Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Making Mincemeat Out of Snow!

     Just in case you haven't heard, the Pacific Northwest is now the home of Mother Nature's deep freeze... I'm not sure why, because she could have just left it up in the Artic, or the Himalayas, or the European Alps... but just like most women, she isn't content unless she is rearranging the furniture.

Pottery studio in snowstorm 11/21/2010
     Of course, she chose to bring us the deep freeze on the day that  I had set aside to do a little late autumn tidying of the exterior premises and catch up in my studio! The snow just didn't want to stop, the temperatures have plummeted into the teens, the roads have been turned into skating rinks, and on top of all of that we've had blustery winds and today's windchill factor has our thermometers hovering around the 10 degree mark!
     Extreme weather calls for extreme action! Spirits need lifting - check. Cooking lifts my spirits! House needs warming- check. Cooking warms the house. Thoughts need organizing- check. Peeling, dicing, juicing, and measuring organizes my thoughts.
     So what to cook? The holidays are coming and a traditional delight for me is mincemeat. No, not that horrible stuff you buy in the little box and reconstitute, or the nasty  filling sandwiched between two layers of soggy crust from the freezer case. Growing up I always liked the idea of mincemeat, I liked the smell of it and I sort of liked the taste.. but there was just too much of it! And THEN, in 1982 we moved to England.
     Our first Christmas there, we were invited for a  holiday drink to the home of some folks that over the years became close, dear friends. In a typically, traditional English Country Christmas way, they served us a beautiful tawny sherry and the most luscious little mincemeat tarts that have ever melted in my mouth. Eureka! Mincemeat isn't supposed to be serve an inch thick in a 2-3 inch wedge! it is supposed to be  served in little 2-3 bite tarts, nestled in buttery crust and sprinkled with sparkly sugar crystals!
     My quest for the recipe began that afternoon. Flipping on the "telly", I caught a cooking show presented by Delia Smith.. (English version of Rachel Ray). Promptly went to the bookstore, bought the companion book to her tv show, and lo and behold, found the recipe for "Old Fashioned Christmas Mincemeat".
From that day forth, mincemeat making happens around here a little before Thanksgiving. People who dislike mincemeat find they can't eat "just one" of these little tarts, and those who like mincemeat devour them...
Clockwise from upper left: apples being chopped into tiny dice/ lemon and orange zest / finished mincemeat. Left: going into the oven for "sterilizing", and Right: finished and ready to put into a jar.
     So, Mother Nature, you may bring us an icy blast if you wish, but our house is warm and toasty and oh! so fragrant. We made mincemeat out of snow, and got the added benefit of natural room fragrance to boot! There's nothing that gets us in the mood for the holidays like the smell of apples and lemons and oranges and raisins and cinnamon and nutmeg and allspice. Mingled together and shining like jewels in the little tart shells, our table will be graced by fragrant, tasty, tradition.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Picasso!

     Pablo Picasso has come to Seattle! And a very dear friend of mine took me to see him! Well, at least we saw a huge collection of his wonderful masterpieces which are being closely guarded by SAM- Seattle Art Museum. If you never go to another art exhibit in your life, make sure you make the effort to get to this one!
     Organized in chronological order, this collection tells the story of Picasso's life, from his early academic style in his birth country of Spain, through the early experimental period as he travelled back and forth from Paris to Barcelona and to Italy, traversing the cubism period and into his final, deliberate manner producing variations on work of friends and contemporary artists such as Matisse, Manet, and Velazquez.


Chat saisissant un oiseau, 1939 (Musee Picasso, Paris)
       Trancending the artwork is the story of a passionate, sensual man, who was mystifyed by women. The wives, mistresses and lovers in his life dominated his artwork, tormented his dreams, and influenced him in ways which always left a mark on him and his work. 
      One of the things that wasn't discussed much in art appreciation class "way back when" was the evocative, emotive and erotic aspect of Picassos work. He depicted the human body and the full range of human experience through color, entwined limbs, disconnected limbs hanging in limbo,  and flattened perspectives. No aspect of the human form nor human experience was left unexplored.
       Picasso has been acclaimed as "one of the worlds greatest artists", the "greatest artist of our time",  and the "father of contemporary art".  I only know that I was deeply moved to see this monumental collection so wonderfully exhibited, and enjoyed by so many people. Almost as much fun as seeing the Picassos close up and personal, was watching the audience enjoying the work. I saw one lovely couple, arms entwined, nuzzling one another while whispering about one particularly erotic piece! I can only imagine what they were thinking...

Femme au fauteuil rouge (Marie Therese) 1932 (Musee Picasso, Paris)
      The exhibit will be hung until January 17, 2011. Southwest airlines has great fares to Seattle in the winter,  so if you don't live within driving distance, you still have no excuse. And.. by the way, the Bourscheidt B&B is acclaimed for it's warm hospitality, personal limo service and gourmet dinners!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What a reunion!

     Everyone should attend a high school reunion at some point in their life. My assumption is that the later in life, the more satisfying and enjoyable that reunion will be. I just returned from Phoenix, AZ, where I graduated from Washington High School in 1960.  The students in the class of  '60 (in Phoenix at least) were perhaps at the end of the golden age of "teen-age-hood". We didn't struggle with drugs, alcohol wasn't much of an issue, and "sex" mostly consisted of necking in the back seat at the local drive-in theatre. Boys still usually paid for dates. When your date was flush, you cruised Central Avenue and had a burger at Bob's Big Boy but if money was a little short, you cruised Central Avenue and had a burger at MacDonald's!

Ande Lange's Ford Fairlane (Alyce Anderwald Ely photo)

Looking over the archives of the Ram Page school newspaper (Alyce Anderwald Ely photo)

     Fast forward fifty years. The bloom of youth is now camouflaged under wrinkles, a little extra body mass, and the wear and tear of years of success, failure, trials and tribulations of marriage, careers and child-rearing. Refreshingly honest, we 68 (+/-) year olds are what we are, and there is no sense pretending any longer, or trying to make an impression on each other. More than 10% of us no longer walk this earth. Some were lost in Viet Nam, some taken by accidents which happened while pursuing what we loved most, some by their own hand, or accident or disease.

       When becoming acquainted with old classmates, the amazing thing to me was that even though the present face didn't look familiar, as soon as I saw the name tag, the face became recognizable. It is something about the eyes.... Stevie Collins said it first... it's the eyes. When you gaze on a face you haven't seen in 50 years, but you knew the face and name way back then, it's the eyes that give away the identity. 

Trying to get the class of 60 together for a photo was like herding cats! (Alyce Anderwald Ely photo)
      Our reunion consisted of a tour of the Washington High School Campus, a class of 1960 dinner dance, and a barbecue for members of the graduating classes of 1957-1961. During our campus tour, we learned that libraries have fewer books and are called media centers, and that classroom teachers now use smartboards instead of blackboards and digital clickers instead of pen and paper for test taking.  Our "dinner- dance" was really a social hour, dinner, and talk, talk, talk! Saturday night's barbecue included a classic car show.which was a memory jogger in itself. To see a nearly 70 year old guy crawl behind the wheel of his bright shiny vintage buggy and turn the key, was to see the years melt away with the revving of those pipes and the face of a triumphant 18 year old emerge.
     We hugged those we remembered well but hadn't seen for years, talked until we were hoarse, vowed to keep in touch and to be sure to hold another reunion in 5 years or less.
 The take away message from our 50 Year Reunion is this:
 Life isn't getting any longer..
 It's time to be checking off those items on your bucket list!
What? No bucket list? then you'd better make one!