Posted in food, human nature, Mothers, Nature

Hunger


I’ve been thinking about aromas.

When I was in college, the popular scent was patchouli. You could smell it in classrooms, dorms, practice rooms, the library…pretty much everywhere. I could never understand why women liked it. To me, it smelled like dirt. And not that fresh soil smell that rises into the air after a summer rain, promising the emergence of a range floral essences. No, patchouli was more on the order of earth worms to me, amassing on every pathway after a storm, making each step a challenge to avoid a nasty squish underfoot.

Dirt.

My mother wore Shalimar. It mixed with her chemistry in a way that made her smell like warm cookies—heady with vanilla and something other…exotic. Every so often, when I was out with her, I’d catch someone behind her sniffing and I’d smile, imagining them running off to a nearby bakery to nourish themselves with that fragrance, fill the need it aroused.

Cookies.

In the natural world, there are fragrances that evoke the same response.

Honeysuckle is one of them. It grew in abundance where I lived, and I used to pick the white blooms and suck the nectar from them. No one ever told me not to. I doubt I would have listened if they did. It was one of the pleasures of childhood, being lured by their scent, knowing the rewards they’d deliver.

The other is clover, which is flourishing this year.

I’m a simple person at heart, I think. Over the years I’ve sampled all forms of honey—wildflower, acacia, blueberry, orange blossom, but I keep going back to clover honey. I don’t know why, but it never occurred to me that the elusive fragrance I have caught on so many walks might be emanating from those small white and pink blossoms…

…until yesterday, when the scent was so overwhelming I had to stop and inhale—a true singer’s breath, the kind I learned to take before a long demanding phrase—and close my eyes, to draw it into my spirit as well as my lungs. When I opened them again, and looked down, I saw the grass overgrown with flowers, and picked one. And sniffed.

And I was so very hungry.

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Posted in family, Fathers, film, Mothers, movies

Sweet Nostalgia

Let’s talk about bonbons. Ice cream bonbons, to be exact.

We never had them at home when I was growing up. But when my parents took us to the movies, there was always a box to be shared in the dark, before the feature even started. Those chocolate covered frozen treats were both seductive and terrifying to me, from the moment I saw my parents leave the concession stand with them. I knew when we sat down, the box would open and one would be placed in my hands, still rock hard, along with a wad of napkins. If I put the entire bonbon in my mouth, I would be in instant agony as it adhered to every soft surface it touched. If I tried to spare myself that misery by biting off a reasonably sized piece, the chocolate shell would split, sending fragments onto my chest or lap, leaving the rest to melt in my hands.

Thus, most of my favorite childhood movie memories—South Pacific, Carousel, West Side Story, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, Tom Thumb—are intertwined with those bonbons, and the sensation of puffed out cheeks, a sore tongue and upper palate, and melting sweet cream and cocoa.

As I think back, I suppose I could have declined the bonbons, asked for a different treat. But, in a strange way, that would have drained the outing of some of its excitement. Everything was large and magical then—the theater, the films, the treats; and nothing was larger or more magical than those bonbons dissolving in my mouth, and the love in the hands that shared them.

©2019 All Rights Reserved


Posted in family, food, Mothers

Nostalgia Bread

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This probably should have been a Mother’s Day post, but my head was off on Mother’s Day, drifting to other days and dreaming of date-nut bread sandwiches and comfort.

We went on a lot of outings, my mother and I—to the theater, ballet, opera, museums, and shopping. We dressed up for every excursion, even to shop, choosing stylish dresses, or skirts and blouses, then later, smart pantsuits—and, of course, sturdy walking shoes.

I don’t know how my mother managed it, as she worked full time. But it seemed we were always going somewhere together when I was growing up.  And when we did, we had favorite places to lunch or simply recharge.

One of them was Chock Full O’Nuts.

In those years, it seemed as though the restaurants were on every block.

I remember heading indoors out of the cold or heat, lured by the scent of their freshly brewed coffee, and climbing up onto stools to sit at the counter. We’d order drinks, and always date-nut bread and cream cheese sandwiches. They were a blend of sweet and crunchy substances and tangy cream—a perfect comfort food.

A few years ago, I set out to recreate my own version of these treats, adding some personal favorites to the traditional blend of dates and walnuts. The result was both comforting and nourishing, as well as calorie rich and decadent.

Since I’m allergic to cow’s milk, I opted for chèvre instead of cream cheese (you know how much I love goats, right?). But for those who don’t have that restriction, go for the original. There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned shmear….

NOSTALGIA BREAD

Ingredients

1 & 1/2 cups chopped dates

1/2 cup boiling water

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon of honey

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

3 tablespoons molasses

two large or extra large eggs

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 small zucchini, grated

1/3 cup mini dark chocolate chips

1 cup, minus two tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons coconut flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º.  Liberally grease an 8″ x 4″ bread pan with butter.  Pour boiling water over chopped dates. sugar, and honey, and let stand for 15 minutes. Beat in eggs, molasses, oil, and vanilla, then add nuts and grated zucchini.  Sift dry ingredients over the liquid mix, and blend. The batter should be substantial, but not overly thick. If it’s too runny, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it’s right. If it’s too thick, add water or coconut milk until it loosens up.

Bake in prepared pan for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack, then dive in and devour!