|Tiramisu that we enjoyed at Villa Mozart, Fairfax, VA, in 2015. Alas this restaurant is no longer in business.
My first introduction to tiramisu was some tine in the 1980s while Len was attending a meeting in Sicily. The Europeans with whom we were having dinner were familiar with this creamy dessert, which was new and very popular in restaurants where they had eaten. By the end of the 1980s, little cups of tiramisu were available in French supermarkets, as the dish had become very trendy. In the US, its popularity started a bit later, but now it's everywhere!
|A recent Costco purchase: imported tiramisu from Italy.
It’s delicious! It’s eternally popular! But it’s not an old tradition!
Tiramisu in the Movies
Remember in "Sleepless in Seattle," the widowed hero Sam (played by Tom Hanks) is worrying about how to act on a date, and his friend brings up tiramisu, as something that’s been invented since Sam was in the dating pool. Sam responds: “Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I’m not gonna know what it is!” In fact, the 1993 film seems to have created a demand for the introduction of tiramisu to restaurants all across the US. More about this:
In the DVD commentary, director and screenwriter Nora Ephron says “It hardly seems possible there was a time when all of America didn’t know what tiramisu was.” But that was indeed the case. The food was so unknown in 1993 that TriStar Pictures, the distributor of Sleepless in Seattle, reportedly received 25-30 phone calls per day from moviegoers asking the meaning of the joke. (source)
Tiramisu in the News this Week
Italy’s father of tiramisu dies aged 93
Restaurateur Ado Campeol launched the coffee-flavoured dessert, whose name means ‘lift me up’, in 1972
Tiramisu in Literature
Now I would like to do a moment’s trivia peeving with Amor Towles, a very popular and otherwise wonderful author. In his new novel, The Lincoln Highway, Towles depicts a road trip that takes four characters across the USA in the summer of 1954. One character shares a vivid memory of a wonderful New York-Italian restaurant, including a long description of the way Leonello, the owner, works the room and tends to his customers:
After giving the ladies a few compliments, he’ll signal the bartender. Hey, Rocko. Another round over here for my friends. Then he’ll move on to the next table, where there’ll be more shoulder patting, more compliments for the ladies, and another round of drinks. Or maybe this time, it’s a plate of calamari, or some tiramisu. Either way, it’s on the house. And when Leonello’s finished making his rounds, everybody in the place—and I mean everybody from the mayor to Marilyn Monroe—will feel like tonight is something special. (Amor Towles, The Lincoln Highway, p. 163).
The details about life in 1954 seem very well researched, and I've been enjoying everything about the characters and the setting of the book. But I wonder why Towles didn't seem to do his background checks about the food he names, and I wonder what else he didn't quite get right. He even repeats the mistake: Billy, a curious and very bright kid, asks these questions: "What’s a trattoria...? What’s a paisano? What’s an artichoke and pancetta and tiramisu?" (p. 435).
I'm almost finished with The Lincoln Highway, and will probably write a glowing review of it soon. But I'm always disappointed when an author disrespects food history!