The end is in sight

macaron and tex

It is the eve of my exam.  Wonder how much the kiddos have studied?  Foreign language exams are last this year… the only thing standing between my students and 10 weeks of freedom is me.  And pages of verbs, adjectives, object pronouns, etc.  You get the picture. Hope you aren’t having flashbacks.  We still have practice for the closing ceremony for the 8th graders followed by lunch tomorrow.  The ceremony is on Thursday. A couple of days of meetings for the weary teachers.  Exams to grade.  Grades to enter into Veracross.  Progress reports to write.  Then freedom for me.

Today I received the beautiful plate of homemade pink macarons from my room parent. One of the 8th grade girlies gave me the armadillo.  I use a website, Tex’s French Grammar, put together by the University of Texas-Austin. The main character is Tex, an existentialist poet who just happens to be an armadillo.

char_tex

Yes, he smokes.  No, I do not approve.  Yes, he indulges in a glass of red wine from time to time.  The kiddos know that they cannot do this legally until they are 21. The grammar explanations are great.  The kiddos love to listen to the voices, especially Joe-Bob, the squirrel from College Station.

char_joe-bob

I am partial to Paw-Paw, Tex’s Cajun granddad.

char_paw-paw

I really want to go to Austin and meet the geniuses who created this website.  And now I have a little stuffed Tex to keep me company in my classroom.  Merci, EM!

I will make a trip up to the mountains to visit the relatives and hopefully see a few friends from the Class of ’76.

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Last year, before our reunion, some of us got together at Spoon, a great little place on Upper Street.  It’s the craft cocktail slingin’ counterpart to knife & fork restaurant, to quote the website.  Knife & Fork is on Lower Street, by the way.

beach

We will have our annual family week at Sunset Beach.  We all really look forward to a week when the most important decision we make is who will go back to the house to refill the cooler and make sandwiches for lunch.  Guess it was my turn that day since my chair is empty?

I have a few projects to accomplish around the house.  Organizing the notecards that I have made from my photos, go through bookcases to see if there are some books I can give away, clean out my closet.  You get the idea.  I also plan to write.  I have a new idea.  I’ve taken some notes and have the beginning of an outline.  That’s all I have to say at the moment.

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The BFF and I have pledged to get up early and walk before she has to go to work and before it is too damn hot and humid to do much besides sweat.  I am thinking 6 am, but I am an early riser.  We’ll see what the BFF thinks.

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I plan to hear some music.  There are several spots around town where the concerts are free.  We went out to Southpoint Mall last weekend to hear Big Time.  Mr. BFF is in the band.  A talented fellow.  I can’t help myself when he is singing Love Shack or Give It to Me Baby.  Just got to dance.  And attempt to embarrass him.  Not possible, but I won’t give up!  Mr. BFF, Tracy King aka Sweet T, was a member of The Castaways back in the day.  I can’t help but post this photo… (top row right)

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Last, but by no means least, I will play Gramma and spend more time with the Most Amazing Girl.  She is already 3-1/2 months old.  I cannot wait. Bonding time. Oui, elle est belle!

kennedyJune

Today’s recipe, just in time for summer so that you don’t heat up the house by using the oven.

chicken salad

Chicken Salad

adapted from Inside Brucrew Life

Shredded chicken from 1 rotisserie chicken

1-1/2 c. finely chopped pecans or almond slivers (I toast them to bring out the flavor)

3 stalks celery, chopped

4 c. halved red seedless grapes

Salt and pepper, to taste, if desired

1 c. sour cream

1 c. mayonnaise (today I used a mixture of Duke’s mayo and Just Mayo Chipotle flavor)

I c. finely chopped fresh dill, if desired (I left this out)

In a large bowl, toss together the chicken, nuts, celery, and grapes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired.

Whisk together the sour cream and mayonnaise.  Add the dressing to the chicken mixture and gently toss to coat.

Cover and refrigerate.  It’s best if allowed to chill for 2 hours so that the flavors can meld.

Bon appétit and happy summer to all.  Bonnes vacances!  Be sure to slow down a bit, if possible, and smell the flowers.  Gardenias are presently blooming in my corner of the world.  Heavenly.

gardenia

 

 

Critters

pigeon

I started looking through my photos from the January and March trips to France (yet once again) and found an theme:  critters.  I did not realize I had so many until I started looking for them.  Of course, what would it be like in Paris without pigeons?  Bertrand, our guide par excellence, said that you can be fined for feeding them in parks.  I threaten my students with horrible punishments if they do it.  They are very annoying.  (The pigeons, not the kids.) But I decided to start with a picture of one anyway.

I love lions on the other hand.  At the Musee d’Orsay–

The lion is the symbol of Arles–

How about seven three swans a-swimming in the Seine?

swans in Seine

Or “un loup qui voit?” In the courtyard at Les Invalides, there is an interesting critter carved up high.  Supposedly, Louvois, the minister of war under Louis XIV, who later was in charge of buildings, asked if he could sign his name somewhere in the Invalides.  Louis said no, so the cunning Louvois commissioned this lucarne:–

louvoit

Loup (wolf) + voit (sees) = Louvois (same pronunciation).  Clever, non?

How about a salamander in the Opéra Garnier?  I don’t know… the more I look at it, the less it looks like a salamander.  A gila monster?

salamander opera

Another one?  Spotted while walking along the Seine (on what used to be a busy expressway that it now a pedestrian walkway thanks to Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris)–

salamander2

The fountain at St. Michel–

St Michel

Dog lover?  The French sure love them.  Canines can follow their owners almost anywhere (not museums as I found out while living there in 2008).  Suggestion: always look where you are stepping.

At the market–

market dog

In a diorama-type scene about the building of Notre Dame–

creche dog

In the Marriage at Cana painting at the Louvre (the largest painting in the museum, opposite Mona)–

A dog was here- evidence near the Eiffel– at least I hope it was a dog and not a loup

pawprint

How about the mythical critters atop Notre Dame cathedral, seen from the bell tower walkway?

This guy is my favorite…

ND5

A whimsical elephant at Beaubourg/Centre Pompidou– (in the summer he squirts water)

elephant

No montage would be complete with a king on a horse– Louis XIII in Place des Vosges

king on horse

A former horse butcher shop in the Marais–

chevaux marais

The window of the Disney Store on the Champs-Élysées–

belle bete

The rooster is the symbol of France (dates back to the days of Gaul)– Le Coq Sportif shop:

le coq sportif

A black cat in Montmartre (always makes me think of Lautrec’s Chat Noir)–

montmartre black cat

Back to the Marriage at Cana

cat

Death by snakebite at the Musée d’Orsay (my title, not the real one)–

snake arm

I am very fond of les flamants roses

flamants

I prefer looking at them in the Camargue, though–

A cicada in the window in Arles (music to my ears in the summer)–

arles cicada

A piggy spotted in Arles as well–

arles pig

Also spotted in Arles… in town above one of the buildings–

arles critter

Can’t leave out the bulls and cows–

Nor the lambs in the Christmas crèche (santons from Arles) at Notre Dame–

creche lambs

The huntress and her buddy in the park in Senlis–

senlis huntress

And last but not least, can you find the pet bunny seen in the rooftop garden of a home in Aigues Mortes?

bunny in AM

And my 2017 group of “critters” who made the trip an unforgettable one–

group

Today’s recipes are brought on by my longing for lemon after my friend Mme M posted a photo of lemon cookies on Facebook last week.

lemon tree

I love lemon anything.  Daughter-in-law loves Chicken Piccata and I must confess that I had never made it before last week when she, Son #1, and Granddaughter came for dinner. Easy!  No idea why I didn’t discover this dish sooner.

Chicken Piccata

from Simply Recipes

Serves 4

  • 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 1/2 pound total), or 4-8 chicken cutlets
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or dry white wine (such as a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup brined capers
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley

1 Slice the chicken breast halves horizontally. If the breast pieces you are working with are large, you may want to cut them each into two pieces. If the pieces are still a bit thick, put them between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound them to 1/4-inch thickness.

2 Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Rinse the chicken pieces in water. Dredge them thoroughly in the flour mixture, until well coated.

3 Heat olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add half of the chicken pieces, do not crowd the pan. Brown well on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a plate. Cook the other breasts in the same manner, remove from pan. Keep them warm in a 225°F oven while you prepare the sauce.

4 Add the chicken stock or white wine, lemon juice, and capers to the pan. Use a spatula to scrape up the browned bits. Reduce the sauce by half.

Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

Serve with the sauce poured over the chicken. Sprinkle with parsley, if you wish.
lemon cookies

Lemon Cookies

adapted from Chef in Training

makes 4 dozen (depending on the size, of course!)

For the cookies:

1 c. butter, softened

1-1/4 c. granulated sugar (next time I might use only 1 cup)

1 egg, room temperature

2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tbsp. lemon zest (one med. sized lemon gave me enough juice and zest)

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. lemon flavoring (I wanted them very lemony)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

2-1/4 c. all-purpose flour

Glaze:

1-1/2 c. powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. lemon juice (a bit more in case glaze is too thick and needs to be thinned)

1 Tbsp. milk (a bit more can be used to thin the glaze if it is too thick)

1/4 tsp. vanilla

To make cookies:

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In large bowl, cream butter and sugar together.  Add egg and beat well.  Add lemon juice, zest, lemon flavoring, and vanilla and mix until well blended.

In a small bowl, whisk together salt, baking powder and flour.  Add to butter-sugar mixture until well incorporated.

Roll or scoop (I use a small melon baller) cookies into 1-inch balls.  Place on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350˚F for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.

Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Combine glaze ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until smooth.  Drizzle or spread as much or as little as you would like over the still warm cookies.

Bon appétit, mes amis.  I hope you enjoyed the menagerie!  Happy Easter!  Joyeuses Pâques!  Or just Happy Spring!

 

 

Baguettes et Beurre vs Biscuits and Bacon

breakfast #1

It isn’t a competition for me.  Really, it isn’t.  I have been back from my annual spring break trip for almost two weeks and it has taken me this long to get to the blog.  I go through a sort of grieving process and a bit of withdrawal every time I leave France. This year’s kiddos were amazing.  Great eaters, non-complainers, roll-with-the-punches-walk-for-miles 8th graders.  22 of them.  2 co-chaperones. 1 tour manager. Me.  26 of us traipsing around France for 11 days.  The weather was unbelievably beautiful.  Picnics and eating outside were the norm this time.  So, I will focus this post on food.

Breakfast.  A good baguette tartinée with real butter and some honey or fig jam, s’il vous plaît.

I won’t say no to a pain aux raisins…

pain aux raisins

Or a croissant, especially the ones at the Hôtel du Musée that Claude and Laurence serve up every morning… (I won’t even talk about their fancy any-kind-of-coffee-hot-chocolate-grind-the-beans-steam-the-milk machine that I covet)

breakfast at HduM

Lunch.  Picnics whenever possible.  Outdoor cafés.

Our first meal in Paris, however, was falafel in the Marais.  My choice.  I dream about this and have lunch whenever I am there. The kids deal with it.  No, it’s not really French. My vegetarians love it.  I love it.

falafel

Lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens. A simple sandwich of cantal cheese, jambon sec, tomato jam, and lettuce from a little place right outside the back entrance of the park. Of course, it comes as a package deal.  A drink. A sandwich. A dessert. Enough to share. My favorite meal this time.  Not necessarily due to the food.  Factor in the weather, the ambience, the people I ate with.  I said out loud to anyone who was listening that there was no where on earth I would rather have been at that particular perfect moment in time.

4 musketeers

Lunch in the Tuileries Gardens after a long walk down the Champs-Élysées on a beautiful Sunday morning.  Bertrand giving KR a lesson about the walls that surrounded Paris at one time.  Should you find yourself in Paris and in need of a first-class guide to show you the city (and other places around France), call on My Private Paris, Bertrand’s venture.  He is the best.

tuileries lunch

Another Paris lunch- at the sumptuous food section of Galeries Lafayette.  We let Bertrand, the expert choose, this time.  Cinco Jotas.  Bertrand is a Basque so this place takes him back to his roots.

lunch at galeries lafayette

We visited my dear friend GM and my students met their “pen friends” at the Collège Anne Marie Javouhey in Senlis.  They treated us to lunch in the school cantine.  At our school, we do not have a cafeteria.  We eat lunch in our classrooms with our advisees every day.  3-course meal for lunch in France instead of whatever I throw together at the last minute at home. (The sign said I could take 4 pieces of bread… so I did.)

lunch at AMJ

Lunch at an outdoor café in Avignon at Place de l’Horloge.  Goat cheese salad.  Another of my favorites. Mon dieu.

goat cheese salad

My après-marché picnic with La Brune in Arles.  Anything eaten with her is special.  We ate in the Jardins d’Été, a place that holds a place in my heart.  In 2005, before my cooking stage with Chef Érick, I took a book and un sandwich there almost every day. My favorite concrete bench was even open and waiting for us… next to the ruins of the Le Théâtre antique.

Lunch near Omaha Beach.  We went back to La Crémaillière, a local restaurant we discovered last year in Saint Laurent sur Mer.  We were pressed for time, Bertrand called the owner, and she had poulet-frites ready and waiting for my crew.  The frites were pronounced the best of the trip.  And I have never seen a chocolat crème consumed as quickly as KR polished off hers!

Dinner.  I had foie gras once. Sprinkled liberally with sel gros.  We went to a salt marsh in the Camargue later in the trip to learn more about harvesting salt.

The starter at a restaurant in Arles.  Terrine du taureau (they are proud of those black bulls), eggplant and tomato confit.

arles starter

A really good beef stew in Paris. Flourless chocolate cake for dessert.  I know it is hard to believe that I normally do not eat dessert.  But when in France…

stew

Crêpes near La Tour Eiffel.  Ham and cheese with salad and caramel for dessert.

We tried something new.  We ate dinner in French homes.  Divided into 4 groups, with metro tickets and directions in hand, we made our way to our hosts’ appartements. I was with the vegetarian group.  It is arranged by VizEat.  My crew was in heaven.  A tiny apartment, hosted by a delightful woman with two children and two cats who works in a Montessori school and who is a vegetarian herself.  The appetizer, baked camembert cheese, was a real hit.  I think that we consumed every single one. She told me how she made them, but I am going to have to email her for the recipe.  I have forgotten what she said. A great adventure.

camembert bites

This is really what I prefer for dessert.

cheese plate

Snacks. Extras. Indulgences. Call them what you want.  Éclairs from Christophe Adam, an award-winning pâtissier.  Bertrand knows all the best places. Tiny little shop.  I guarded the door (from the inside, of course) to allow 4 kiddos in at a time to drool and make their selections.

And, as Laura Florand knows, it sure doesn’t hurt when the pâtissier is handsome.

adam photo

Fougasse in Aigues Mortes.  Flavored with fleur d’oranger. Really generous portions. The sugar crunch on the top is divine.

fougasse

Ice cream.  Café et chocolat.  Bought some for all of the kiddos who were hanging around with me.  A reward, of sorts, on a sunny afternoon.

icr cream

Alain Ducasse, rock star chef, has started a chocolate-making business in Paris.  A taste of his version of Nutella at Galeries Lafayette.  Divine.

Cooking classes with the kiddos.  Éclairs and gougères at La Cuisine Paris.  Macarons at L’Atelier des Gâteaux.  I was with the éclair crew.  The macarons group gave me samples. Being the good teacher that I am, it was my duty to sample all of the flavors.  I did this while on the TGV from Paris to Avignon.  Bertrand supplied the coffee.

A few other random food photos–

A quick pit-stop on the way to Normandy and the display of Haribo candy.

haribo

Cheese- on Rue Daguerre and at the market in Arles

A sign above a shop in Paris

paris map steak

Feeling a little crabby?  So is this guy spotted at a poissonnerie

crab

Oreos have hit France with a boom!  One of my kiddos has quite a few allergies, but Oreos are on his approved list.  So, when we were in Monoprix in Arles and I saw the Strawberry Cheesecake Oreos, I called him over to take a look.  Thank goodness he bought some so that I could sample one.

oreo

Sacks of pommes de terre outside a café in the Marais waiting to be made into frites

sacks of pommes de terre

A sign in the window of the Monoprix on the Champs-Élysées (I was sorely disappointed to find out that the main store is closed for renovations)-

monoprix cheese

Enough is enough for one day.  My tummy is growling and grumbling.  But let me finish by saying that I do not think that I have to chose one or the other.  Baguettes or biscuits? France or the United States?  I can love both equally.  Just because I miss France and want to go whenever I have the chance, it doesn’t mean I do not love my home.  Voilà.  I needed to get that off my chest.  I have the best of both worlds.

Throw together some gougères to impress your eaters.  And eat them warm, right from the oven.  I am going to do that right this minute.  Then I will come back and post the recipe.  Be patient!  I just happen to have some gruyère cheese in my cheese drawer…

gougeres pastry

Gougères

recipe gleaned from several sources, including La Cuisine Paris and David Lebovitz

This is the same pastry dough used to make cream puffs or éclairs minus the cheese and herbs.

1/2 c. (125ml) water

1/2 c. (125ml) milk

7 Tbsp. (100g) butter

3/4 c. (150g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp. (6g) salt

4-5 eggs

Grated gruyère cheese (1/2 – 3/4 cup) or other “dry” cheese

Freshly grated pepper

Finely chopped herbs

Heat together water, milk, and butter on low heat.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat. Add flour and salt and stir.  Bring back to very low heat and mix quickly until it forms a dry ball that pulls away from the pan.  Remove and add eggs one at a time until mixture is smooth and when you hold up the wooden spoon it falls into a sort of V.  It should be smooth and glossy.  Add cheese, pepper and herbs, if using.

Fill pastry bag and pipe small rounds (about the size of a cherry tomato, although I made mine larger this time- you really want them bite-sized) onto parchment paper.  Brush with beaten egg, if desired.  Sprinkle a bit more cheese on top, if desired. Bake at 375˚F for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and on the sides.  Do not underbake. The puffs will deflate.  They will still taste good, though, they just won’t be as pretty.  I took mine out of the oven and then decided they weren’t quite done enough and put them back in for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and eat warm.  You could slice them open and fill with ham and a little Dijon mustard.

gougeres

Bon appétit!  Bon Poisson d’Avril!  Pack your suitcase every chance you get and see the world around you.  Be happy, mes amis et mes amies.

A Paradox

According to Merriam-Webster’s Learners Dictionary:

paradox

noun par·a·dox \ˈper-ə-ˌdäks, ˈpa-rə-\
Popularity: Top 1% of lookups

Simple Definition of paradox

  • : something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible

  • : someone who does two things that seem to be opposite to each other or who has qualities that are opposite

  • : a statement that seems to say two opposite things but that may be true

After what I consider a great deal of thought (but what probably amounts to some deep thinking in the shower), I have come to the conclusion that I am a paradox.  And oui, this comes on the heels of the post “What am I?” Today in French 8, as we are learning and discussing words for professions, I said “Mon père était plombier.”   My dad was a plumber.

I did not go any further than that.  EXCEPT to say, in French, when your toilet doesn’t work or you do not have water, you need a plumber, don’t you?  I am so over trying to be something I am not.  And if that is not quite what people expect, so be it.  I am who I am.  I am my family.  My roots.  And, you know what, I am proud of it.  So there.  Tommy was a plumbing and heating kind of guy.  He remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, too.  He built houses, added on rooms, and built furniture without a plan.  Without directions.  It was all in his head somehow someway.  (So, why do I not get geometry?  Seriously.  Or distances? Or angles?)  I remember sitting with him when he was adding a room on to our little house on Bell Street.  I swear it was all in his head.  He scribbled stuff down with one of those funny flat pencils.  And he had levels and those really cool measuring stick kind of things.

www.texasbowhuntingrecords.com  https://www.johnsonlevel.com

http://www.acetoolonline.com/  www.harborfreight.com

Quite honestly, I am surprised we did not get more beatings for breaking his stuff.  But how could little kids keep their hands off of do-dads like these?  Remember, this is before video games.  And Netflix.  And HBO.

Back to the paradox.  How does a little mountain girl whose parents did not graduate from high school and who is a proud product of public school education (Mama Mildred did get her GED– she is also incredibly smart and well-read), become a French nerd and France fanatic and build a career teaching in an independent school?  Not one single French relative that I know of.  No long lost French cousins.  Granted, I have not had my DNA tested to find out for sure.  (I am dying to do that, though.)  A French businessman I met once said my Frenchiness is due to my Scottish roots.  “The Scots love the French.  They always have.”  That is all the explanation he needed.  I accept that.  I have no better explanation.

I think that I have a wandering soul. At an early age, I fell in love with Pepe le Pew.  Oui, c’est vrai.  We did have three TV channels and Looney Tunes was an option.

pepe-le-pew

http://thesmartergardener.com/

The lovable Looney Tunes / Merry Melodies French skunk trying to seduce the black cat who had the misfortune to end up with a stripe of white paint down her back.   And to be obnoxiously pursued by an idiotic smelly mammal.  Une mouffette en français.  Please, Fanny, Olivier, Ghislaine, Érick et Betty– tell me that there are no skunks in France.  S’il vous plaît. I want to believe that they only exist in the state of Virginia.  I think that the skunk is the official mascot of that state to the north of North Carolina.  Every time I drive through there on the way to Washington, DC, I smell them.

Mme Christiane Roze Buchanan, my high school French teacher, struck a chord with me my sophomore year in high school.  How I loved her.  She believed in me.  She was a WWII war bride who married her soldier and moved to the mountains of North Carolina.  And influenced my life beyond belief.  I fell in love with her country.  Sight unseen.  I was looking for the exotic, I think.  Something different.  I was not trying to be better than my siblings or cousins.  I was not ashamed of my upbringing.  But for some reason, I needed / wanted something different.  And I found it.  Is there something / someone in a former life that has drawn me to this culture and language?  I have no answers. Just lots and lots of questions.

You know what?  I think that I am going to take the DNA test and find out…  I promise to share the results in a future blogpost.

I am not sure why this recipe came to mind.  Maybe because it takes a rather complicated dish and simplifies it.  Brings it down to the basic level.  Maybe because it is the first day of fall and I am longing for cool temperatures and the comfort food of soups and stews.  Not important.

Easy Crockpot Cassoulet

southernfood.about.com

serves 6

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped

1/4 lb. cooked smoked sausage, such as kielbasa or spicier andouille, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1/2 tsp. black pepper

4 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 Tbsp. water

3 cans (15 oz each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion to hot oil and cook, stirring, until onion is tender, about 4 minutes.  Stir in chicken, sausage, garlic, thyme and pepper.  Cook 5-8 minutes, or until chicken and sausage are browned.  Stir in tomato paste and water.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Stir beans into the chicken mixture.  Cover and cook on LOW heat for 4-6 hours.  Before serving, sprinkle the chopped parsley over cassoulet.  (You could put it under the broiler for a few minutes before serving- without the parsley- to get a crust on the top- the way it was served in Carcassonne.)

When I am Chez Fanny, she serves me cassoulet.  And, of course, in France you can find seriously good duck cassoulet in a can from Castelnaudary, a lovely spot in Languedoc known as the world capital for this specialty.

can-cassoulet

Bon appétit to those who dare to be different.  

 

 

A Life Well-Lived

dave g

Saying good-bye in any language has always been very difficult for me.  Au revoir, ciao, adieu, arrivederci, salut, see you later, see you soon.  They all mean the same thing.  I hope that I will see you again.  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Yesterday, we said good-bye to Dave Gould in a packed school auditorium.  A room packed with childhood friends, college chums, mates, colleagues, former students, and family members.  I volunteered to organize this celebration of his life because his wife asked me to and because that is my best way of dealing with grief.  Get busy and put off thinking about the hole that will be left behind when I no longer see this person again or get random emails from him.  At least not until I reach the other side.  Dave will be in my heaven.  It wouldn’t be complete without him.  If I didn’t invite him in, he would crash the party anyway!  Using a press pass.  Or sweet-talking his way in.

I put together a slideshow using photos supplied by his wife and daughters, friends, our communications staff at school and various photos I have sitting in the cloud known as Google Photo and Photo Library.  The one above is my favorite, I think.  This is how I will choose to remember my friend of 35 years.  The ultimate prankster, a man who made you think (or THIMK, according to his students), and who loved life and gave it his all.  Perfect? Lord, no.  No more than any of us are.  I heard his wife say more than once “Damn it, David.”  At one point, she was so fed up with him for not eating that I came over to give him cooking lessons.  I think that it was a ruse on his part just to get me over and to be able to tease me, but making macaroni and cheese with him and chasing her out of the kitchen with a book and glass of wine in hand may have saved her sanity just a bit.  I hope so.

I got to say good-bye to him 10 days before he died.  I didn’t know it was our final good-bye.  Rarely do you know it at the time.  But I am so grateful that I had that chance.  I had the chance to hug him, kiss him, and say “Gould, I love you, but you are still full of shit.” That always made him laugh.  It was high praise.  And the truth.

Our final email exchange went like this:

6/24 12:16 pm

ok, ms. e, I’ll treat you to a free lunch if you can tell me who mark sackling was – a hint:  obviously he has to do with DA and you would have known him.

dg
6/24 1:00 pm
Okay, sweetie, that name is ringing not a single bell. But give me a couple of hours(days? Months? Years?) to think! Can we have lunch anyway?? Please?
Teresa
6/25 1:16 pm
oh we can certainly have lunch, but it’s always more fun if you have to work for it!  You probably are a lot closer to this boy/guy/man than you think you are. Keep thinking!  Tweak that memory of yours!
6/25 8:12 am
Mark Sackling?? I will continue to rack my brain…
6/25 8:28 am
ok, ok, first hint.  he was not a student of yours but he was at DA
Break in emailing– I ran into DG and his wife in downtown Durham at an outdoor concert at American Tobacco.  Balsam Range, my favorite bluegrass band, was playing.  This is where the aforementioned hugs and kisses took place.
7/1 1:01 pm

good seeing you last nite at ATP – can see why you love the Balsam group so much .. . great music.

But back to your search for Mark Sackling:
next clue:  Mark was a colleague of yours for a while tho you saw him more on the Upper School Campus than the Middle School campus.  I know you know him b/c there were several occasions in front of the Fine Arts bldg when  I happened to bump into you guys having a conversation there.  Seemed like a quite likable man; reminded me of a chip off the old block of guys like Timmy and Dick F.
Still having fun??!
7/2 7:28 pm
Ok, M. Gould, I am assuming that you played the part of Mark Sackling. I do not even remember the name of my character. Sing played Quartermaine. That’s the best I can come up with.   Did I earn my lunch??
A confession (to you, I did not get a chance to confess to DG)–  Since I figured I had no chance in hell of figuring out his riddle, I cheated and consulted the all-knowing Google. All I had to do was look at the first hit and it came to me.
7/2 8:18 pm

Not bad, not bad, and in fact pretty impressive, but not quite there yet.  Shouldn’t have given you all those clues in last email – age has made you wiser and savvier!  You are right – I was Mark Sackling, Sing was Quartermaine, and you were _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _

And you don’t need any more clues about your character’s name b/c they, too, were in the last email . . .
(and damn, I should’ve made the last clue I sent a bit more obtuse so you’d really have to search a bit harder.)
(and if I can remember all this in my march towards forgetfulness, with all the years I’m giving you, you should have no problems . . .)
That is when I should have confessed.  Wiser and savvier!  Ha!  Not a chance.  That was our last email exchange.  I didn’t respond.  I left for Sunset Beach for a week and never answered.  We returned from the beach July 9 and on July 10 I got a call from Dave’s wife that he had passed away in his sleep that morning.
And just to prove that he could get the last word in, a couple of days later, I was looking for something in my nightstand and what should I find underneath a book, but very near the top–
quatermaine
I hadn’t thought about the play in years until Mark Sackling popped up.  We put this on at school in the 80’s.  And I didn’t think that I still had the playbook.  Coincidence?  Hmmm… not so sure.
the crew
france12 best
We had some fun over the past 35 years.  Dinners, parties, hiding beer cans, playing games, sand tennis, Sunset Beach, The Fruit Olympics, France, listening to your awful French.
You had a crush on Princess Diana?  How could I not have known that Gould fact??  I really would have teased you about that.  Or maybe not.  Somehow that just makes you more adorable in my eyes.
princessdi
Thank you for being my friend, Dave Gould.  I love you!
One more thing before you go back to whatever mischief you are up to in your heaven.
Anita Manchip.  I played Anita.  I look forward to collecting on that free lunch one of these days!
Dave’s favorite movie was Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  His daughters chose to show a clip of it at the celebration.
His favorite poem was The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service.  I found this version, read by Johnny Cash.
obit
Dave’s Mac and Cheese

I am renaming my favorite recipe in honor of my friend.  If you are looking for low-calorie, forget it.  But if you are looking for comfort, get out the pot and pan.

3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
3 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or a mixture of cheddar and Monterey Jack)
16-oz. macaroni
Salt, pepper (black or white), ground mustard or Texas Pete sauce can be added.  Or a combination of all.  Today, I decided to add bacon that had been cooked to crispy and then drained on paper towels.

Cook macaroni in salted, boiling water until it is al dente (for small elbows, about 9 minutes).
Drain, rinse, and set aside.
Melt butter in large pan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and combine well.  Cook for about a minute to remove the flour taste.  Gradually add milk and continue to whisk.  Cook until the mixture thickens into a creamy roux.  Add seasonings and whisk well.  Remove from heat.
Add 2-1/2 cups of the cheese and stir until melted and combined.
Put macaroni into a buttered baking pan.  (I cooked the bacon in the cast iron pan and left some of the drippings in for flavor, so I didn’t need to butter the pan.)  Pour cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir well.  (I added the crumbled bacon at this point, reserving some for the top.)
Top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. (My grandmother always topped hers with bread crumbs or crushed crackers.)
Bake in pre-heated 350˚F oven for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is bubbling.

Bon appétit to all my friends.  I love each and every one of you.  At the end, may we all be able to say that we led a life well-lived.  You may be gone from us physically, Dave Gould, but you will never be forgotten.
DG beach

Shrimp

 

market fish w shrimp

Walking on the beach gives one a lot of time to think, contemplate, reminisce, philosophize, etc.  We had Son #2 with us for a couple of days here at Sunset Beach.  He has an internship at a Charlotte real estate law firm this summer, but he was able to take a couple of days off due to the July 4th holiday.  Son #1 couldn’t make it at all due to his job. So, the family vacation is a bit different this year.  But it gets the Ex-Ex out of the office and relaxed and I am very happy listening to the sound of the waves, getting a little sunburned around the edges, and taking long walks on the beach.  Oh, and eating shrimp. On any given day if you ask me what I would like to have for my final meal on this Earth, I would give you a different answer.  Today?  Shrimp.  And a crisp, dry, chilled white wine. Picpoul de Pinet perhaps?  Something from the south of France, my preferred wine region.

While strolling along the beach with Son #2, we started talking about me.  He wanted to know how I worked up the courage to go to France for the very first time.  Looking back, I am not really sure, truth be told.  I had just turned 20, had saved every penny I made from my summer job at Eseeola Lodge in Linville, NC, had been admitted to the University of Dijon, France, got a passport, bought a cheap seat on a charter flight, taking me from Johnson City, Tennessee to New York, where I met up with my college roommate and traveling companion, and caught a flight to Paris-Orly.  Did I mention this was the first time I had set foot on an airplane?  Oui, it was.  I had never been far from the mountains of North Carolina.  We spent a week in Paris roaming around.  I was prepared for the size of the Eiffel Tower but not for the grandeur of the Arc de Triomphe.  We got lost and wandered past this huge box of a building that looked unfinished with multi-colored pipes.  Oh, the new Centre Pompidou.  Mme Buchanan didn’t tell me about this one.  But she hadn’t seen it.  It had just opened.  We went to Sète for some beach time, up to Dijon only to find out that there were no more families who needed American au pairs, no chance for room and board in exchange for living quarters, so we ended up near Cannes, my friend with one family, me with another.  (I got the best end of that deal.)   We took classes at an international school, became the best of friends, swapping life stories (I learned to never judge a book by its cover after hearing hers), and had a few adventures over the course of the next several months.

Anyway, revenons à nos moutons, let’s get back to our sheep, as the French say.  I said something about how lucky I have been in my life and Son #2 said he isn’t sure that luck has much to do with it.  We make our own luck, he says.  He’s a quiet young man and a darned smart one, in my humble opinion as his mother.  I still can feel overwhelming guilt about the divorce from the Ex-Ex and what might appear as abandoning my boys. However, when I pull back from the guilt, I realize that those four years made me into who I am today.  A stronger, wiser, more grateful woman with many friends and experiences that shaped me in ways that cannot be put into words.  Did luck have anything to do with that?  Or was I selfish and only looking out for me?  Son #2 doesn’t think so.  I will go with that for today.

Back to shrimp.  I am not sure when I ate my first one.  Growing up in Spruce Pine, I remember eating frozen, breaded ones.  I do remember fresh ones eaten in a restaurant somewhere along the way on my family’s only vacation, a trip to Punta Gorda, Florida, to spend two weeks in my Papa Bell’s house there.  Sister #1 ate the tails and we laughed at her.  I am not sure she has eaten shrimp since then.  My best shrimp memories are from my months in Arles, France and here at Sunset Beach.  I photograph them at the markets in France, as you can see from the first photo.  I feel like that fish, mouth open, ready to gobble up the little unsuspecting crustaceans.  A few more photos from my past shrimp experiences–

gambas

Ok, so technically is a gamba a shrimp?  It’s a large prawn.  According to Cook’s Illustrated, my favorite cooking magazine, there is a difference in gill structure, in case you care.  I don’t.  We grilled those babies in Arles, heads and all.  Chef Érick loved to fry up shrimp heads as an appetizer.  Yum.  I also found this saying on a website while googling, makes no sense to me, but make of it what you will…  (If one of my Frenchies can explain this to me, I will be very grateful.)

You’re a jumbo shrimp and one day some corn goes floating by.

Tu es une gamba et un jour, tu vois flotter du maïs.

 

risotto in italy

Seafood risotto eaten in Italy with the BFF and Mo in 2008.  Big sigh…

shrimp and truffles

Shrimp and truffles, served by Madame, René’s wife, prior to my truffle-hunting adventure in 2008.

shrimp and oysters

shrimp with Fanny

Shrimp, oysters and Picpoul de Pinet shared with Fanny, Betty and Chef Érick at Les Halles in Avignon.  If you go to this food mecca, there is a little corner seafood seller- you can buy to take home or eat sur place, if you wish.  This was our little pre-lunch snack.  Hors-d’oeuvres, I suppose.

shrimp seafood tian

A pan of deliciousness whipped up in Arles for me on my birthday.  Mussels, shrimps, risotto.

But even with all of that, I must say that my favorite is preparing Shrimp and Grits at Sunset with my boys all around.  Sometimes I put them to work, sometimes they just sip their cold beer and watch, most times it’s a combination of the two.  I usually change the recipe around to suit myself, simplifying it each year.  This year, the Ex-Ex was put to work peeling the shrimp (he asked what he could do to help…)

steve shrimp

peeled shrimp

Son #2 was in charge of the grits and frying the bacon.

Et voilà.  The 2016 version of Sunset Shrimp and Grits.

2016 shrimp and grits

This is our favorite Sunset Beach dish. We get our shrimp at Bill’s Seafood.

All of this cooks up fairly quickly, so be sure to measure out and have everything ready before you start.  Serves 4.

For the grits:

1 c. grits (use whatever kind you want- instant or stone ground- I found Palmetto Farms Stone Ground ones and they are really good)

4 Tbsp. butter

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (or you can mix in Gouda if you like the taste)

1-1/2 tsp. Paprika

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

½ tsp. white pepper

Salt, to taste

(Adjust the seasonings to suit your taste, start small, though and then add, if you wish)

A dash or two of hot sauce- Texas Pete or whatever brand you like, optional

All the spices are optional, however; salt and freshly ground pepper are good alone

Cook the grits according to the package directions. Pay attention not to burn them. I had to add more water to mine about 15 minutes into the cooking time. When they are 5 minutes from being ready, whisk in the butter and seasonings. Stir in the cheese until melted. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if desired. Cover the pot and keep warm.

For the shrimp:

2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined (I count on ½ lb. per person- I like medium-sized ones but it doesn’t matter)

8 slices of bacon, fried crisp, drained on paper towels (more if the people around you insist upon eating the bacon before you are ready to serve the dish!)

2 shallots, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Butter, olive oil, some of the bacon grease—the equivalent of about 4 Tbsp. of one or a combination of all- I use the same pan that I cook the bacon in, draining out most of the grease but leaving the pan drippings

Salt and pepper, to taste

Place butter/oil in pan and bring to medium high heat. Sauté the shallots until translucent. Add the shrimp and stir, cook, continuing to stir and turning the shrimp over individually until all the shrimp turn pink. Do not overcook, though, this will make the shrimp tough. Just before you think the shrimp are done, add the minced garlic and stir. You do not want the garlic to burn.

Some people add chopped Roma tomatoes to the shrimp at this point. My guys are not fans of that so I leave them out. Sometimes I add andouille sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces, to the mix, after sautéeing them or asking someone to grill them for me. You can use Parmesan cheese, if you wish.  This is not a fancy dish or one that is difficult to prepare.  Make it your own according to what your eaters like!

Bon appétit et bonnes vacances wherever you are!  I am grateful for all who have helped make me who I am today.  Luck?  I still consider myself a very lucky girl.

Parenting

daddy army

Father’s Day 2016.  Daddy Tommy when he was no more than a kid.  Sons #1 and #2 are older than he was in this photo.  I keep this one on my refrigerator.  I love to look into his smiling eyes.  I wonder what he was thinking?  I don’t know where this was taken.  Daddy joined the Army and left my mom and Spruce Pine around the age of 19, I think.  Mama left Spruce Pine to join him in Louisiana at not quite 16 years of age.

My BFF’s house was robbed not long ago and the one thing that she wants back is a card from her dad.  It accompanied a string of pearls that she was given on her wedding day.  “I love you, Dad.”  He was a victim of Alzheimer’s. She says it was clear that he had a great deal of difficulty writing those four words on that card.  It is probably the last thing he wrote.  She knows that she will never see it again, but it meant more to her than the jewelry that was taken.

I have a letter that my dad wrote back home to my Grandma Bell.  I promised Mama I would take good care of it when she gave it to me last year.  It is a big part of our family story.  It is the only thing that I have in my dad’s handwriting.  Hand-written letters are very personal and prized possessions.  The postmark is 1956, the year my dad turned 20.

daddy's letter

Although he wrote it to my grandmother, he mentions my grandfather several times.  We lived next door to my grandparents for all but two of my first 18 years.  My dad and grandfather did not get along very well for many of those years, as I remember it.  That still makes me profoundly sad.  I loved them both so very much.  Parenting isn’t easy.  It is the toughest job out there.  Bar none.  My dad was hardheaded, as we say in the South, and I am pretty sure that he bucked all of my grandfather’s advice.  20-year olds are pretty sure they know everything and that they do not need parental intervention.  I wish that I could sit them both down right now and ask them all of the questions that have been swirling around in my head all these years.  They will both be in my Heaven, so I know that someday I will have the chance for a heart-to-heart talk with these two men who played such a prominent role in my childhood.

Daddy’s letter ends this way–

end of letter

Did he ever call Papa?  I have no idea.  When he was discharged from the Army, he built a house next door to my grandparents and I was born in 1958.

Daddy loved country music, watching police serial shows, gangster movies and golf on TV, the Washington Redskins, Duke basketball, eating pimiento cheese and bologna sandwiches, camping and taking his boat out on Lake James in the summer.  He loved to tease me.  I hated it, of course.  He loved his dog Bowser, although that dog chewed through the bathroom door.  He loved Kentucky Fried Chicken and we would often stop in Marion on the way to the lake to buy some to take with us.  He loved my mom and his crumbcrushers, as he called us.

Life with Tommy wasn’t easy, though.  He was an alcoholic.  And not a funny or laid back one.  Quite the opposite.  It took me a long time to talk about this part of my childhood and to forgive him.  I wrote a letter to him towards the end of his life and I hope that I conveyed my love and the beginning of forgiveness.

Parenting is a tough job.  You want the very best for your children.  You don’t want them to hurt, either physically or emotionally.  However, although there are shelves and shelves of how-to books out there, parenting does not come with a fool-proof manual.  It is a combination of trial and error and doing the best you can.  It’s not about being perfect or making life perfect for your child.  Life is tough.  It’s not always fair.  It’s about trying to provide for all of your children’s needs and a few of their wants.  It’s about listening and admitting when you are wrong.  It’s the purest form of love.

This quote is also on our refrigerator–

refridge

It has been there for 26 years.  Son #1 recently used it when he spoke about his dad at his dad’s induction into our school’s Sports Hall of Fame.  Hopefully, someday it will be on Son #1’s refrigerator.  Hasdai Ibn Shaprut was a Spanish-Jewish physician and poet/writer (915-975 A.D.).

I found this recipe and plan to make it for the Ex-Ex and Son #1 today.  Unfortunately, Son #2 can’t be here with us.  Tommy Bell would have liked this sandwich, I’m sure.

Patty Melt Sandwich

from Leite’s Culinaria

Makes 4 sandwiches (you know your eaters, though, and how much they eat, so adjust quantities, if necessary!)

For the onions:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium Vidalia onions
  • 3 pinches salt
  • 1/4 cup white wine (SB note:  I didn’t have any white so I used rosé!)
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter

For the patty melt:

  • Cooking oil
  • 1 pound ground beef 
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • 8 to 10 slices crusty bakery bread  (if you want to make a traditional patty melt, rye bread); SB note:  I used potato hamburger rolls, flattened
  • Sliced American cheese

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil.

2. Slice the onions into fairly thin rings or half rings and add them to the skillet, stirring to coat with oil and continuing to stir  around until onions become limp, about 7 minutes.

3. Add salt and stir.

4. Add the wine and raise heat to high for 1 minute, stirring constantly until liquid evaporates, then return to medium, add butter and stir until melted.

5. Cook, stirring the onions in the pan frequently for another 15 minutes or until they are nicely golden brown. [Leite’s Note: Just to be clear, the onions are not going to be caramelized after this short amount of time. And that’s okay. Although if you really want caramelized onions, be our guest and let them cook at least another 30 minutes or so.) Remove the pan from the heat.

Make the patty melt

6. Preheat another skillet over medium heat and add cooking oil to coat the surface.

7. Make  4  balls of ground beef.

8. When the skillet with the oil gets hot, place the balls of beef into the pan, one or two at a time. Season with salt and mash them flat with a spatula so that each patty is just smaller than the slice of bread. Cook the patties, without touching them, for 3 to 5 minutes. Flip them and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more for medium-rare, more for medium or well-done. Place the burgers on a wire rack placed over a plate.

9. Heat skillet to medium heat.  Butter 1 side of each slice of bread. Place 1 slice of bread in the skillet, butter side down. Add a slice of cheese on top of the bread, followed by a cooked patty, some of the onions, followed by another slice of cheese and a second slice of bread, butter side up. Cook for 2 1/2 minutes. Keep an eye on the sandwich so that the bread doesn’t burn. Then flip the sandwich and cook for 1 minute more. Using a spatula, remove the sandwich from the skillet and place it it on a plate. Repeat with the remaining patties, buttered bread, cheese, and onions. Serve hot.

 

Bon appétit and Happy Father’s Day to all!