Most families have food traditions. My family cookbook comprises an eclectic mix of foods like bubble & squeak, fried platanos and spicy aros compoyo, as well as some French and Mediterranean treats that I've picked up in my wanderings.
Mostly, I'd say the recipes that survive--the ones we bring out time and again--are the sweet ones. My mother's figgy pudding every Christmas Eve. Madeleine's flaky Mille Feuilles. Then there's my Puerto Rican grandmother's famous flan, which sadly, has only shown its caramel complexion to me on rare occasions. Because of its scarcity, perhaps, it's become the holy grail of desserts in my mind.
Cousin to my favorite French crème, the flan is an eggier custard so sweet and so balanced in flavor and texture, one has to think the making of it is quite complex. And so we always thought...
My grandmother doesn't make her flan anymore. Perhaps the breaking and mixing of so many eggs is beyond her now. But a couple of weeks ago, my sister and I had the treat of making it for her and my grandfather. We dusted off the old recipe card. We broke all of those eggs. We caramelized the sugar. We baked and baked until it was golden. And we presented the beautiful toasted treat to the table with pride.
Then we tasted. And the taste was there. The texture was there. We found the holy grail and we mastered it.
It was my grandmother's flan. Now it's ours.