Today is National Pears Hélène Day, a day to enjoy this wonderfully smooth French dessert. Recipes for the dish vary throughout the world, featuring toppings ranging from crystalized violets and sliced almonds, to cinnamon and whipped cream, but the main ingredients almost always include pears, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup. Created in the 1860′s the delicious dessert borrows it’s name from the operetta La belle Hélène by Jacques Offenbach.
When I was a Girl Scout, just barely out of the Brownies, my troop visited the local retirement home to “adopt” a grandparent. I befriended a kind elderly woman named Helen Stoebe, and she became a part of our extended family for the next decade. “Grandma Helen” would come to my parents bi-weekly Bridge games, and before I entered high school I occasionally visited her at the retirement home for games of Gin Rummy. On those afternoons Grandma Helen would always serve up a plate of ripe, melt-in-your-mouth, pear slices; that’s when I fell in love with the fruit. Admittedly, I haven’t eaten it much as an adult due to a fruit intolerance I developed, but I have fond memories of those card games and the accompanying menu, and it seems utterly appropriate to remember Grandma “Helen” on National Pears “Hélène” Day.
Chris and I celebrated this food holiday by making our own Pears Hélène. We used a simple recipe calling for canned halved pears, but opted to get fancy with the whipped cream by beating up a homemade batch. I was a little worried about my problem with digesting fruit, but recent food “adventures” have led me to believe that some of my issues may be dwindling with age (or reduced stress levels!), so I helped myself to two juicy pear halves. I’d forgotten just how good pears are, and coupled with chocolate and ice cream, they became part of a perfect tri-fecta. While I was enjoying my blissful dessert, Chris was turning his nose up at his. He dislikes peaches and pears, so it took a little convincing to get him to try our latest recipe. He ended up finishing off his bowl, and I think he may have even gone back to the ice cream for seconds, but I have a feeling I’ll be the one eating the rest of the pears that are currently chilling in the refrigerator. Oh well — more for me!
Pucker up — tomorrow is Lips Appreciation Day!