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Monday, December 20, 2010

Bon mot from Jacob Dineson.

Speaking of the drunken matchmaker (Fishl) and the unhappy lad he has just signed up to marry a wrinkled, yellowed old maid:

Fishl, of course, forgot Alter immediately after the engagement party, just as the gravedigger forgets the corpse immediately after the burial...


Friday, December 17, 2010

Baking twice in one day: coconut walnut chocolate bars!

A vestigial feeling for Christmas compels me to bake at this dark time of year. My high-school sophomore friend Menticia and I made these today for her family.

Chocolate coconut walnut bars

10 tablespoons of butter coarsely grated
3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/4 cups flour
2 eggs
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 cup toasted walnuts (whole or pieces or chopped)
1 cup (or more) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix first three ingredients to sandy crumbles and press into a lasagna pan. Bake for about 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, mix the eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt very thoroughly. Add baking powder and flour and blend well. Add coconut, walnuts, and chips and blend well.

Pour onto the hot crust and spread evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes.


Today's Molasses Peanut Butter Cookies

Last night as my housemate and I were enjoying being in the warm house while "wintry mix" was occurring outside, I got a call from my son Ezra: after his long shift at work, he'd crossed the howling tundra through the wintry mix, heaved his groceries into the car and plopped into the driver's seat with a sigh, and turned the key and - nothing.

He got a friend to jump his battery - nothing. He called me and what an amazement! Just that very day his new AAA card had arrived - I signed us up on the 2-for-1 plan. How often does that happen? So he called triple A and they came and they installed a new battery and he made it home.

But since he'd never called me after that first call, and his phone was out of juice, I thought he was still out shivering in the cold unable to solve his problem, perhaps with a busted starter or alternator or something.

So I called Bob Vasile, who has become a sort of uncle to Ez, and he pried himself up out of his cozy chair and went out in the wintry mix to save Ez. Who was gone, because he'd solved his own problem.

So, in gratitude, I just cooked these cookies for Bob. I kind of invented the recipe because the one I always use in the "Joy of Cooking" isn't very good, it's dry and crumbly. This one is more interesting. I would make it again.


1/2 c. butter, mostly melted in microwave
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. molasses (not blackstrap)
2/3 c. chunky peanut butter
1 egg
1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Beat together the first five ingredients and whip well. Add the rest of the ingredients and whip some more. Cook at 360 degrees for as long as you like. (Bob likes them a little burnt.)


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

There are still a few real farms in Orange County NC

Roger Tate farm - CSA in Efland, Orange County NC
Today I visited Roger Tate's farm in Efland, NC. For a few years he has been supplying the orchardgrass hay Jethro and Superman hoover down every day. I feel much better about this than the hay I bought that was trucked in from New York state. I haven't tried it myself but I can see Jethro and Superman find it quite tasty.

The Tate family has been farming in this area for more than 200 years; Roger and his father transitioned from tobacco to hay and then grass-fed beef several years ago. They also have chickens.

Under the name Harmony Hill Farm, Roger Tate and his wife Lisa are getting into CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). (My daughter Hannah was a member of a CSA coop in New York City.) People pay a certain flat fee (this coming year the fee at Roger's farm is $500) and this pre-payment allows the farming to begin. Then, every week for 24 weeks subscribers get a box of produce grown on the farm. For locavores who don't have the time for a lot of gardening, there's no better arrangement.

Email Harmony Hill Farm or call 336-269-1172 to get further information and sign up. You can also "friend" Harmony Hill Farm on Facebook.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A different December

Though I generally don't believe in other people's mysterious ailments, I do believe in my own, which happily now has a name, seasonal affective disorder, but which has filled me with horror, despair and a feeling of infinite bleakness since I was a kid and they hadn't invented it yet. I've tried the lamps and mild anti-depressants but the shadows still start to get long in what should be the middle of the afternoon and I feel like retreating to a small corner of my room with a pillow over my head by about 6 pm.

Maybe this is why I came to fear and loathe the end-of-year so-called celebrations (Christmas, New Year, my birthday) and to feel anybody who could distract me from the misery was my hero. My first true love rescued me at this time of year, I walked three miles to a highway exit to have him pick me up and spirit me away from my home full of horror, despair, and the feeling of infinite bleakness.

This year I've been rescued in an entirely different way. My beloved son has, after all his travails, come back to live here for at least a while (I hope a long while). Bob Vasile and I have been fitting out the studio across the driveway for him and he's moved into it so at night I see the gentle light from his window - and he comes up here for meals and fun.

Also, a dear long-time friend - who's known me since Ezra was a baby - has also moved in as she adjusts to life without her long-time husband. I hope she'll stay a long time too. She has a sense of order which calms me and she sponges a counter equally as well as my perhaps-last-ever sweetheart Eric did. She has a robust enjoyment of the world and talking to her is like visiting a sunnier country. She's social and we've already had one party and soon will have another! We share books and desultory conversations over tea.

Even better, she and Ezra really enjoy each others' company and I love to listen to them chatting and cracking each other up at night over a shared beer.

I feel blessed to have them here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pictures of animals in snow around my house

My housemate Mitzi took these...