La Bonne Vie: Rachel rediscovers a piece of her history and its special meaning

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When I turned 12, my parents said that it was time for me to get my own watch. So my father and I walked a few minutes down the street from our house in Genval, Belgium, to the shop of the Jourez family. They had a small jewelry store and also sold watches and clocks. When we needed to have a watch repaired, we knew that Monsieur could fix it. His son was also learning the trade and slowly taking it over from his dad. It was a family business, with both the older and younger spouses helping customers at the counter.

In a strong Catholic culture and community where each side of our small town had a Catholic church with a steeple, the Jourez family were Protestant, as was my family. We knew this because they sold a special cross that is the sign of French Protestants called Croix Huguenote. Dating from the 17th century, this cross was worn as a visual statement of faith in a predominantly Catholic world.

So on my 12th birthday, along with the purchase of a very nice wrist watch, my parents also bought me a cross. Both were silver, both were shiny, both were special and both let me know that I was advancing into an older world where one takes responsibility for precious things. I knew that owning both the cross and the watch was stepping over a new threshold. I now knew that I could keep track of my own time and could speak out about my family’s faith. I wore that watch and cross every day.

Later, when I would need to have work done on my watch, I would walk down the street past the large glass window and into the jewelry store. I could always see Mr. Jourez, with his special eye piece, peering into the tiny movements of watches or tinkering with the smallest screwdrivers I had ever seen. They always asked me how I was doing and checked up on my family’s news.

Much later, I returned to buy a cross for my daughters.

For many years now I haven’t worn a watch or a Croix Huguenote. The watch finally gave out. The cross lost its chain and, though I knew I could easily replace it, I did not have it on my list of things to do. At one point our house was burglarized and my jewelry was stolen, except for that cross.

Just a couple of days ago, my mother asked me to take her clock to be repaired. Sure enough, in this time and place, I went to Snider’s Jewelers, just a few minutes walk from my house, and in the back Mr. Snider was wearing a special eye piece and was peering into a clock. That was all the reminder I needed. I bought a nice chain and, once again, I am wearing that cross every day.

My recipe this week has nothing to do with my story. But I offer it as an easy and rich dessert for those of you who haven’t given sugar up for Lent! Maybe you can share it with friends and tell your own stories.

Pot de Crème au Chocolat

What you need:

  • 1 1/2 cups 2 percent organic milk
  • 1/2 cup organic heavy cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 ounces milk chocolate chips.

Note: Use high-quality chocolate chips or chocolate pieces.

Directions:

  1. Put the egg yolks in a small dish. Hand whip until well mixed.
  2. In a saucepan, heat milk and cream over medium-high heat until it comes to a simmer.
  3. Take 1/2 cup of the milk mixture and, while stirring constantly, slowly add it to the egg yolks.
  4. Slowly and while stirring constantly, pour the egg mixture into the milk in the saucepan. Stir constantly over the heat until mixture thickens, about two minutes.
  5. Remove from the stove top and stir in the chocolate until it is all dissolved and mixed in.
  6. Pour into six individual ramekins. Let cool. Refrigerate for several hours until well chilled.
  7. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.
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