Wednesday, March 14, 2018


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Little ramblings on writings about food:

In a perfectly delicious Father Brown short story, The Invisible Man, I was captivated by the first paragraph:

In the cool blue twilight of two steep streets in Camden Town, the shop at the corner, a confectioner’s, glowed like the butt of a cigar. One should rather say, perhaps, like the butt of a firework, for the light was of many colours and some complexity, broken up by many mirrors and dancing on many gilt and gaily-coloured cakes and sweetmeats. Against this one fiery glass were glued the noses of many guttersnipes, for the chocolates were all wrapped in those red and gold and green metallic colours which are almost better than chocolate itself, and the huge white wedding cake in the window was somehow at once remote and satisfying, just as if the whole North Pole were good to eat. Such rainbow provocations could naturally collect the youth of the neighbourhood up to the ages of ten or twelve. 
       G. K. Chesterton, of course.
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And the next story in the same book is Lamb to the Slaughter with the most infamous leg of lamb in written word, served with some potatoes and a can of peas whose purchase establishes a handy alibi.

Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come home from work.    

Sinister sentence, that---especially from a "children's" writer.        

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In John Mortimer’s grim-and-cheeky stories of the Gourmand/Barrister, many mentions of lavish repasts occur between demise and denoument, stabbing and solving.  In Rumpole Rests His Case, there are numerous  breaks for lunch at Pommeroy's for S&K pie, apple tart, and Chateau Thames Embankment in the glass.   Ahhh, Rumpole---the man for whom the cuisinical term “Trencherman” was coined.

There's one memorable dinner party with some tres retro acquaintances, whose shawl-swathed lamps and cavernous dining room were enhanced by sitar music and the odors of what seemed to be "ecclesiastical incense, smouldering carpets and simmering lentils."

Mrs. R.---She Who Must Be Obeyed---is no shabby cook, either: she provides her Old Darling with a sound Brit breakfast of rashers, eggs, mushrooms, beans and tomatoes, with six crisp slices in the silver rack.   Dear Horace. 

From my friend Maggie the Cat, in her online essay, “A Whiter Shade of Sauce.”

“It’s never inspired a wild fandango, let alone cartwheels 'cross the floor. Calling it Béchamel doesn’t make it chic and rolling the "l"s in balsamella won’t make it sexy. It’s White Sauce, pale, pure and reliable, the Vestal Virgin of Escoffier’s Mother Sauces.

“It’s a Mama sauce, a Maman sauce, a Mom and Mummy sauce. There’s no macaroni and cheese, no creamed spinach, no creamed potatoes or onions without White Sauce. No lasagna, no rissoles; barely a scalloped potato. No soufflés. No crap on clapboard. No sauce for chicken-fried steak or salmon patties. No choufleur gratinée or cute little coffins of chicken a la King. No éclairs, cream puffs, or Boston Cream Pie, because isn’t pastry cream white sauce with sugar, egg and vanilla?

“In this order, place butter, flour and milk in a saucepan, some salt, maybe a twist of beige from the nutmeg grinder -- all it calls for is some attention with the wooden spoon and an eye to the size and activity of the bubbles. The proportions are way simpler than the multiplication flashcards my father drilled me with in third grade. My mother called them out over her shoulder as she chopped parsley and cleaned the big can of salmon.

“I remember: “One tablespoon each of butter and flour for thin, two for medium, three for thick. Keep stirring. Watch the heat -- you don’t want to burn it.” Some Maternal Units would never besmirch the snowy stuff with black pepper -- though not my mother, Julia Child was passionate about the white pepper only rule. I like the black specks, (always) a grating of nutmeg, and (often) a pinch of cayenne. When I have extra time I add a fillip of my own: I throw a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, and a few fresh tarragon leaves into the milk, warm it up to the small bubble stage, then let it cool down and infuse. I strain out the herbs before I add the milk to the roux, pondering the greatness of the bouquet garni, and what a clever cook I am.”


And my response to her wonderful treatment of such a simple, elegant old stand-by recipe---the secret’s-in-the-sauce kind of concoction, and which elevates a plebeian mix of flour, butter and milk into elite territory, along with whawhatever vegetable, meat, pasta or casserole is cloaked or soaked in it:  

Absolutely Breeeelyant, Maggie, as always. Your mastery of the concept and the execution is impressive, but not surprising. And your research and knowledge are a formidable team with your incomparable way with words.
I learned to make White Sauce at a very young age, in exactly the same 1-2-3 over-the-shoulder that you did; my Mammaw would be boning chicken for a la King, or skinning the tiny blanched pearl onions (specially ordered once a year, for Christmas Dinner---no canned mush for HER table).

After about the second “making” I noticed that she just kept right on with her work, humming along with the radio, and I remember the tight feeling in my chest as the swell of pride in my kitchen independence almost overwhelmed me. I’d made cakes and cornbread and biscuits by myself for ages, but WHITE SAUCE! Ladies talked about how hard it was in WMU meeting and at Wednesday Bridge at my friend’s house, while we hid and listened and snuck little sandwiches. It was mentioned so often, for so many dishes, I’d thought it was some kind of formula you’d have to learn in college.

I way later learned the word Bechamel from Italian neighbors---the ones who taught me to make ravioli from scratch, and pizzelle and latugi. They sang out the word so rapidly as we started putting together the lasagna---Besh’-meh---that I had to ask several times, so I could look it up. And it was good ole White Sauce.

I used the word for quite some time back when I was catering parties---I’d rattle it off myself like I assumed they knew it, too, and it FELT impressive. But when I got back to my own old Franklin, melting the butter gently in the big wide skillet, using a worn-down old flat wooden paddle to keep every fleck of flour constantly moving---I was standing in that familiar old kitchen in that tiny shotgun house, hearing my Mammaw’s words so long unspoken, “A Tablespoon each of Butter and Flour . . .” 

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All this drought and now the Freshet turns Flood.   Anybody got a wrench?

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Saturday, March 3, 2018


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I woke up this morning remembering that today is Grandmother and Papa White’s 100th Anniversary.  She was five years older than he (just like I am than Chris, only he was 19 and she, 24) and his Mama took to her bed for about a week and wouldn’t get up. 

The young folks left the house in their Sunday clothes, heading the buggy for the Preacher’s house to get him to marry them, and always said the angels must have guided them, for they “met the Preacher in the middle of the road.”   They just sat in the buggies and had what they called a “sitting down” wedding, with them facing one way and he the other.   They were married for 68 years, til he passed away in 1986, and she soon after.

And I do hope that you all know that I’m still here, reading and enjoying all your blogs and activities and adventures, seeing your happiness and creativity and hopes and joys, as well as your heroic and stalwart progress against odds and sorrows and trials.   My heart is with you in all your endeavours---I just still haven’t got past this little glitch which causes GOOGLE to disremember me at every turn.  Contrary to some opinions, I’m just lost out here in the atmosphere, and not pouting, traveling or passed on.  My e-mail is in my profile, should you ever want or need to drop by.   Moire non when I can correspond once again,


Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Paxton People---from a long-ago musing about a friend from the past.   The views and opinions expressed are those of the participants, and not mine, A'TALL, but I DO see her point.

Miss Clemmie Stone is a nice widow-lady with a small neat house, the same car they had when Mr. 'Clellan was alive, and a lifelong yen to travel.  Her travel plans have been curtailed for quite some years by seeing to grandchildren.  Her two daughters and one son have five children amongst them, but the daughters live some distance away now, so she mostly only “sees” them on weekends and holidays. 

Her son’s kids she sees almost every day, because even before the first one was born, they just kinda expected Mee-maw to pick up the reins and “keep the kids” when Suezette went back to work at the Chevrolet place.   And so it has been for little Stevie, age six, Clella, who is closing in on five, and baby Arden, who has almost reached his second birthday.     

Miss Clemmie loves and adores those children, but sometimes, you know, she just gets TIRED.  Until they came along, she’d never much heard of allergies or gluten-free or so many grains she has to keep a notebook. Nobody IS Allergic, but   Suezette and Mack are very particular about every bite that goes into the kids’ mouths, getting lots of tips and information from various parenting blogs.    That’s a hard row to hoe for Miss Clemmie, whose cooking has won Fair prizes and whose abundant table has been the pride of the family for all her housekeeping years.   But she keeps up, with special steel-cut oats and organic fruit, and making sure the fresh-picked vegetables in her own garden have never seen hide nor hair of an insecticide or improper fertilizer. 

And you know, that’s a bit of a tiring LIFE, when you come right down to it---even if you DID choose it for yourself and your family and adhere religiously to your own standards.   For somebody who loves to cook, and mostly must refrain from a great long list of really good ingredients---well, you can make a task out of any enjoyable endeavour.   And Miss Clemmie tried, she really did.   She abolished things from her pantry, like Vanilla Wafers and Eagle Brand, and she shopped way over in Greenvillle at the Whole Foods, coming home with quinoas and berries and bitter dark macaroni.  She read the backs of stuff til she just about went blind.   

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And she just flat QUIT cooking anything for herself when the children were there, because it was just not right to tempt those little fellows with all those good scents from the kitchen, when they had to sit down to yogurt and hummus and fruit.   Sometimes she’d put a good stew or casserole in the crock-pot and plug it in out in the potting shed, just so she could have a good supper once in a while, and not have to eat at midnight cause she got started cooking so late.  

Food was not the only persnickety thing Meemaw had to worry about---there was a TV ban, a certain time for arts and crafts, a time for reading, and other activities planned for Meemaw to teach and conduct during the day, with special lesson plans and equipment and books recommended by “the experts.” Suezette spent more money on stuff from the “smart kids’ store” than she did on their shoes, and it all stayed at Meemaw’s “to give them something  educational to do.”  

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 Things rocked on for some several years at that pace, with this restriction and that new article that Suezette had found online, until finally Nature itself changed the course of the whole thing. 

Mack and Stevie went to their first Guys and Dads overnight camping with their church group, and came home with some sort of oopsies that flew through the other kids like wildfire. And that Monday, Suezette brought them to Mee-Maw’s as usual, still pale and and pitiful, throwing up and needing lots of care and juice and bankies-on-the-couch.     They had quite a day of it, with lots of whoopsing and cleanups and fresh clothes, and every kiddo into the tub at least once, so Miss Clemmie was absolutely give ka-dab OUT.   

She had just turned on a video of Big Trucks to keep the not-puking-at-the-moment two entertained while she bathed the third one, who just had---Again, when Suezette breezed in late for the umpteenth time.   Suezette ignored the damp towels, the pile of her children’s fresh laundry on the table, ready for folding.  She swept right by those, stepping over scattered books and crafts and empty Pedialyte bottles.

 And as soon as Suezette caught sight of the TV on in the daytime, she rounded on her Mother-in-Law as if she’d caught her with the kids duct-taped to chairs.

“Naaow, MEEE-Maw,” she said, in that fake I-like-you voice of hers. Cocking her head and looking at Meemaw over her glasses, she made a fatal error. 

 “I THAWt we SAY-ed no TEEE-Vay.”

Condescending is one thing. Talking Down To is another, but Condescending in a Southern Accent is too great a cross to bear---worse than shouting or lies.      

And that was it.   The moment when Miss Clemmie had Had Enough.  And though she loved and adored those children with every bit of her being, she just couldn’t do it any more---not all that careful watchful diet stuff, that every-minute-an-activity stuff, that raising their children for them  for free in such strict confines that she just couldn’t.

And so now Miss Clemmie travels.  She arranges little day-trips and weekends on those wonderful buses that run from up at Clarksdale to Memphis and the casinos, or to the coast for a little relaxation, and one time to Gatlinburg.   The children come visit her for a lot of weekends.  And sometimes for Sunday Dinner.

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Friday, December 29, 2017


 A little remembrance in these days of Taking Down The Tree:  

For several years in my childhood, silver-foil Christmas trees with their skeletal limbs encased in sparkly tinsel like Reynolds Aluminum’s dream of Heaven spent their nights in picture windows. 
   The trees came in a long narrow box, like maybe a big umbrella would come in, and you had to put it together.   It was like poking immense scratchy, frilly cocktail picks into holes in a broom handle, and about as attractive---I thought those spindly sparse things were ugly as sin, and not even the lights would save them.  It felt to me like dressing up an old scraggly twig doll in a crinoline dress---I’m sure it was SOMEBODY’S magic; it just wasn’t mine.

Sitting on the floor beside each tree would be a motorized color-wheel flooding the room with green, red, blue, gold in a never-ending carousel of color.

It was like living  inside a perpetual traffic-light, with the addition of a blue section adding a bit of underwater whimsy to one turn of the projector.

Folks watched their Motorolas and Zeniths, absorbed in black and white Kraft Theater and Hallmark Hall of Fame, whilst their faces, bodies and living-room furniture were hued in that succession of four shades of light.  

I suppose we all had one of those trees at one time or another, and we just sat right down with the curtains open, eyes fixed on the comedy of Milton Berle whilst we were turned into clowns ourselves in that revolving rainbow.   People rode around to look at the lights, meeting and greeting out rolled-down windows, as we looped the blocks of our town or one of the nearby ones for that seasonal display.   As cliché as the trees are, we’d ride several miles, turning corners and following the glow, with the only variables being the size of the windows, the family visible through them, and what show was on TV.

After the heyday of those silver trees (possibly coming along and leisurely running into a  trend-blend  like cream clouding  into coffee) came the quickly-spreading fad (at least as fast as the thorny limbs would grow) of Christmas pyracantha.      

Espaliered Pyracantha, to be exact, and for everybody who had one, there were two who couldn’t pronounce it.   Thoughts ranged around the Espa-leered range, with a few ventures into variants, and some of the most posh assayed the French---Es-Spale-Yerd or Es-pelli-aid. 

 Pyracanthas were exotic, beautiful things, claiming a place not given to the boxwoods and Burfordii, with their lush red clusters and  branches staple-sculpted against walls and trellises.  They were lovely plants---bright with berries and rife with thorns that would do you mischief if you handled them wrong.  

Displays ranged from big bushy berry-covered beauties, to little short scrawls like a child's first cursive.   

Husbands were pressed into service to brave the thorns and train the limbs into two-dimensional shapes with staples driven into the wall.     Half the houses in town had a Rorschach-in-red on one wall or another---chiefly the one with the 300-watt bulb pointed at it from its little stob stuck into the ground, and wearing a kite-tail of heavy extension cord.      These beauties had the lagniappe of serving all year round, for when the berries were not in season, just that silhouette against the bricks was like the shadowy trees on Asian screens, or the profiles of evergreens inside-painted on glass lampshades---ethereal, ghostly shadows.

Having a nicely-shaped, good-sized Pyracantha crawling up your wall gave you bragging rights, of a sort, with as many hair-dryer and bridge club discussions of fertilizer and pruning as were devoted to yellow cake mix.   Often the plants were embellished with other art, ranging from suns to moons to the ever-popular lavabos. 

And familiarity did NOT always breed correct, for the pronouncing still wavered into odd and lofty and downright uppity territory, mostly amongst the ladies, causing snickers and re-tellings of the grandest and silliest, and on more than one occasion, causing one thorn-scarred and fed-up husband to ask, “Dang, Woman---coutten you just say ’STAPLED’?” 

I cannot seem to close up the above big space---every time I try to delete or move it, it jumps farther apart.   Feel Free to fill in with anything you'd like.   A plant of your own, some musings on Christmas, pictures of your pets.   Label your ornament boxes, like you've been meaning to.  
Talk amongst yourselves. 

Monday, December 11, 2017


Today’s Fudge-Making Day, so it can cool and be cut for delivering around town to clients, so I’m “fudging” with the posts and using  this one from Christmas, eight years ago.  Wish I still had as much time and energy as I did then, when I was looking after a two-year-old three days a week.  She’s quite adept in the kitchen now, herself, and I’m sure she could show me a thing or two.


This time of year, I wonder if the Revenooers might think we've got a still in the basement, turning out 'Shine. That's the way they used to catch a lot of bootleggers in the South, by the amount of sugar they were buying, going from store to store for a hundred pounds here, and fifty there. And we haul it home with the wagon draggin'---like we're driving Thunder Road.

Just plain Fudge, creamy and chocolatey---I love its colour and shine:

I'm the candy-making Elf---Kahlua Fudge, with a couple of shots of Espresso Syrup and Kahlua. Chocolate coffee beans atop.

Cappuccino Fudge, with a shot of Espresso syrup in the recipe:

Reese's Loaves---the bottom is the old-fashioned recipe for Peanut Butter Fudge, with extra-crunchy, left to sit in the pans til cool and firm, then a small pour of plain fudge on top.

The platter has to be empty by Christmas Morning---that's where the Banana Bread by my Mother's recipe goes, with a little dish of soft cream cheese alongside.

The loaves cut into giving-size portions---you can see they're in thirds, with little rounded corners on some---this is a VERY rich candy. I advise cutting it in little short-ways slices, rather than the big ones on the platter above.

Caro made Miss Laura Bush's Cowboy Cookies, with oatmeal, chocolate chips, coconut and pecans:

Some crisp, salty snacks to counteract all that sugar---Caro's Chex Mix:

Rocky Road, with roasted peanuts and tiny marshmallows tossed with melted Ghirardelli:

Here's the tableful of goodies for clients and friends---not nearly all of what we made, but it looks pretty, all arrayed like that. We swap the pretty cloths for an old red vinyl picnic sheet, and use a lot of Windex on the two glass tables, for candy-making is messy work.

And one more look at the shining, lovely original, from which all the recipes spring:

Wishing y’all ALL the SWEETNESS of this Blessed Season!