Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Night Lights

You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home. People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If one carries many such memories into life, one is safe to the end of one's days, and if one has only one good memory left in one's heart, even that may be the means of saving us.

***From The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky

Today it's a clear, crisp fall day. It's the kind of day where everything is more vibrant. Sunrises. The glad-to-be-home scent of an apple crisp baking. The triumphant blare of a marching band. The tartness of an apple. Even memories are more intense this time of year.

This time of the year I think of my Uncle Don. When I picture him, he's always smiling. Always. Uncle Don wore a megawatt smile, capable of brightening any room. Even as I write this and picture that grand smile, I smile. It's that powerful of a smile.

Every Friday evening in the fall, my Uncle Don and cousin Tim would pick me up and we'd go to the Pomona High School football game. While other kids played touch football or flitted about the concession stand, Tim and I were expected to watch the game. At halftime we would visit the concession stand for a bag of popcorn and Coke, and then we'd return to the game. Even if there was no doubt to the outcome of the game, we'd stay for the final tick of the clock.

I know that my words don't fully capture the memory, but that doesn't matter to me. What matters is that I keep trying to find the right words. What really matters is that I'm still able to step into a fall evening, close my eyes, transport myself back in time, and linger a little longer with my Uncle Don.

clear eyes, full hearts can't lose,

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sweet Flamiche with Summer Berries

In this autotuned, photoshopped world, I find myself gravitating to all that is real and natural. This is my approach to fruit. Like Eve, I enjoy my fruit simply plucked off the tree or the vine. Sure, nature's bounty is great in a pie, crisp, or cobbler, but I always feel like the natural flavor sometimes is lost in its marriage with sugar. This summer I searched for a fruit dessert that wouldn't have to share billing with sugar, and I think I found it in this sweet flamiche. Flamiche is a fancy word, but don't let it or the phyllo dough scare you away from trying this dessert. It's a light, creamy, custardy dessert whose sweetness comes from the fruit. This is a dessert that showcases the fruit, which is the way it should be.

Sweet Flamiche with Summer Berries

  • 1 ounce unsalted butter
  • 4 sheets of phyllo pastry
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ounces sour cream
  • 7 ounces mixed berries
  • confectioners' sugar, to serve or whipped cream
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You will need a heat-proof mixing bowl that will fit over a saucepan with the base of the bowl clear of the bottom of the pan. You will also need a small frying pan with an oven-proof handle.
  • Place the butter in a small bowl and melt in microwave. Use a pastry brush to lightly butter the inside of the frying pan.

  • Lay a sheet of phyllo pastry in the pan and brush with melted butter. Lay another sheet of pastry on top, but this time at an angle to the first sheet. brush with butter. Repeat with your remaining sheets. By laying each sheet at an angle to the previous one, you will make a rough star shape.

  • Bring some water to a simmer in the saucepan - enough to come close to the bottom of the heat-proof mixing bowl when you put it on top, but not actually to touch it.

  • Place the sugar and eggs in the mixing bowl and place over simmering water. Whisk the sugar and egg mixture over the heat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add half of the sour cream and whisk again, then add the remainder and whisk once more. Take the pan off the heat and carefully lift off the bowl.

  • Place the frying pan line with pastry over very low heat for 5-6 minutes, until the underneath is lightly browned - you can lift the edges gently with a spatula to check how it is doing.

  • Remove the pan from the heat, scatter the fruit over the pastry, and top with the egg mixture.

  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until the egg mixture has set.
  • Cool slightly and dust with confectioners' sugar before serving, or you can serve a dollop of whipped cream on each slice.

PS. . . The recipe called for creme fraiche, but since I didn't have any, I used sour cream. The reciple also called for a splash of kirsch. Since I had none, I omitted it. However, I can see the benefit of having a bottle of kirsch in my liquor cabinet.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Truck Got Stuck

Once upon a time, I ate a lot of frozen burritos, listened to Def Leppard incessantly, and worked as a grunt on a ranch. My job as a ranch grunt was simple. Each day the rancher would grab a feed sack and scrawl a map, showing me the location of the thistles that dotted his pastures. Then I would take the map, hop in a truck, drive, find thistles, pull thistles, and properly dispose of them to prevent future propagation. I spent all summer doing this.

One day the rancher's map contained scribbles that indicated a marshy section of pasture. With the recent rains, he warned me that this section would be marshier than normal and that it might be a good idea to avoid the area. Detecting my youthful ignorance, he added that if I found myself driving through the marshy pasture that it would be a good idea to keep driving and to not stop because once I stopped I would probably be stuck.

Since I was a stupid kid who ate frozen burritos and listened to Def Leppard, I failed to follow his advice and I found myself stuck. I walked to the nearest farm house to call for a tow. On the walk, I pondered my stupidity and the significance of momentum.

I now thinking about the significance of momentum as I try to move this blog forward. If I ever get invited to be part of a panel discussion on blogging, I would tell my fellow bloggers to never stop blogging because once you stop it's difficult to get going again.

I've decided to keep moving forward, hoping I can sustain my momentum. I hope to move towards a blog that is less about food and more about Kansas and my memories of my time in this great state.

rollin', rollin' keep those doggies rollin'