My Twin (featuring Nectarine Tart with Almond Crust)
I have a face that people find familiar. Strangers often tell me I look like someone they once knew. Normally it’s not a celebrity or even a close friend of theirs, but a girl they once met– a friend of a friend. I hear phrases like doppelganger, clone, or identical twin all the time. I just have one of those faces.
“Wait! I’ve got it! Do you know who you look like!?!”
I remember that day perfectly. I was a 22-year-old insecure, unemployed actress meeting a new theatrical agent in a Los Angeles talent agency. I had been freelancing with them for a few months and was hoping to get signed soon. They would occasionally send me out on auditions for tv shows and movies and I would get called back (asked to re-audition for the producers/ directors) but would never book anything.
This meeting was the sort of thing I should have been doing all the time. You’re supposed to push with all your might to get through those doors and stay there. As an unknown actress, I should have constantly been reminding everyone in Hollywood that I existed, but I sucked at that. My insecurities made up excuses for me, like thinking the agents would get annoyed if I constantly bugged them. I know I would have if I were them.
This agent was brand new to the firm, and she was meeting all the clients privately to see what sort of roles we would be right for. I kept hoping to find representation who could see me and truly understand why I was special. That morning as I parked my car and double-checked my lipstick I thought maybe this agent would be that person and my whole life would change.
I sat across from her desk in a cream-colored leather chair. She had wild curly hair and sipped coffee out of a stained white mug embossed with another firm’s logo. A half-eaten muffin wrapped in a paper napkin lay next to her phone. She stared at my resume and then at me then back to the paper then at me.
I scratched my nose to make sure nothing was hanging out and ran my tongue along my teeth for errant breakfast bits. I grinned eagerly but then stopped to show my serious side.
“Ok, this is great, Alison. So nice to meet you.” She tapped her pen on the desk. “I’m just trying to get a sense of…” she trailed off.
“Sure, I understand.” I sat up straighter and tried to smile softly. “I’ve been here in LA for about eight months. I grew up in New York. Last year I graduated from the theatre department at Fordham University at Lincoln Center.”
I smoothed the nap of my crushed velvet leggings and ran my hand through my curled red hair.
“That’s great, Alison,” she repeated, lost in thought.
She looked at me again– deeper, probing. I saw a spark in her expression, something clicked.
“Wait! I’ve got it! Do you know who you look like!?!’
“No, who’s that?”
My heart fluttered as she looked right into my eyes. I saw her see me.
“ROSEANNE BARR! You look so much like her! You could easily play her daughter or sister or something. You have the same eyes!”
And I died right there. I felt myself disappear. My pride turned to ash.
I’m sure I laughed in disbelief first. Because I don’t look anything like Roseanne and I figured this woman was trying to get me to relax by making a joke. A second later I could see that she was not kidding, and I felt mortified. I was not being seen; I was being repackaged in a way that my 22-year-old self could not comprehend. This lookalike wasn’t someone cute and sassy. This was a larger-than-life woman, aggressively fighting to be recognized beyond her physical attributes. I couldn’t get beyond them though. I went home and stared at pictures of her. Her eyes conveyed something unsafe and wild which was not at all how I felt when I looked in the mirror.
Granted, if that meeting had parlayed into an audition for the show or a job, this might be a different story entirely. I never heard from that agent, but carried her words with me for years.
I remembered the comparison last week as Roseanne tweeted herself into unemployment. My “twin,” who changed the world 30 years ago by focusing light onto a very real and overlooked portion of our nation, reconfirmed the crazy and unsafe feelings I sensed back in the day.
I watched the reboot of her show and I thought it confirmed everything I believe– that so much of America is suffering financially, struggling with xenophobia, terrified about healthcare, and wanting solutions faster than anyone in Washington is bringing them. I thought the point was that we should be working to find the answers. But then to learn that Roseanne is a racist Trump supporter? I was dumbfounded.
America is challenging. I have to respect Roseanne’s right to vocalize her small-minded, racist opinions just as much as she has to respect my right to unsubscribe to, unfollow, and unplug any show or network that would support her (thank you ABC for canceling). I wish I could unplug the power of another, more prominent tweeter, but somehow he’s gotten elected to the most powerful position in the nation. I won’t look away from America, no matter how ugly it gets.
Here’s how I choose to fight today: with the beauty of fresh fruit. This is a dessert in three parts: crust, pastry cream, and fresh fruit. That seems like a lot of work, but they actually come together pretty easily and the result will look like you’ve been working for days!
Nectarine Tart with Almond Crust
Makes one 9-inch tart
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 ½ tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup almond flour or finely ground almonds
- 1 heaping cup all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Put the butter, the oil, the water, the almond extract, the sugar, and the salt into a metal or pyrex bowl. You don’t have to stir it together or anything. The heat will take care of combining it.
- Bake the mixture for 15 minutes.
- Carefully remove the bowl from the oven and stir in the almond flour and the all-purpose flour. Stir until the mixture comes together and forms a dough.
- Press the dough into a tart pan, prick the bottom of the dough with tines of a fork to create tiny steam holes, and then bake for another 15 minutes.
- Let cool.
- 1 cup milk
- 3 egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch… NOT tapioca pearls which would thicken but be very noticeable in the pastry cream)
- 2 tablespoons of butter, room temperature
- Bring the milk to a boil in a medium-sized pot.
- In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and tapioca flour until the mixture is smooth.
- When the milk has come to a boil, turn the heat off and whisk 1/2 cup of the milk (very slowly) into the bowl with the egg mixture. You want to whisk it constantly while adding the milk because the eggs will scramble if you’re not careful. You just want to heat the eggs without cooking them. This is called tempering.
- After half the milk has been whisked into the eggs, pour that mixture back into the pot of milk on the stove. Turn the heat back on to a medium temperature and whisk constantly for 2 minutes. The custard will come to a boil. Whisk another couple of minutes until the pastry cream is thick. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter. It will thicken a bit more.
- Pour mixture into a bowl, place plastic wrap on the surface of the cream (yes, actually touching the cream) to keep it from forming a skin and then let it cool.
- 7 nectarines
- 1 tablespoon of cherry jam (or whatever flavor you like)
- Slice the nectarines thinly, cutting the larger round pieces into half moons. Toss them with the jam. The pectin will help to keep the nectarine slices from turning color.
- Spread the cooled pastry cream over the inside of the tart shell. Then, starting on the outside rim, fan the nectarine slices on top of the pastry cream to make the outer circle. Continue to fan the slices, working inward. It gets really clear really quickly and doesn’t take long once you’re in the groove.
- You can pop something pretty in the center of the pattern- like a berry or a sprig of mint or simply shake some powdered sugar over the whole tart.