Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Robert May's French Bread from 1660

Trophies of Cookery

Acorns were good until bread was found. 
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) 

As you may know – well, anyone who happened to read my article on Blanquette de Veau in The Art of Eating or Seeing Red: the Bittersweet History of the Radish in The Foodie Bugle knows that I am fascinated by the history of a food. How was a dish created, who concocted the very first one, how did it develop over the years? And very old recipes intrigue me even more than modern inspiration. I just have the idea that it was all so much more of a challenge way back when. So needless to say, I was very happy when I saw that Ilva had selected a recipe for September's Bread Baking Babe's challenge that was originally written in 1660.

Monday, September 15, 2014



Never, never, before Heaven, have I thought of you but as the single, bright, pure, blessed recollection of my boyhood and my youth. Never have I from the first, and never shall I to the last, regard your part in my life, but as something sacred, never to be lightly thought of, never to be esteemed enough, never, until death, to be forgotten. 
– Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Clams in White Wine


We are the children of our landscape; it dictates behavior and even thought 
in the measure to which we are responsive to it. 
- Lawrence Durrell 

What a hectic week it's been in France! A Presidential scandal, a parliamentary scandal involving a deputy, and the far right national party trying to muscle their way closer to the top. And la rentrée, the start of the new school year and the new changing time organization, five days of class instead of four, which, of course, has led to scandal among mayors and teachers alike. Sigh. I guess a demonstration can't be far behind. On a more personal note, the sun is out and has pushed the dreary, rainy summer out, now a faded memory. The air is crisp, cool, and foreboding good things, a bright future. And our lives are about to change, so this is a very good omen.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Honey Whiskey Bundt Cake with Honey Whiskey Butter Glaze


Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough. 
Mark Twain 

I am not a drinker. Neither were my parents although my father absolutely demanded a bar in the family room (big, hulking thing he built himself yet never finished even as it stood there for at least twenty years). That bar was filled with everything convivial: whisky, rum, Kahlua and Grand Marnier. Mixes for Tom Collins and bottles of bitters. Yet twenty years later those very same jars were still tucked away behind the bar glazed with twenty years worth of dust. But I digress. I am not a drinker other than my half glass of wine with a meal. Maybe a bit more with dessert or a box of fine chocolates.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Notes From Nantes


Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don't come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they're having a piss. - Banksy, Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall 

Graffiti has become a real casse-tête in Nantes, a headache, a puzzle, an ongoing debate. As in every city and town across the country, I imagine. It is undoubtedly illegal, defacing public and private property. A prohibited activity, which has become a moral dilemma. The city spends millions of euros to clean walls, buildings, to erase, expunge, obliterate the unwanted, these blots on our society.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chocolate Chip Pecan Buttermilk Muffins


To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. 
- Oscar Wilde 

Comfort Food. It's all I could think of today. I needed comfort food. I wasn't sad, I wasn't heartbroken. I wasn't even wistful, contemplating better worlds and future hopes. Nope…. I was exhausted. Two weeks solid, non-stop of helping my younger son organize his internship in Germany, find housing, figure out transportation, yadda yadda yadda, Marty recovering from his surgery and older son off in the wilds of Senegal, working and partying amid the threat of ebola (images of The Masque of the Red Death dance through my head although I know I am exaggerating), not to mention our own waiting for our own plans to fall into place (fingers crossed). I was simply and utterly worn out. But don't get me wrong: all is good.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fast and Fabulous French Bread


Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes 
and home-made bread - there may be. 
- David Grayson 

Even as I have warm, oven-fresh bread practically at my fingertips whenever I like, baked daily at the boulangerie a mere two-minute walk from my home, I still yearn to pull a homemade loaf from my own oven. I love the measuring of ingredients, the cups, the poofs of flour, the yeast fizzling and foaming in a few inches of warm water, the rhythmic movements of kneading, the graceful shaping into rounds, lengths or braids, carefully brushing each loaf with egg wash and dusting the tops with sesame seeds or coarse salt. I press my nose to the warm oven door and watch with bated breath as the loaves rise and color, waiting for the moment when the kitchen, my home is filled with the scent of fresh bread.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rum-Poached Plums and Mousse

SUMMER BARBECUE: A Progressive Dinner

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, 
listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, 
is by no means a waste of time. 
- John Lubbock, The Use Of Life 

Not much of a summer we've had. It's been cool if not downright chilly. Gray and lots of rain. We have enjoyed nary a picnic out in the vines nor many strolls along the river. I did spend an extremely hot few weeks in Florida, sweltering days, steamy evenings. We did fire up the grill on my brother's back porch for steaks and corn on the cob but it was tough simply hanging around the patio for long periods of time.; breathing became labored and sweat trickled down my back. Hot. Okay, so I'm not happy here and I'm not happy there. Because I miss the eating outside.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Polenta Bread


Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn. 
- Garrison Keillor 

I grew up with cornmeal, such an American thing, hushpuppies deep fried, dipped in powdered sugar and eaten with Florida fish and seafood dinners; cornbread dotted with hot green jalapenos or salty bacon, sliced and eaten at barbecue joints. Corn muffins with their faint sweetness, broken open, slathered with salty butter until it melts against the warm crumb becoming damp and moist, a deeper yellow. And we won't even mention the fresh corn on the cob all summer long, the bowls of cornflakes or the mountains of popcorn I must've eaten over the years. Let's stick to the glories of cornmeal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Visual Feast Chinon


Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door 
and a lost kingdom of peace. 
- Eugene O'Neill 

A stroll through the beautiful city of Chinon, and the fairytale of living in France returned and excited my esprit. One afternoon in this picturesque village with its swags of roses draped over gates and doorways, its quaint shopfronts and cobbled streets and I was once again enchanted. I forgot the daily grind of life, the drab, rainy summer we've had, the need to see my doctor that I keep putting off and trying to help one son find an internship and the worries of the other off in Africa and here I was, once again, in the beautiful, romantic France of every American girl's fairytale.


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