The slice recipe that my Aunty used to make and was famous for. Based on a recipe that no one had ever seen, except for her. I had tried so many times to replicate it, each time frustrated by failure.
I was scrolling through an online recipe blog, searching for the perfect slice to take to my daughter’s playdate in the park that afternoon when I felt a faint glimmer of recognition. I started to wonder if maybe this was it. The secret recipe behind the slice that my Aunty presented to the hosts of every backyard barbeque, morning tea and family function she attended. The slice that everyone ate excessive quantities of. The slice that everyone asked for the recipe for, to which my Aunty would reliably reply, “Sure! Next time I see you!”
Of course, she never did.
My Aunty died just a few weeks before our wedding over 14 years ago. Even at her funeral, people talked about that slice. Did anyone know the recipe? Nope. She always said she’d give it to us the next time she saw us.
So when I saw the picture of the slice on my shiny iphone screen last week and perused the somewhat untraditional ingredient list, my heartbeat quickened oh so slightly. It would be warm and sweet on the inside, tempered by unexpected crunchiness… and laced with just enough zest amidst the frost-like icing to make you want more without knowing why.
Not unlike my Aunty, really.
Encouraged by my discovery, I sat down earnestly and modified the recipe to make it fit more precisely with the 14 year old slice memory that had stayed surprisingly sharp in my mind. It was more difficult to make than expected. One of those recipes that is so labour intensive that your hands ache and cramp by the time you gratefully slide it into the oven. Techniques that you never see on re-runs of Masterchef. Instead, your mind floats away on imaginings of the way things were done a generation or so ago, before the obsession with simplification and speed gained momentum.
“The fruit derived from labor is the sweetest of all pleasures.” Luc De Clapiers
And I think that’s what made my Aunty’s slice so sweet. As well as explain why she never wanted anyone to have to make it for themselves.
Soon after my first batch of slice came out of the oven, I served some to my hungry children and my nephew who had joined us for afternoon tea. A sweet, satiated silence followed.
Accompanied by a sweet sense of sadness.
And long overdue solace.
The left-overs came with me to the school play date later that afternoon. Just before we were planning to leave, one of the mums asked me for the recipe for my slice, to which I replied,
“Sure! Next time I see you!”
Do you have a signature dish you’re famous for?