. And we consoled ourselves that we could play Scrabble another time and even though the prunes and cinnamon had been insanely expensive, the cakes were well worth the trouble and didn't they smell divine already even though they hadn't even begun to age and I wonder why the prunes don't smell exactly the same as usual - maybe it's because they are Health Food Store Pru... suddenly I realized that I had FORGOTTEN to put vanilla in the prune filling. Deciding not to scrape off what had already been spread, we added vanilla to what was left of the filling and proceeded as if nothing had gone amiss.

And in the end, were the cakes as good as ever? I want to say, uncategorically, yes. But I must admit that there was a tiny hint of a certain something lacking. But nobody but we two sisters indicated that anything was amiss....

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ejm (aka llizard) 2000, 2003
Toronto Ontario Canada

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