Despite the dark corner, I stand tall and proud.  Strength. Patience. Potent. The passage of time does not diminish me. I know my worth. I, who have negotiated for those ransomed by offering myself in exchange for those of lesser value, know the game of waiting . Long ago, I was sought after across continents and even cherished. Yet, time does not diminish me. I have never felt the loss like so many others as they vie for daily accolades. Now, relegated to an occasional glance or tentative embrace, I retain my power.

Do not be misled by my playfulness as I dance and weave among partners. Teasing you with my bawdy behavior, I fool you into thinking that you are more than you appear to be. Taste my lips. I manipulate this masquerade of intimacy all too easily for such a guileless novice as you. I can just as easily slip through your fingers as the white sands in the hourglass turn and descend to their nadir. Turn on me, if you dare. I will bite you. Burn you. Fervor will be my calling card.

I am indifferent to your years of thoughtlessness. Neglect me. I am not diminished. I wait. You will need me. Know this to be my truth. And when I come to you – when the door is thrown open and ambient light illuminates all that is before you, when the dark places are no longer my home, prepare to take the bitter with the sweet.


Mould

 

This writing is my nod to white pepper. It holds meaning in our family, and though I anthropomorphize it, I delight in its occasional use. My husband’s grandfather was a thirteen year old, Flemish lad and a baker’s apprentice who emigrated from Belgium to the United States in the early 1900s. He brought with him the mould you see here for speculoos cookies which was used to celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6.  

My mother-in-law shared the recipe with me, which has now been lost or perhaps, misplaced. But, I remember a key ingredient, one which my family of origin never used for any purpose, is white pepper. A lone container of the spice has sat in the back of our cupboard for decades just waiting for us, to every so often, bring it out from its obscurity to limited fame.

Below I am including two links, one for speculoos and the other for a variety of foods elevating this ground berry to quotidian status:

 

Speculoos cookies  (This is a Dutch recipe, but close to my memory of the family’s list of ingredients)

 

White Pepper recipes  (choose from among 2212 options)
Smakelijk!

Kiffles

17/09/2016

recipe-001The Christmas season. On our table standing proudly are these basic ingredients: Pillsbury flour, Land O’Lakes butter, Philadelphia brand cream cheese and Rumford’s baking powder – the one in the small, red can. Next to this are her utensils: a large stoneware bowl to mix the pastry, glass measuring cups and inexpensive aluminum measuring spoons, a knife from our everyday set, and a well-worn, wooden rolling-pin. My Aunt Agnes Check’s recipe – a blending of Slovak family heritage with Italian sensibilities. A new heritage.

Pounds of Diamond’s unshelled walnuts wait for my mother and me on this winter evening – a school night. We sit at the white porcelain kitchen table-top that my parents purchased when they were newlyweds. Metal nutcrackers in hand, we sit together in a comfortable silence and begin to squeeze and crack. It is tough work for a ten-year old. Repetitive. Detailed. Inexperienced, I laboriously pick out the bits and pieces of meat left behind in the inner shells – spaces dark and convoluted in nature. My mother’s pile is substantive while mine – quite a pitiful showing for the attention I am dedicating to this task – fill only a cup.  Our conversations alleviate the tediousness; our banter brightens the evening hours. We talk of the nuns, my teachers; the friends and the cliques to which I belong and those where I am shunned, already at a tender age. Back to family, she carefully guides the talk, of Christmas gifts, wrappings, of course, eating. Ham or turkey? Both kinds of potatoes? My hands begin to hurt, but I am loathe to leave. Feeling as if I am caught in some dark fairy-tale with the impossible task, I persevere not for my survival, but for my mother’s love.

 

bake-001

 

My son, plugged in, and baking kiffles for the holidays. Same recipe; different generation.

Five pints for $5.00!  Unpacking my sack from the local co-op, my husband asks (somewhat annoyed as he disdains raspberries and those petite seeds), “What are you going to do with ALL those?”  Defensively, and rather arrogantly I reply, “Make a cake.” Please note: In my life, I have NEVER made a raspberry cake.bake1

I am eternally grateful to live in the age of internet (Thank you, Al Gore.) as my immediate instinct is to google “raspberry cake recipe” before I am found out to the duplicitous baker that I am. As a librarian (who is not duplicitous) I know enough to go beyond the first page, and it is on one of the subsequent lists of hits that I find one to my liking by Elaine McCardle for “Almond Raspberry Cake.”

Today, this very day, is baking day since the husband – disparager of all things raspberry – is working on his 1963 Porsche 356c carburetor which should occupy him for some time. Translation: I have the kitchen (and the house!) to myself for a few hours. Arranging the ingredients in the Dewey Decimal order on the counter, in librarian fashion, I realize something vitally important is missing – my Motown music!  Again, grateful to Al Gore, I set the Roku for Pandora and I blast the sounds of Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Jimmy Ruffin, and Detroit musicians ad nauseum (oh, how I miss my high-school dances!), and begin to mix this and that with a soulful beat.

cake

Suddenly, it hits me!  It really is summer…I am home having one heck of a good time in the middle of the morning with raspberries and Motown.

Cooking: the books

28/07/2015

Italian cookbookOne of the more mundane tasks set aside for our family this summer is downsizing..one small area at a time. It is the only way I know to maintain any semblence of good humor. Today, the spouse and I tackled the print cookbooks.  Many were “handed down” or gifted from family and friends decades ago. Moreso, there are recipes with handwritten notes and dates – or even a drawing of a “skull & crossbones”  next to a particular cookie recipe (which I will not share with you).  We sit and reminisce, laugh, and sigh. It is time to let someone else find their memories here.

250 Irish Recipes: Traditional and Modern. Dublin: Mount Salus, 1962. Print.
This was given to us by my in-laws. My father-in-law always envied those of Irish descent. So when they traveled to Ireland, this little books was carried back by my mother-in-law.  She was a fabulous cook who studied with James Beard and others. Why we have this book, I have no idea as neither my husband or I even cooked one recipe.  Perhaps it was just a reminder – a link to our parents – a time gone by, and “Garlic Cough Syrup” should we ever need it!

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