He then put one hand over hers and held the knife with her. With the other hand, he reached around her thin waist and poured the beaten eggs slowly, a golden ribbon, into the centre of the warm butter.
He was standing so close that she could feel the quickness of his breath. She leant into the heat of him. “Only a moment in the pan to set and then continue to stir,” he said softly. “The eggs cannot cook too quickly or that will cause lumps to form – this is a thing that should be avoided above all. So again, slow. Slow. Do you understand?”
They stood together like that for a long time – stirring, not speaking, just leaning into each other. There was no need for words.
When he finally stepped away, he hollowed out two brioches with a quick turn of a knife and then chopped a fist of butter into a fine dice.
Delphine continued to stir, not looking at him, still feeling the heat of him, until the eggs were creamy and smooth – and yet, still moist.
“Finis,” he whispered, pulled back her hair, kissed her neck, and took the pan away from the heat. He sprinkled in the chopped butter, added cream, and with two turns of a spoon he slid the eggs into the brioche cases and then placed them on china plates.
One taste. One kiss. She was lost.
The thought of that moment still made her blush.
Now, fifty-five years later, she must remind Escoffier of that night, and all the rest, when he cooked for her alone, made love to her alone. When he was hers and no one else’s.
It was, after all, her last chance. She was dying, that much was quite clear. And in all those years, Escoffier had never created a dish for her. Kings, queens, emperors, dukes, duchesses, opera singers, cardinals, diplomats, clowns, hairstyles (the pompadour having at least two), American presidents, actresses (including so many for that Sarah Bernhardt that Delphine had lost count), painters, musicians, a housekeeper, patrons, characters from books, foreign countries and a girl who sold flowers – even the voyagers on the Titanic had been graced with a meal specially designed for that momentous and yet ultimately unfortunate journey.
But Delphine was forgotten.
White Truffles in Winter by N M Kelby is published by Alma Books.