Friday, August 30, 2013


Good old Campbell's Tomato Soup: one of the standards that has
definitely been messed with, and I don't mean just the label
Just this past week I bought a box of crackers. They were one of my favorites, so I had to watch myself each time I opened the box or I would eat a ton of ‘em.  I guess you can tell from that past tense “were” that I no longer love them. I tasted one cracker, gave them another two tries, and shut the box on the rest. Why? I don’t have an old box to compare ingredients or nutrition statistics, but they changed the recipe, of course. I don’t think it necessary to name the particular cracker because I’ve had this disappointment with Nabisco and Keebler products, as well as with Campbell’s soups and other food products.

I suppose it is all the recent research that shows that too much of things like salt or real sugar are no good for us in great quantities, or that whole grains are good for us, so they have to try to monkey around with change the quantities in their own products. Good for them for trying to seem to be responsible manufacturers (we do know that their real goal is a bigger figure on that bottom line), but bad for us consumers on the tasting end of things.

I can understand the big food conglomerates coming out with new products and dropping the least popular ones, but I really don’t understand why they think they have to mess with proven winners. I don’t understand why they don’t just follow the example of the distillers, brewers, and vintners, and just tag on a caveat to their advertising. Perhaps, similar to the Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes, it should be mandatory to print a warning on the food packaging.  I don’t smoke any more – haven’t done so since 1981 – so maybe I took that warning seriously. It could be something to the effect that “Excess salt and sugar have been proven to be detrimental to our health.  Please eat responsibly.” Yeah! We won’t see this warning on many of the luscious packaged products made in Europe – they’re not necessary over there. Most of those people already know how to eat responsibly.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I first posted this two years ago - Today's editon of The Writer's Almanac reminded me of this. I thought I'd repost it for some of my newer readers because I really like that quote from him. Happy Birthday J.W.
Andy Warhol's version of our Birthday Boy

Ah, yes, August 28th. Can’t you just hear the cheers? Can’t you just see the fireworks? You are, of course, very aware of whose birthday we celebrate today, aren’t you? You really don’t know? Why it’s Johann Wolfgang von Goethe! I’m sure you just forgot that momentarily. Goethe, we rarely use his full name, born in 1749, was what they call a polymath. He wrote works in drama, poetry, literature, science, theology, and philosophy. This guy was interested in everything at a time when, such as it was with da Vinci, it was still possible to know a lot about a lot of things. Not too many of us can go through life without hearing a reference to Goethe’s most famous work: Faust.

What I want to bring to your notice is a line of his, a thought for the day that can be of use to us all: “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” I keep a small collection of ‘pithy’ sayings, and that one is one of the best. Written in the eighteenth century, it can easily be interpreted for today’s mode of living. I don’t interpret it for today to mean that you have to do all those things, but do break out of your quotidian routine to do something inspiring, or educational (look up ‘quotidian’), charitable, or just plain fun.

Part of my own quotidian routine is to check several of my favorite websites for thoughts or poems of the day. I do prefer rhyming poems over free verse, some of which read more like a novel than a poem. Thoughts, especially when you catch them at an early hour, can get right into the flavor of your day. From ‘Anonymous’ to named sources, from ancient times to modern, valuable thoughts abound. Here are some of my favorites:

“The wise man achieves balance by reducing his needs to the level of his possessions.” Anonymous (but sometimes attributed to Aristotle)

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” Douglas Adams

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Don’t believe everything you think.” Anonymous

“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself of much of life. Be not simply good; be good for something.” Henry David Thoreau

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” Bertrand Russell

“When people show you who they are, believe them.” Maya Angelou

“Function in disaster, finish in style.” Lucy Madeira

E. B. White said: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” Get your daily fix, a daily thought, and try to do both: improve and enjoy the world.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Kei Acedera's Blue Tongue Battle Dragon - I just love him!
A few years ago when I was on the community magazine staff I had a list of the various months commemorated throughout the year. I recently came upon the old list and this being August I checked it out. Strangely enough the last one listed is Dragon Appreciation Month. If you are further inclined to celebrate, January 16 has been Dragon Appreciation Day since 2004.  I'll remind you of this later on in life.

No one appreciates dragons more than I do. I’ve written about my favorite “lost” book.  The subject: a dragon. Then there’s my favorite of R.A. MacAvoy’s – Tea with the Black Dragon, not to mention all of the late Anne McCaffrey’s dragons in her Pern series. (Click and just look at all the dragons on that last page! I’ve read every one.)  And one must never forget Kenneth Grahame's Reluctant Dragon. I love the Disney version and the dragon's recital of "Poor Little Upside-Down Cake".

So please, don’t put it off, go out and appreciate a dragon today!

I wish I'd been born with one of M.C.A. Hogarth's  dragons.

Monday, August 26, 2013


One evening last week I made this Welsh Rarebit for our supper. I usually make it just as outlined in the recipe below, but this time I prepared it with a "what-have-you" range of ingredients: crumbled bacon instead of slices, chives instead of scallions, added sliced hard-boiled egg, store-bought ciabata bread instead of slices of my homemade bread. I hope this gives you the incentive to do likewise and use what you have on hand.


This is most important: Have ingredients out and ready before beginning to heat the cheese. Heat the plates in the Microwave

4-6 slices bacon, cut in half and cooked and drained*
1T butter
6 oz. very sharp cheese, grated
Seriously Sharp Cheddar by Cabot is excellent.
1 fat or 2 thin scallions, sliced
1 T honey Dijon mustard
1 t Worcestershire
1 egg blended in 1/3 cup milk
4 slices of bread - white or multi-grain

Start toasting the bread

Using a fairly low heat, melt the butter in a slope-sided sauce pan. Add the cheese and begin to stir it as it melts.

Once the cheese is nicely melted, stir in the scallions, mustard and Worcestershire, then add the egg and milk mixture. Keep on lowest setting if toast is not done.

When toast is done, arrange two slices on each plate, two or three half slices of bacon on each piece of toast, and then pour the cheese mixture over it all.

You can put on sliced tomatoes before or after the cheese mixture. You might want to try a fried egg or a sliced hard boiled egg on top of the toast, under the sauce.

*You can also use Canadian bacon or ham instead. I’ve even used crumbled or sliced precooked bacon.

Friday, August 23, 2013


(Last Friday I wrote about amusement park and I mentioned the clown at Coney Island, this week I'm writing more about clowns and my take on them.)

Did you see this article from Smithsonian on The History and Psychology of Clowns Being Scary?  That first picture could send you screaming off into the night. Smithsonian didn’t have to tell me that clowns are scary – I’ve been a non-fan, shall we say, all of my life.  I kinda liked Emmett Kelley’s Weary Willy when I saw him at the circus when I was a little kid.  Was he the clown that swept the spotlight into the corner of the ring and then ‘under the rug’? (Yes, he was, I looked it up!) But it’s all a blur.

And I never did like Clarabelle or Bozo.  My sister got to go on the Howdy Doody Show – she won a pair of ice skates – but I didn’t care for that show. I got to go on Buster’s Buddies – no clowns – and I won a Toni Doll. Remember those?  Anyway, I knew there had to be an innate reason for my not liking those big red-mouthed clowns. I’ll be darned if I can find a current on-line reference to it, but years ago I read that the wide red mouth evolved from the Renaissance practice of slitting the clown’s mouth to make a wider grin. Gruesome!

I do remember thinking the bit where clowns got stuffed in the tiny car was really stupid. Who knows why – it just struck a sour note in me all those years ago. But the rest of the circus – I loved it! I loved the elephants and the big cats, the high wire acts and the acrobats, and remember the man who balanced on just one finger? Neat stuff.  I haven’t been to the circus in eons – the memories will suffice.

Clowns themselves evolved from the motley-dressed court jesters of the Middle Ages who could answer back to anyone, even the king, were given a wide range of freedoms enjoyed by no others, and were often the impetus for change. They were the political commentators of their day. I am a fan of Alan Gordon who has written a wonderful series of mysteries around a jester and The Fools Guild – Thirteenth Night is the first in the series.  Never mind sending in the clowns, send in the jesters – they’re no fools, and this world could use quite a few more of them.




Thursday, August 22, 2013



I know I’ve mentioned Tania Kindersley and her wonderful blog Backwards in High Heels many times in my posts.  She writes about “food, horses, dogs, politics, daily life, random musings, an awful lot of human condition, and occasional moments of whimsy.”  Today she had a wonderful shared experience and shared the experience with her Dear Readers, and in the writing she clearly defined, for me at least, the why of blogging. 

She wrote “But sometimes, in life, it’s important to have a witness. I thought this as I came back to my desk to start work. I thought suddenly, that is what this blog is all about.” And “I think there is something quite profound going on. I think it is to do with having a witness. I think, at its best, this new medium offers something wonderfully collective. Here are our small lives; they are seen.”  That’s it in a nutshell: here is my small life; I’d like to share my thoughts and interests with you. I don’t need, as she also doesn’t need, to go viral, though she has scores more members than I. I am just delighted to have my own small group of Dear Readers, and to know that I am, as Tania says, seen.

Tania’s full post today can be read at    And not only are her posts supremely interesting, her photography is supreme too.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013


…it will be so hot
I will become a cooking pot
Cooking soup of course-why not?
Cooking once, cooking twice

Cooking chicken soup with rice


Maurice Sendak reminds us that any time is a good time for soup. I think I’ll create a quick pot of chicken soup for lunch today – with fine noodles instead of rice. Couldn’t be easier!


Monday, August 19, 2013


Here's another transfer from Latelife Recipes. Yes, I'll get to some new recipes one of these days, but not yet. I did check to see and yes there is a 2013 ediion of the Cook's Illustrated Cooking for Two. They just keep rolling out the cookbooks and raking in the dough.

I’m a regular subscriber to Cook’s Illustrated. They don’t have any advertising in the magazine. It’s quite “top of the line” in that way, with sometimes very intricate recipes and the theory and testing that went into them, plus a wealth of handy tips and equipment testings. While they don’t have advertising in the magazine, for which you pay an elegant price, they do inundate you with too many magazine tear-out reply cards and too many emails for their own publications. I tear out the tear-outs and ignore most of the emails, so I suppose that is why I never realized that they put out a cookbook called Cooking for Two.
I did notice today’s email: it touted their 2012 version of the cookbook. I don’t know if you’ll be interested in it, but if you are, you can get it, with the 2011 edition added to the package, by clicking here Cooking for Two. There's also quite a lengthy description of the book.

Just reading part of the blurb - Cooking for Two 2012 offers a wide range of just-for-two meal ideas, from Grilled Steakhouse Steak Tips and Red Potatoes with Sour Cream-Chive Sauce and Parmesan and Basil-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Roasted Carrots; to pasta and noodle favorites like Hearty Stuffed Shells and Pad Thai– I’m thinking that it still might be too much for senior appetites. That Parmesan and Basil-Stuffed Chicken looks like too much for me.

Besides which, will you happen to have all the necessary ingredients in your senior-style larder? Perhaps. I don’t do much with sour cream, for example, so I’m not sure how I’d use up the rest of it after I made the Sour Cream-Chive Sauce. (Maybe I would just wing it and pour it over my cereal.) I don’t think I’d want to invest in fish sauce, tamarind juice, and the chili peppers and bean sprouts that go into a traditional Pad Thai. That’s one to be eaten “out”. They do say the book was “Written, tested, and edited with cooks like you in mind, the book is a combination of a frugal approach to the culinary arts, a good helping of common sense, and the test kitchen's fanatical approach to testing our way to the very best recipe. Could be, could very well be. (Note that word: fanatical. They said it, I didn’t.)

I am starting to feel a bit of “overkill”as far as Cook’s Illustrated and all their many productions – public TV’s Cook’s Country and America’s Test Kitchen, the magazine and their many cookbooks - are concerned. I know they test and research, but their way is not the only way to do things, and Christopher Kimball’s attempts at wit and wisdom can get a bit trying, a bit Smugly Smuggerson. (That last bit is a description I picked up at Backwards in High Heels, one of my favorite blogs.)

But one never knows –so I thought I’d bring the book to your attention.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

SOMETHING BRIGHT... cheer up an otherwise dull and rainy day.

I picked out this bright picture that I'd saved to my "Eye Candy" file. I've no idea where I got the pitcure -surely it is from one of the blogs I check daily.
I needed to post something colorful today.

Friday, August 16, 2013


As I often do, I took the inspiration for today’s blog from last year’s entry for this date in The Writer’s Almanac. 

On this date in 1843, the amusement park known as Tivoli Gardens opened in Copenhagen, Denmark. It's the second oldest amusement park in the world; the oldest is in nearby Klampenborg. Denmark's King Christian VIII agreed to grant the charter to the park's founder, Georg Carstensen, after Carstensen pointed out that "when the people are amusing themselves, they don't think about politics." He designed it mainly as a pleasure garden, with flowers, cafés, theaters, and bandstands set in a lovely park setting. Today, almost none of Carstensen's original park remains; in 1943, Nazi sympathizers bombed it, burning most of the buildings to the ground, but rebuilding started immediately and the park reopened just a few weeks later.

In 2009, Tivoli Gardens became the first amusement park to operate entirely on wind-generated power. Nearly 4 million people visited the park last year.

I’ve never visited Denmark, much less the Tivoli Gardens, but form reading about it and seeing photos over the years I do wish I had.  I can say, however, that I have been to other amusement parks over the years.  None perhaps, even Disneyland, as splendid as the Tivoli in my mind’s eye, but fun none the less.

I was once to the now-defunct Freedomland in the Bronx, Great Adventure in New Jersey, and, once or twice to Playland in Rye, New York. (I just learned that Playland is owned and run by Westchester County – who knew? I’d say a government owned amusement park is a rarity.) I was, of course, to Disneyland once, but never to Disneyworld. But more times than I can count I was to good old Coney Island. I loved that place.  The stand-out memories are of wonderful hotdogs (yes, they are always better when you are out!), cotton candy, and of the huge Wonder Wheel (the name of which I had always remembered as the Virginia Reel, but that was another, different ride next door. I’ve been having that Senior Moment memory most of my life until I searched for pictures for this essay.)


I got to go to Coney Island go several times with the grade school church choir. We were the group in the higher grades who sang for most of the weekday funeral masses at church.  Seeing as how many of the adults in regular choir were at work, those of us kids with fairly good voices were taught the simple Gregorian chant and responses to accompany the mass. And we got out of school for an hour or so. The trip to Coney Island was our yearly reward.  Heck, just getting out of Sister Clarella’s class was a reward.

Steeplechase Park at Coney Island, with its now defunct but landmark status Parachute Jump was, depending on where I was in it, a wonderful place or a nightmare.  I loved the initial Steeple Chase Horse Race ride, but after that, and my memory here may be hazy because I hated it, you had to go through a series of funhouse surprises.  There were moving floors, upward gusts of air (we were delighted if we were wearing slacks) and a clown with an electric cattle prod.  Maybe that’s why I really don’t like clowns. Well, that and my knowledge of the reason why clowns have such big smiles. The Joker gives me the creeps – but I digress. 


Steeplechase Park also had the carousel - always reaching out for that brass ring! - and other neat rides and things to see, but the one I always wanted to go on was the Parachute Jump. No, no, no – the answer was always the same.  When I finally got to go on my own nickel I headed straight for the Parachute Jump. Well no wonder we weren’t allowed to go on it – it was a disappointment! We were just hoisted up for a look around – I was on the side facing the ocean, so there wasn’t too much of interest there - and then down we went.  Not a thrill-a-minute, to be sure.

I’m surmising that I’ll never get back to Coney Island to go on the Wonder Wheel, but every once in a while I can have a hotdog “out”, and some cotton candy now and then. Does it seem to you that you don’t get as much cotton candy on the paper cone as we once did? Or does distance lend enchantment? I guess it does, I guess it does.

I see that Golden Corral restaurants are serving cotton candy at their buffet.
Cotton candy and buffet?  Those two should never be in the same sentence.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013


For some reason the pile of cut carrots struck me as being picture-worthy. The cutter is an old Disston tool, and is kept sharp as any knife. It is sort of like the Inuit knife, the ulu, and is very, very handy. I can slice several carrots or celery stalks with more ease than with my large chef’s knife – a wicked instrument. And for mincing parsley or chopping nuts, it cannot be beat.

I admit to owning an old Kitchen Aid mini food chopper, but I rarely use it. Why drag that out and have to clean all the pieces later, when I can get out my trusty Disston cutter and get slices the size I want with only a blade and a cutting board to clean. Minimalism make sense to me.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sauce for Meat or Poultry - for two or more

Monday again!  Doesn't it just amaze you how the weeks roll on and on? Here's the latest transfer from Latelife Recipes. This sauce is soooo easy and it always looks elegant.








From Google Images,
a photo of a dried cherry sauce on pork

Friday, August 9, 2013


English is a hard language to learn because it has so many words contributed by other languages. ESL is not an easy course.  Unlike Japanese, for instance, where a whole concept can be embodied in just one word, for a great, large language like English there is sometimes, not too often but sometimes, something missing. There are many multi-word, many multi-sentence, ways to describe someone you know. I’ve been trying to think of some quickie labels. I’m stumped – especially for those I know on a brief encounter basis. Like all the Inuit words for snow and ice, we need a series of single words to describe the people in our lives.

Do you remember the book A Friend is Someone Who Likes You? If that is true – that a friend is someone who likes you - then many people have a friend in me. I like most people I meet. So if I like the gal who regularly checks out my purchases at the super market is she my friend? Not likely. An acquaintance?  Well, maybe.  I am acquainted with many gals in the community cooking club, but it’s quite a long way from acquaintance to friend. If asked do I know Susie-Q, an acquaintance of mine from the club, I shouldn’t answer “Yes, she’s a friend of mine.” That could lead to more in-depth questions than I have the knowledge to answer. Further questions wouldn’t arise if I had I a quickie label for the way I know her. Well, most of us gals like to gab anyway, so I suppose it’s not necessary to be brief.  Besides which, there’d be a good, perhaps juicy, conversation about the person in question.

I’ve a wonderful friend I’ve never met. I guess I’d have to say we’re e-pen pals. We’ve a meeting of the minds and of our personalities, but not of our persons. We can’t gossip: we’ve no mutual ‘friends’, though we can safely dis some of the folks we know individually. We chatter back and forth via email, a letter and replies go back and forth in several print colors (colours: she’d Canadian!) It’s a rewarding exchange that covers everything from health and husbands, from Buddhism to books. I’ve no ‘friends’ I’ve known since childhood – or even since college-hood – and I’m acutely aware that I don’t need them. I’ve found a friend for my old age, and it is extremely satisfying and fulfilling. Namaste.



Thursday, August 8, 2013


It's a slow, warm Thursday - a good day to transfer this piece from Latelife Recipes:
These are the quick savory recipes from Fast Food My Way. Again, read through these recipes and be thinking of how you could adapt them and make them your own, depending on what you regularly stock in your kitchen. Even more so than with the quick savory recipes, the variations are endless.

Shrimp burgers. I discovered these at Dr. Taco while vacationing at Playa del Carmen in Mexico. Put a couple of slices of manchego or mozzarella cheese in a nonstick skillet and place over moderate heat. As the cheese begins to melt, add a few small raw shrimp or pieces of shrimp, salt, some hot salsa or cracked pepper, and some chopped scallions or chives. Cover and cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes, then slide the cheese-shrimp burger onto half a toasted bun topped with a lettuce leaf and tomato slices.

Baby mozzarella salad. As a first course, a baby mozzarella salad is great. Make use of the bounty of your supermarket deli counter: small mozzarella balls (boconccini), diced red pimientos, pitted black and green olives, sun-dried tomato halves, and capers, if available. Mix these ingredients with a little extra-virgin olive oil, cracked pepper, and a dash of vinegar and serve cupped in a leaf of radicchio on individual plates.

Red beets in sour cream. For a winter salad, drain a can of sliced red beets and combine the slices with sour cream, cracked pepper, salt, and a dash of red wine vinegar. Serve over endive leaves, with a sprinkling of flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, or basil leaves on top.

Ham cornucopias. For a first course, roll up individual slices of ham into a cornet or cornucopia shape and place each in a flat-bottomed rocks glass or on a plate on top of baby spinach or watercress. Mix diced feta cheese, pitted black olives, and marinated mushrooms--all from your supermarket deli--with a dash of olive oil, cracked pepper, and salt. Spoon into the ham cornucopias and serve.

Tuna tomatoes. In summer, when good tomatoes are available, mix a drained can of tuna (preferably packed in oil) with some minced scallions, pitted Kalamata olives, diced anchovy fillets, chopped parsley, and cracked pepper. Cut off the tops of ripe tomatoes and hollow them out with a spoon, reserving and lightly crushing the tomato pulp with a fork and mixing it with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper to create a sauce. Fill the hollow tomatoes with the tuna mixture and serve with some of the sauce for a first course.

Lavash pizza. You can make homemade pizza in no time at all using flour tortillas, pita bread, or--my favorite--lavash. After oiling a cookie sheet, I press one of these large flatbread rectangles on the sheet, then turn it over, so it is lightly oiled on both sides. Cover it with sliced tomatoes, some grated mozzarella and Parmesan, cracked pepper, anchovies (optional), and a few dashes of olive oil. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, then sprinkle with lots of basil leaves torn into coarse pieces.

Peasant soup. For this soup like one my mother used to make, prepare croutons by baking slices of leftover bread in a conventional oven or toaster oven until brown and crisp. Divide the toasted bread among soup bowls, breaking the slices into pieces if they are too large, and grate a generous amount of Gruyère or Jarlsberg on top. Bring a good homemade chicken stock or canned broth to a boil and pour over the croutons and cheese in the bowls. Sprinkle with cracked pepper and a few chopped chives and serve.

Cannellini and chorizo soup. I always have the ingredients for this fast, satisfying soup in my pantry and refrigerator. Puree a can of cannellini beans in a blender with enough chicken stock to make a creamy soup. Transfer to a saucepan, add diced chorizo sausage, bring to a boil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and finish with a little heavy cream. Garnish with chopped chives and croutons.

Cold black bean soup. When friends drop by in the summer, I like to make cold soup. One combination that I love is made in a food processor. Puree a can of black bean soup with a little olive oil, Tabasco, a couple of tablespoons of chopped onion, a crushed clove of garlic, salt, and enough chicken stock to make the mixture creamy. Serve in soup plates, topping each serving with a ribbon of sour cream diluted with a bit of water and garnish with a few slices of banana and a couple of cilantro leaves.
I added thse two recipes much later. They are other examples of Pépin's quick and wonderful ways with food:

Julia and Jacques Onion Soup - 1 lb. onions, sauté in olive oil, s & p, thyme slowly 8 to 10 minutes, until caramelized. Put in 4 cups stock, red wine, heat it a bit then serve. Can coarsely grate Swiss cheese, put on top, in 350 oven for 35-40 minutes

Jacques – Mustard Sauce for Asparagus (or what-have you?) 1C mayo, 2T Dijon, red wine vinegar, cracked pepper

And here is the complete entry - sweet and savory - from KQED, which produced Fast Food My Way. There are some I didn't copy for myself, but you may like to use them.

"Happy Cooking!"

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Something about this picture just struck a silly chord
in me so I had to comment:
You there! You, sixth from the break just behind the soldier wearing the white glove and three stripes. You’re never going to get three stripes, not even two stripes like the guy in front of you: your arm is swinging a tad too far out, and your foot’s raised a tad too high. Or is that the guy behind you?
Well shape up or ship out! Both of you!

Monday, August 5, 2013


Here's another transfer from Latelife Recipes:

These quick sweets recipes are some from Pépin's book Fast Food My Way. If you ever watched the PBS show, Fast Food My Way, did you notice that the whole meal took just the half-hour or less to prepare? Couldn't be easier. And so many of the recipes adapt for as many as will be at your table.

Realizing that there were no desserts in all the previous recipes here, I separated the sweet from the savory recipes, which I'll post next.
Read through these recipes and be thinking of how you could adapt them and make them your own, depending on what you regularly stock in your kitchen. You may not have the fruit sherbet to go with the pineapple slices and kirsch, but you might have some good vanilla ice cream.


Ricotta honey mix. For a fast and easy dessert, place a graham cracker on each plate and put a large spoonful or scoop of ricotta on top. Pour a couple of tablespoons of honey on over and around the ricotta and sprinkle on some diced dried apricots and dark raisins. This dessert is better still with the addition of a few drops of Grand Marnier.

Pineapple slices in kirsch with sherbet. A pineapple slice flavored with kirshwasser (cherry brandy) is a classic combination from my years in the great kitchens of Paris. Arrange a fresh or canned pineapple slice with some of the syrup or a sprinkling of sugar on each dessert plate, and pour a little kirsch on top. Place a small scoop of fruit sherbet (lemon, orange, tangerine, strawberry, or raspberry) in the hollow center of each slice. Garnish with mint leaves and serve with a cookie.

Pineapple frosties. Ideal for hot summer nights at the beach, these tasty cold drinks are a cinch to make. Emulsify a mixture of canned crushed pineapple in syrup, crushed ice, a little lime juice, and dark rum in a food processor. Spoon into glasses, garnish with mint sprigs, and serve.

Apricot sherbet. For a quick dessert, puree a can of apricot halves in heavy syrup in a blender for about 30 seconds to infuse the mixture with air. Transfer the puree to a glass baking dish so it forms a fairly thin layer that will cool quickly, and place in the freezer until semisoft. (If making the sherbet ahead, freeze the puree until solid, and then, several hours before serving, soften it in the refrigerator until you can scoop it out of the dish. For a creamier result, process for a few seconds in a food processor.) Spoon into cold glasses, top with pistachio nuts, and serve each dessert with a cookie.

Blueberries in raspberry sauce with ice cream. Any berries are great for a summertime dessert. Mix some blueberries in a bowl with raspberry jam and a little cognac or water. Spoon into cocktail glasses, top each with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, and serve with a cookie.

Happy Cooking! as Jacques always says.

Friday, August 2, 2013


For those of you new to my blog I am repeating the story of one of our favorite days in France.

It was a serendipitous decision to spend a Sunday in St. Remy-de-Provence during the annual festival in celebration of their saint’s day. The day began with the running of a bull through the town. Most spectators stood behind temporary barriers, but some were up trees or on walls or light poles. The true ‘crazies’ just stood about and scattered when the bull came down the street. It was hilarious to see them panic when the bull turned and started back toward them. A large group of Camarguaise horsemen, the Gardians, dressed in black and carrying trident spears, trotted along behind on their white horses, generally herding the lone bull in the same way they herd the semi-wild horses and bulls of the region.

We had been to St. Remy on their regular market day. Vendor stalls of every kind radiated out from the town square into the side streets. Everything from bras to bananas to baskets was available and attractively displayed: clothing, antiques, art work, jewelry, fabric, and flowers. There were foods of all kinds, enough to make a serious foodie weep for joy to see them, or for sorrow that so many of them are not available at home. A few days later that square was jammed with carnival rides and games. I don’t know how they wedged them all in there. We wandered around town, entertained by a strolling brass band. Everywhere we looked there were folks in Provençal costume, all very happy to pose for pictures. One lovely woman, dressed like van Gogh’s L’ Arlésienne, chatted with us and described the various parts of her costume.

For lunch we went a bit south of town to Glanum, the site of an ancient Roman city. Their restaurant offers lunch as the Romans would have enjoyed it. The dish of the day was the Domitia Plate, four different things: a dish of mashed chick peas with olive oil, pepper, and cumin; roast pork with an absolutely delicious sauce of honey and - yes! - anchovies; duck pâté on toast; and melon chunks tossed with olive oil, cumin and coriander. I don’t think the Romans lacked for culinary delights if they ate a meal like that one.  

Lunch under our adjusted belts, we went back to the town arena to see the Camargue’s version of the bullfight. Much to our surprise, it turned out to be the grand re-opening of the arena, with all the local dignitaries on hand for some pomp and circumstance. The speeches and entertainment were accompanied by the same band, now in more elaborate uniforms. There was an amazing group of whip-wielding men performing a rhythmic, snapping, routine. We wondered how they kept their wrists in shape for such strenuous tricks. A few more speeches, and then, to our delight, in came all of the Gardians on horseback, performing a practiced quadrille, and the costumed folk we’d seen that morning. From little girls to elegant gentlemen and ladies, including L’Arlésienne, they did a measured promenade and a lively version of a May-pole dance.

Before ‘Inauguration’ we had located our ticketed seats and decided it was going to be a tight squeeze. Some folks had already spread out into our numbered spaces, so we hopped up and sat on the top wall where the view was unobstructed and perfect for taking pictures. Our move delighted some of the locals already sitting up there. They’d rarely seen tourists at such a local event. After the Inauguration the ‘Course’ began. Despite the language barrier - I’m only a bit conversant in French - they got over to us all about what would be happening.

This is a bull fight where the bull has all the advantages. The ‘fight’ is called la Course à la Cocarde, or the Course Camarguaise. Teams of agile men, dressed in white, vie for the cockades or knots tied to the bulls horns. The ‘raseteurs’, the ‘shavers’, wear a small rake-type device over their knuckles, and they dart in to meet a charging bull, trying to rake or snatch the knotted string from the bull’s horns. The team winning the most knots wins.
The bulls are a small breed but their horns are wicked. They run the teams all over the arena. You can bet those men are extremely quick. Twice we saw a bull jump over the arena’s guard wall in pursuit of a raseteur. Many times they chased men who had to jump up on the guard wall and then up onto the concrete wall of the stands in order to evade those horns. But when the bull starts to tire, when he starts to foam at the mouth, he is quickly retired and a fresh bull enters the fray. Do the tired men get replaced? Mais non! Certainly not! At the end we couldn’t tell which team won and which lost, but it can be said, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that for several hours there was never a dull moment. 

Exhausted and elated, we headed back to our château home-away-from-home to celebrate our day with a bottle of good Rhone wine.
À votre santé!