Posted in Spain on December 27, 2010 by Victoria Allman
When I was six years old, my Uncle Dick taught me how to skip rocks on a lake in Muskoka; a cottage area carved out of the Ontario tundra. He had learned to skip rocks as a boy on that same lake and, when she was old enough, had taught my mother. It was a family tradition that I had all but forgotten until now.
We were sitting in a café in Cadaques, Spain; a sleepy fishing village that was on the verge of exploding with tourists for the summer season. The day was bright with the just warm sunlight of spring. Lemon yellow and mauve flowers bloomed out of the rugged scruffy cliffs that lined the far shore.
Patrick and I sat sharing a crème Catalan after our lunch of razor clams and calamari. We watched the muted colors of the shallow water of the bay blend from navy blue to aquamarine. Three young boys rocked back and forth in a painted wooden boat while they fought for control of the oars; their squeals reverberated over the water. Another boy sat quietly in his own boat watching, as envious of their fun as we were. On shore, a man with silver frosted Antonio Banderas curls taught a young chubby-cheeked girl to skip the flat rocks of the pebbled beach. One, two, three, four, five, his rock skimmed the surface before disappearing. One, two, her rock sunk early. Suddenly, I yearned for home.
In my mind, I was transported back to the shores of Kahshe Lake. The day was cooler but still I ran barefoot in the sand. I wore my favorite dress with elephants embroidered on the front. My uncle stood close to demonstrate the proper way to hold the flat stones and I breathed in the sweet smell of the White Owl cigar he had smoked earlier.
“Curl your index finger around the stone,” he said.
I flung my arm and released the rock. Plunk. It splashed only once.
Uncle Dick selected another rock and handed it to me. “Whip your arm from the elbow, holding it close. Like this.” His rock shimmered over the water barely kissing its surface multiple times.
I timed my side arm differently this time, over compensating and sending my rock crashing into the others on shore, avoiding the water altogether.
Uncle Dick’s patience was as solid as those rocks. Again, he bent to select the perfect stone. I held it the way he showed me. I stood at an angle to the shore. I flicked my arm and wrist at just the right time. One, two, three, four, my rock glided over the smooth surface. I smiled a toothless grin, just like the little girl in front of me today when she too mastered the art of skipping rocks.
I took another bite of the delicate custard. It dissolved in my mouth as I smiled at Patrick. We weren’t that far from home after all.
2 ¼ cups milk
peel of 1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
Heat the milk, citrus peels and cinnamon stick over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes to infuse the flavors.
Whisk egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch together. Slowly add the milk and return to medium-low heat. Stir constantly with a spatula to avoid the eggs from scrambling. Heat slowly until the cream thickens. Strain and pour into 6 custard dishes. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to set.
Before serving, pre-heat the broiler. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over each custard evenly. Place the dishes under the broiler on the top shelf and allow the sugar to caramelize, turning golden brown. Be very careful at this stage as the sugar will be very hot and will easily blister your skin if it comes in contact. Remove and serve immediately