Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thoughts on a Birthday

ANOTHER BIRTHDAY, ANOTHER YEAR *

“If it was only the other way! If it was I who were to be always young, and the picture that were to grow old! For this--for this--I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give!" - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray 


A summer day long, long ago, I drank from the fabled Fountain of Youth. I vaguely remember that afternoon, driving up to St. Augustine in the old green station wagon with dad, Sue, Michael and Andrew, climbing up and wandering around the ramparts, posing in front of the statue of the old Seminole, buying plastic swords in the gift shop, dad smiling for the camera with his head in the stocks and, yes indeed, patiently waiting in line to visit Ponce de Leon’s legendary Fountain. And of course I, basking in the aura, the mesmerizing glow of the golden rock, drank that tiny paper cup full of this magical elixir! I have always been a superstitious thing, even at that tender age, and clung on to that elusive promise of eternal youth. I knew even then the immeasurable value of youth and was ready to sell my soul, sip of the cup. Yet little did I realize, mere slip of an 8-year old that I was, how this one sip would change my life! But drink I did!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Choux with Pastry Cream

MON PETIT CHOU

A man should not so much respect what he eats, as with whom he eats. 
- Michael Eyquem de Montaigne


One day slides into the next, a long, tranquil river, as the French say. Rain to sun to fog to fine mist. And back to sun. We work and play to the same rhythm as one day melts into the next and so on and so forth, our son’s school schedule and the tv program our only indication of the passing of time, the only indication as to what day of the week it is. I’ve taken to jotting down words, phrases and thoughts in pencil in one of the several notebooks scattered around my desk. I have become reacquainted with my own handwriting. I am working on our Plated Stories workshop, putting together sessions and creating exercises as my mind wanders to Tuscany and the amazing group of students that is starting to pull together. I dig out my notes, from two bygone speaking events, and begin to rearrange the words for two public presentations, one online and one at a conference…very excited!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chocolate Prune Bread for Bread Baking Babes

ARTISAN BREAD IN FIVE FOR THE BABES

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, 
is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight...
- M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating


It has never been a secret that I am a huge fan of Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François’ Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day books. I now own three of them. I adore my cookbooks and have hundreds, but there are very few that I actually cook and bake from regularly, over and over again. And the Artisan Bread in 5 books are definitely among that cherished minority.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Visual Feast VIII

ALL IS GOLD

More gold has been mined from the thoughts of men than has been taken from the earth. 
- Napoleon Hill 


I slump in front of the laptop. I can no longer hide from myself that I have, once again, taken on too many projects. The weight is unbearable as if I am carrying each and every one on my shoulders, evil little imps of doom and despair. They snigger in my ear, their hot, fetid breath on my neck; their constant jeers taunt and tease, my brain rattles and the urge to simply push myself away from the desk, away from my laptop, to drop it all with a resounding thud sweeps over me.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Visual Feast VII

THE ART OF THE CITY

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. 
- Pablo Picasso 


While others are battling breathtakingly wild snow storms and digging their way out of mountains of white, while romantic flurries swell and intensify into a blizzard like a bad mood seething hot, smoldering until fierce and out of control, while others are building snowmen and having snow days and stuffing tiny hands into mittens and little paws into booties, we are experiencing one blustery, uncomfortable, dreary, gray, ambivalent day after the next. Weather that simply cannot make up its mind. Weather that simply does not want to turn into winter. I peep out the window every morning to see what I can see, to take the temperature, figuratively speaking, of the day ahead. Tar black or a deep rosy glow, soft, pale blue or angry gray smeared with menacing puffs of charcoal clouds. It is impossible to plan the day, inconceivable to know what to cook.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Classic Old-Fashioned Apple Pie

NO GALETTE DES ROIS

Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness. 
- Jane Austen 


I have made Galette des Rois for the 6th day of January, for Epiphany, for the last few years. This year I did not. I had been craving a good, old-fashioned, all-American apple pie since we began visiting the apple stand at the market early autumn. Crude wooden crates hold tumbles, piles and heaps of apples and pears in shades of red, green, yellow and brown straight from the orchards, straight from the trees. Local apples from Pays de la Loire. The vendors scoop up the apple of one’s choice…. Actually, the vendors, scruffily dressed, wrapped in coarse cotton aprons, yellow plastic glove snug over the scooping hand, lean in towards us over the row of crates in which apples and pears lie snuggly, fragrantly together in the cool winter weather, and ask for our selection. And they expertly translate our answer “apples to eat, crunchy, flavorful, sweet and tart” or “the perfect apple for baking into a pie, one that stays flavorful and sweet while meltingly smooth when cooked” or “apples for sautéing and serving with boudin blanc” into Fuji, Cox Orange, Jonagold, Reine des Reinettes or Grise du Canada.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lemon Limoncello Ricotta Mousse

A QUIET CELEBRATION

New Year's eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights. 
- Hamilton Wright Mabie 


A quiet night in, just the two of us. The coffee table is spread with a festive cloth, candles lit and wine glasses placed next to plates and the best cutlery. Corks are popped and glasses filled, a time to toast our new year. JP has spent the afternoon making a traditional potée, slow-cooked potatoes, carrots, cabbage and sausages until tender and savory, leaving behind a wonderful, flavorful, warming broth to sip before the meal is served. A great Muscadet from La Domaine le Fay d'Homme has been chilled and we snuggle up together for a cozy, quiet celebration. The following day, the first day of the new year, may be gray and dreary, the drizzle of rain tapping delicately against the window panes, but the traditional New Year’s Day boudin blanc (white sausage) with apples which have been cooked and caramelized until tender is served for lunch and has added a certain brightness, something festive to the day.

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