sticky date puddingFor me, one of the finest pleasures of travel comes at the table. Way beyond those $100 hamburgers we pilots are infamous for sniffing out at airports, across the sweeping landscapes of the USA. Though I bloom with the excitement of new sights, gustatory delights are simply a requirement for me.

As a ’50s teen I was sent to lectures at Paris’s Cordon Bleu cooking school (sadly, no scribbled notes are left – they were in my lousy french made-up shorthand anyway). My mother saw that she wasn’t going to keep me from nosing out delicacies from the patisseries and boulangeries, so she figured she might as well give me tools to make my own. As it happened, la chef des chefs Julia Child was there at the same time, learning to become the illustrious chef JULIA CHILD – and I would love to say that we met, but we didn’t, not then. I was a kid. Later on, though, I worked for her as a lowly unpaid volunteer on her television program – setting the table, ironing her blouse, watching her assemble French fantasies, and finally slurping them up after the shoot with the rest of the crew. (That was the pay.) So my palate was prepped for ferreting out the best of the best, wherever life took me, in the years to come. And I am going to share some recipes.

Let’s start with Australia’s over-the-top Sticky Date Toffee Pudding…

This absolutely had us on our knees, in the seaside town of Geelong.

1  heaping Cup of DATES, dried, pitted, & coarsely chopped into chunks.  Dry ingredients: 1 tsp baking soda, 6 oz. sifted self-rise flour, ¾ C brown sugar (or more); 2 T butter (unsalted or salted) 2 large eggs. (Preheat oven to 375F.)  Combine dates and baking soda in heatproof bowl. Pour 1 C boiling water over this date mixture, set aside till room temp. Cream butter and sugar in big bowl till pale – add eggs one at a time, beat till smooth. Fold in flour, stir in date mix along with the water. Pour into greased and floured 8” deep cake pan, bake 30-45 minutes till cooked through – set it aside a bit before gently plopping it out onto a plate. Cut into whatever size pieces you wish… but it usually serves 8.

TOFFEE SAUCE: ¾+ C brown sugar, 1 C cream, ½ tsp vanilla, 2 T butter (unsalted best).  Combine ingredients over low heat, stir till butter melts. Simmer 5 minutes. Serve hot, over squares of pudding.

Serves 8, takes an hour to make. I think you’ll like it.

Another thing… Whipped cream can take it to another level.