Guadeloupe's Most Famous Dessert
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When it brings you heartache, make dessert. At least that’s the case in Guadeloupe, where they’ve been baking a tempting tart called Tourment d’Amour (Torment of Love) for generations.
As the story goes, Caroline (a young girl from Terre-de-Haut, one of the five islands in the archipelago of Guadeloupe) and Freminville (a visiting ship’s captain) fell in love. But in the middle of their courtship, Freminville was given orders to leave immediately on an overseas mission. Unable to see her before he set sail, Freminville left Caroline a letter telling her the date he’d be back.
On the appointed day, Caroline baked a special dessert to celebrate his return. But the captain was delayed, and when days passed with no sign of her lover the distraught young girl took her own life. When Freminville finally did get back he found Caroline dead in her house, the pastry she’d lovingly baked for him still sitting on the table, now hard and stale. Legend has it that ever since then the women of Terre-de-Haut have made the dessert (which became known as Tourment d’Amour in honor of the tragic couple) when their husbands go off to sea, praying that they’ll return safely and in time to eat it while its still moist and fresh.
So how does love’s torment taste? Imagine a tart, about four inches across, its pastry base sheltering two layers of yummy goodness: on the bottom, a rich layer of coconut, shredded by hand and sweetened with sugar harvested from the island’s cane fields. Above, a moist sponge-like cake, baked until golden brown. Enjoy it on its own straight from the bag, or sit down and have it some with ice cream on the side. (I had mine at Au Bon Vivre, a can't-miss TDH lunch or dinner spot.) Either way, the decadent combination is irresistible and worth every calorie. Who knew sadness could taste so sweet?
Although you’ll see some local restaurants in all the archipelago’s islands offering tourment, THE place to enjoy the original and best is in on two-square-mile Terre-de-Haut, one of two Guadeloupe islands known as Les Saintes. As you step off the pier you won’t be able to miss the handful of ladies dressed in national costume (they’re only baked by women), carrying straw baskets laden with the passion-fueled pastries. While coconut is the traditional filling, you can buy guava, pineapple, and banana varieties. Two euros will get you a packet of four. But no amount of euros will get you the recipe for this indulgent pastry. That, like the charms of Guadeloupe, is a secret known only by a lucky few.