What happens when you take something humble and prosaic, like, say, pea soup, and then add a heaping glass or two of something flashy and crowd-pleasing, like champagne?
It becomes something the Swedes call crème ninon, introduced to them by Tore Wretman, a legendary Swedish chef and restaurant owner who died a few years ago and who supposedly brought crème ninon to Sweden from France, although a little cursory googling finds 100,000 or so links in Swedish and only four links in French - wait, make that three, because one of those links is obviously in Finnish, not French. So perhaps crème ninon is only a Swede's idea of French food: take a Swedish classic (traditionally served on Thursdays, don't ask me why), add a French cliché and voilà, you have haute cuisine. But you know what? Who cares about authenticity, because when you add champagne to pureed pea soup, it goes all foamy and rich, and it becomes something sublime with startling depth, something greater than the sum of the parts (well, it's perhaps a bit disingenuous to claim that something with champagne in it is greater than champagne itself).
As for me, I was introduced to crème ninon by A. the TV producer's mother, who stuffed us last night full of what seemed to be endless courses all based in one way or another on champagne, managing to work into the meal oysters on the half shell, caviar, and strawberries.
I think I'm still full.
The Swedish word for the day is ärtsoppa, which is pea soup.
- by Francis S.