My friend Ron, who once worked as my sous chef when I had Bonnie Fare Catering in New York but who is now a successful realtor in Los Angeles, and I have a Thanksgiving tradition. Every Thanksgiving morning, in the midst of his turkey-with-all-the-trimmings preparations, he phones me frantically from his kitchen to ask for my legendary lemon tart recipe.

“But didn’t I give it to you last year?” I ask every year.

“Yes, but I seem to have lost it,” he confesses annually.

I imagine him scribbling the recipe on scrap paper on his kitchen counter in a frenzy — “We’re having twenty people this year!” he tells me, breathlessly, “so I need to make several tarts, pronto!” — and that scrap paper later getting tossed in the after-dinner clean-up blitz.

Ron knows the value of this recipe to me and how proprietary I’ve always been with it. Up to now, its how-to has been our little secret. This lemon tart, which, as Ron well knows, used to be my catering business’s signature dessert — so beautiful, so balanced, so perfect, so memorable — has become his family’s traditional Thanksgiving dessert, usurping apple or pumpkin pie. His children risk growing up thinking, “Pumpkin pie? What’s that?”

So why am I about to give this treasured recipe away? Ah, that’s a good question.

Allow me to take a somewhat circuitous route in answering.

“When you have a lemon, make lemonade” is a maxim I’ve always liked a lot. (I’d have it carved on my tombstone if I hadn’t already opted to have my ashes tossed into the Rio Grande.) Growing old in our youth-obsessed, mainstream American society is considered lemon-like: a sour prospect. If this were not true, the youth-and-beauty industry in the United States wouldn’t be making untold billions of dollars a year. But those of us who have lived in more traditional societies know the folly of this stance and the value that older, wiser cultures place on elders. The job of elders, as they see it, is to give back — to take all that they’ve learned over the years and share it with the younger generations: Make lemonade.

Twenty years ago I guarded this lemon tart recipe with my life. I don’t remember where I found it; but as soon as I’d made it, I claimed it as my own. I gloried in it. I took all the credit for it. I nodded knowingly when those who tasted it for the first time swooned. Now I’m giving it away, because that’s my job as an elder. What good would this recipe — or any other valuable lesson I’ve learned in this long life — do if it remained in my clutches? Here it is. Pass it on. (Note to Ron: Try printing it out.)

“Bonnie Fare” Lemon Tart
(Makes one 9-inch tart)

Sweet Pastry Dough:

1 stick unsalted butter (cold), cut into dice

1 pinch of salt

1 tablespoon white sugar

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3–4 tablespoons ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, and sugar until blended.

Add butter dice and pulse until butter chunks are well distributed.

With motor running, add ice water and blend until the dough forms a ball.

Pat dough into a flat round, wrap in Saran, and refrigerate for about an hour.

Lemon Filling:

2 teaspoons lemon zest (from about 2 medium-size lemons, well scrubbed)

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from above lemons)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs

1/4 cup sour cream (the real thing; no substitutions)

3/4 cup white sugar

In a medium bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients and whisk until well blended.

Set aside, at room temperature, until shell is baked.

Making the shell:

Put oven rack into lower third of oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round (1/8-inch thick) and gently fit it into a 9-inch tart pan (being careful not to stretch the dough; just drape it in).

Line tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights (pennies are the best!).

Bake until pastry is set and pale golden on rim, about 15 minutes.

Carefully remove foil and weights and bake shell until pale golden all over, 5–10 minutes more.

Cool on a rack.

Filling and Baking:

Set oven temperature at 350 degrees. Place baked tart shell on sturdy baking sheet.

Whisk lemon filling mixture again, and pour it slowly and carefully into the shell.

Bake 12–15 minutes, or until lemon custard has set.

Cool on a rack.

Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Optional: Garnish each serving with a few fresh raspberries and a sprig of mint.