Once in a while Oz gets wistful for the Old Country and tries his hand at a recipe.
Last weekend he was Googling Hungarian desserts, and announced his intention to make one. As a (perpetually-recovering) sugar addict, I didn’t encourage this activity. Nor did I discourage it. Hungarian sweets are among the finest in the world, especially if you have a penchant for towering layers of cream.
I left the house so that I wouldn’t be implicated. When I returned three hours later, Oz and the kids had just finished making Somloi Galuska, which is pronounced, “shom-loh-ee-gah-LOOSH-kah” — only one example of why I haven’t learned Hungarian yet.
Somloi is a region of Hungary, and Galuska is “dumpling.” It doesn’t do it justice.
Aficionados categorize Somloi Galuska as a “trifle”: three different sponge cakes—chocolate, vanilla, and walnut—with pastry cream, apricot preserves, and raisins wedged in between the layers. The cake was traditionally scooped up in balls (the “dumplings”), topped with whipped cream, and drizzled with dark-chocolate rum sauce.
Oz served his in the “modern style,” cut in wedges to show off the layers. He also used pecans instead of walnuts and Cointreau instead of rum. (Yum.)
It was good—even better than I remembered—and certainly better than expected. Oz cooks great soups and stews and entrees—he barbecues—but I am the reigning Queen of Sweets. Or have been. This recipe was so difficult, fussy and convoluted I never would have attempted it myself, nor would I have ended up with something so indisputably delicious.
The cakes were light and spongy, a three-layered apricot-and-nut springboard into dense, humid white clouds of cream. The raisins freaked out my American sensibilities; my tongue not accustomed to soft sweet lumps in the middle of a smooth cake, but Oz explained that he had skipped a vital step—soaking the raisins in lemon zest and rum—which would have rendered them decadent little alcoholic explosions in the mouth. (That makes more sense, though I still consider them superfluous.) He made up for it by dribbling the aromatic, orange Cointreau (liquor) over bittersweet chocolate syrup, melding the whole dessert together perfectly.
“Now you have to marry Daddy,” enthused my four-year-old.
“Well,” I responded evenly. “Now Daddy has a chance.”
“Come on,” countered my eight-year-old. “You really should marry him!”
This is one of the unfortunate misconceptions in our family: That I have rejected Oz as unsuitable for marriage.
The fact is that his proposals—if one can call them that—have been unsuitable.
The first time, I was in the kitchen washing dishes. He shouted from the bedroom: “Hey, wanna get married?”
“What?” I called, wiping my hands on a dishtowel. I could barely hear; the football game was so loud. I poked my head inside the bedroom.
He grinned. “Wanna get married?”
Like, Will you bring me another beer?
Oz doesn’t even watch football, so what was he doing? Performing an irony? Or just trying to piss me off?
He knew my dour views: That the institution of marriage was severely flawed. That over 50% of the country and (nearly) every female in my family had been divorced, at least once. That 10% of the population weren’t allowed to exchange nuptials (back then). That I had rescued him from a disastrous marriage himself. That we were Sagittarians, and our sun signs were meant to roam the Universe freely.
Still, I was an American Girl— reared on decades of romantic movies—and I probably would have accepted just about any proposal from Oz. Except the Joke Proposal.
But that’s the Joke is what I got, and the only thing one can do with a Joke is to laugh, screw up one’s face in dismay, or shrug and affect indifference. I think I did all three.
Unfortunately Oz still hasn’t stopped joking, and now he’s gotten the kids in on it.
Just last summer he dropped to his knee in front of us at a grocery store, thrust a bouquet unpaid-for flowers in my direction, and proposed again. I wheeled my cart past him like he was a stranger.
(If this sounds unkind, consider that he had just flashed his buttocks at me in the parking lot.)
The fact is that there’s really no compelling reason to marry Oz. I love him, but we’ve been together over fifteen years now, illegitimately wedded into “Mommy” and “Daddy” by our two beautiful children. What’s a ceremony going to prove to the world?
And so, as we gobbled our Somloi Galuska last weekend, I told them consolingly:
“If I had to marry someone, it would be your father…and probably because of this dessert.”
Oz looked a little too pleased with himself, so I took another bite and added: “Or I could just marry the dessert.”