My Auntie Maisie was the consummate tart maker. Caramel, lemon, lemon chiffon, coconut (though not chocolate. That came later from my stepmother, who was an entirely different kettle of fish).
She probably had no choice, poor love. (Auntie Maisie, I mean.) Every Sunday, the family foregathered under the all-seeing (but not all-singing or -dancing) eye of my maternal grandmother to sit down to the traditional Sunday roast. This was cooked by my maiden aunt (Auntie Sell), and pudding was supplied by Maisie, wife of the son and heir, the golden child, my Uncle Mick (whose real name was Herbert, called Gavin by his mother and Mick by everyone else. And Maisie’s given name was Harriet, just btw.) (I should also point out, just btw, that Uncle Mick was gorgeous, totally unmoved by his favoured status, my mother’s idol, and the keeper, under his gruffness, of a great sense of humour.)
Anyway, there was poor Maisie, an incomer who was never going to measure up (my father never did either) burdened with a role in the sacred ceremony of Sunday Lunch. Furthermore, her contribution to this event had to survive (in pristine condition) a trip across the river in a rowing boat.
This is not necessarily as unnatural and antediluvian as it may sound. My grandmother lived in Woolwich on the Lane Cove River (part of Sydney Harbour) and Mick and Maisie lived in Longueville, directly across the river. Mick had been messing about in boats all his life (including yacht racing), and would have seen it as an unnecessary waste of time and petrol to take the long way round by road. Maisie loved life with a seemingly unquenchable enthusiasm, and would have embraced such lack of convention (at least most of the time).
But it wasn’t ideal for transporting delicate flummeries or a dozen individual crème brulées, and hence the tarts.
I have made Maisie’s tarts many times over the years, but no more. Goodness gracious no! All that lusciousness? I’d be struck down in an instant!