My grandmother was a woman ahead of her time. While most women of her generation were homemakers, circumstances forced my grandma Ida into the role of working mom. She ran a restaurant and then went to work at a hostess a “white tablecloth” place that was spiffy in its day. She worked hard and made sure that her girls had what they needed. This did not, however, include much in the way of home cooking. On the many nights when my grandmother worked late, my mom and her sisters ate warm dinners from the restaurant kitchen that Ida had delivered in a taxi.
So you get the picture - no "Grandma's home-baked cookies" for me. But Ida did something far better. Throughout my childhood she never appeared at our house without a pink pastry box holding éclairs or cream puffs from the local bakery. This was the Fifties when bakeries actually made recipes from scratch using real butter and cream. My love affair with baking began with those pink pastry boxes. There is nothing like being a kid with a small face and a relatively large cream puff. When you bite into it, there are gobs of cream squirting all over – waiting to be licked off with a joyfulness that I can still remember. Over time, I switched allegiance to the chocolate and pastry cream of those éclairs…..
What does all this have to do with Santa Fe? Well, it turns out New Mexicans have a thing about éclairs. We were standing in line waiting to order in a café one day when a waiter walked by with the biggest éclair I had ever seen. On his next pass I just had to ask, and he laughed saying, “I took one of these giant éclairs home and it took me four weeks to eat it!” Several other places in town feature big éclairs.
But nothing prepared me for the extra giant humungous eclairs we found in Charlie’s Spic and Span coffee shop in Las Vegas, NM. The giant cream puff above the door should have been a dead giveaway.
Cruising the pastry case I stopped dead in my tracks. If Santa Fe had a Giant Éclair, - Charlie’s makes extra giant humungous size éclairs – at least 10” long. All are made on the premises with great pride.