This morning another memory tugged at my mind – a wonderful story also begging to be let out and told again. It goes like this.
I opened the first small Cora restaurant the day I turned 40, on May 27, 1987. And I worked 14 months straight without a single day off. We didn’t know it at the time, but I and the kids were starting a revolution that would transform the first meal of the day: breakfast. And today, the concept, which is by now well established, will celebrate 33 years of success.
I always told my kids, who insisted I take a few days off, that I would take a vacation later. That later, we would be able to buy brand-new equipment. That later we would be known far and wide. And that later, we would operate a chain of restaurants. This last one in particular seemed like pie in the sky. The kids thought me mad with all my grand ambitions. But they worked hard because we promised one another that together we would lift ourselves out of poverty.
In this spirit, my oldest daughter, Gigi (named Julia in Breakfast with Cora, published in 2001) arrived one beautiful Saturday morning at our second restaurant exactly at the same time as Monsieur Pom, our baker, excited to share a new product with us.
My darling Gigi, a discerning food lover who is curious like an owl, rushed forward to take the surprise from his hands. She tore off the packaging and, for a few long minutes, examined, pressed and sniffed the magnificent brioche.
Without saying a word, our in-house conjurer of amazing delights, sliced the brioche horizontally in the middle, completely ignoring the baffled gaze of the baker. Lost in her thoughts, the young cook surveyed the fruit counter in front of her. The baker, myself and a food-obsessed waitress were all speechless. My daughter’s mind was turning. Then, she smiled and called for silence. For a few moments, you could almost hear her neurons let off a crackle, foreshadowing something dazzling to come.
Gigi dipped each brioche half into our deliciously spiced French toast batter and gently laid them on the griddle. The bread began to tremble before gradually embracing the warmth and crisping into an unexpected treat. My daughter’s face lit up the moment she slipped a spatula under the two golden pieces to transfer them to a large oblong plate, And, knowing her, I realized that a new star would be joining our Pantheon of new dishes.
Gigi placed a nice egg sunny side up and two slices of bacon on one half of the brioche and garnished the other with a mountain of beautifully cut fresh fruit. “There you go, Mom,” she said rather pleased with herself.
Bravo, my daughter, after all the seeds I have been planting in your head, at last, a wonderful harvest.
And so we christened the new dish “1990’s harvest.”
The regulars sitting at the counter were immediately offered a taste, and a few days afterwards, the 1990’s harvest was the reigning star of the illustrations adorning the restaurant’s walls.
Elated by the success of her recent creation, my daughter insisted that we print up a proper menu. This way customers wouldn’t have to twist their necks to look at the walls to discover what they might eat. A menu that would provide a deliciously detailed description of the 1990’s harvest, along with a line crediting its creation to none other than mademoiselle Gigi.
Of course, one must strike the iron while it’s hot, so an initial menu, hand-drawn by myself, was printed a few months after the dish’s creation. Thirty years later, 1990’s harvest is still the most popular dish in the sweet ’n salty category.
This magnificent dish is a great example of the fruits of the revolution that began all those years ago in 1987, with the arrival of Cora Breakfast and Lunch. A heartfelt thank you to each one of you for 33 years of sunlit mornings.