Hazelnut blackberry pear tart and almond strawberry tart (with chocolate, of course!)

Blackberry, pear and hazelnut tart

Blackberry, pear and hazelnut tart

I think I had a big stupid smile on my face the entire time we watched Melody. Why the big 103-minute idiot grin? It wasn’t because the movie is sweet, although it certainly is. Nor because it is a happy movie, although in many ways it’s that, too. It was because it just felt so perfect. Everything about it was exactly as it needed to be. I could imagine the filmmakers watching the dailies and brimming over with gladness that they’d captured the shots they’d captured, and then adding just the right soundtrack, editing it perfectly, and sitting in the dark, full of joy, watching the finished movie. It’s an odd film in many ways. It’s called Melody, and it tells the story of a sweet sort of romance between Daniel Lassiter and Melody Perkins, but it’s almost more focussed on Daniel’s friendship with the kind but unruly urchin Ornshaw. Daniel is a child of relative privilege and Ornshaw is not, and the film reminded me of Machucha in that their friendship seems unexpected and almost discouraged, because it crosses certain unwritten boundaries; boundaries that adults create between certain types of people, boundaries which make no sense to children, but which they learn to honor and fear. And although the film is exceedingly sweet, it’s never saccharine. It’s too real for that. Apparently it’s Alan Parker’s first film script, and it’s beautifully told. The story unfolds in small meaningful moments, just like real friendships, just like life. We see spells of loneliness, moments of connection, misunderstandings and disappointments. When Melody and Daniel first spend any time together, they don’t really talk at all. She plays Frere Jaques on her recorder, and he joins in on his cello. They don’t play particularly well, but it feels as though they’re happy to be talking to each other. Like everything else in the movie, it’s the messiness and imperfection that makes the scene so beautifully human. Nothing is over-told, or too carefully explained, and we feel like we’re just watching the world from Daniel’s point of view. The camera catches the expressions of the people around him, and though the adults are almost grotesque, often cruel, and never capable of the clarity of thought that the children achieve, we still feel a certain affection for all of them. But why must they complicate everything? Why can’t they see how it should be? And though the film is sweet, it’s also anarchic, almost surreally so towards the end, in a scene that reminded me of Vigo’s Zero for Conduct. I think part of the reason that Melody made me so happy is that I’d never heard of it before about a week ago. It’s been around since 1971, and I had no idea it existed. It feels like a discovery! I found it because I’ve been obsessed with Nina Simone’s version of the song In the Morning. It turns out the original is by the Bee Gees (the Bee Gees!) and is just part of the ridiculously addictive soundtrack to this film. I love all the songs! Who would have thought? I love it all! I wonder which other films are out there, waiting to be discovered?

Strawberry chocolate almond tart

Strawberry chocolate almond tart

Here at The Ordinary, we call these tarts “Dormouse pies.” Because they contain dormice? Certainly not! Because they were inspired by the hazelnut and blackberry diet of a dormouse. They have a shortbread crust, a layer of jam, and a crunchy top layer of nuts and chocolate. I made two small tarts, one with blackberry jam, fresh ripe pears, hazelnuts and bittersweet chocolate and one with strawberry jam, almonds and bittersweet chocolate. They’re both very good. Very very, dangerously good. I made two 6 inch tarts, but you could easily make one 10 or 11 inch tart with these ingredients, I think.

Here’s To Love Somebody from Melody, and a passage from the movie demonstrating all the beauty, humor, and affection contained therein.
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Sparkly roll-out sugar cookies

sparkly sugar cookies

sparkly sugar cookies

“Do you think I would do this if I wasn’t hoping for something?” Asked our Isaac in his exasperated voice. The “this” he was referring to was inside-out pjs. The something he was hoping for was a snow day, and he got it. Yes, we had a thick layer of soft sparkly snow, slick streets and sidewalks, icy flurries with every gust of wind. White and bright and cold cold cold. Isaac stayed in his inside-out pajamas all day long. In the morning Malcolm wanted to play a lego batman video game with me, which is touching but somewhat odd, because if I’m not the worst player in the world, I’m most certainly the worst in this household. He likes to help me out…he’ll make me a car or a tiny helicopter and patiently tell me how to drive it or fly it. It always feels like one of those nightmares in which you suddenly forget how to drive, or your brakes don’t work, or your feet don’t reach them. I careen wildly through a dark and chaotic Gotham City, pelted by the constant streaming rain. If I get too lost, Malcolm presses a button and I return to his side. The whole thing reminds me of a dream I had that Malcolm could drive, and I bet he could, too, I think he’d be good at it, and I half want to teach him. I don’t really play the game, I just like to meander about the town, and so Malcolm does, too. In video games as in life I lack drive and competitive spirit. I’d rather just take a walk and see what’s around the next corner. The boys happen to be remarkably skillful and coordinated, but sometimes they just explore, too. The other day Isaac was upset with the way the game was going so he said, “I’m going for a walk,” and set off down the virtual street. They like the bad guys best–the Joker is their favorite–because the good guys are boring. I like to think this says more about the way we tell this story and all stories than about my boys’ morality. Well, finally Malcolm left the dark sleety streets of Gotham for the bright blustery streets of our town and went off to sled and to eat pizza and cheese fries. And Isaac and I made sparkly snowflake cookies. David said, “the snow doesn’t give a soft white damn Whom it touches,” and (I looked it up) the line before that is “The rain is no respecter of persons,” which is so perfect it makes me weepy, and the whole poem is

XIX

i will cultivate within
me scrupulously the Inimitable which
is loneliness, these unique dreams
never shall soil their raiment

with phenomena: such
being a conduct worthy of

more ponderous
wishes or
hopes less
tall than mine” (opening the windows)

“and there is a philosophy” strictly at
which instant(leaped
into the

street)this deep immediate mask and
expressing “as for myself, because i
am slender and fragile
i borrow contact from that you and from

this you sensations, imitating a few fatally

exquisite”(pulling Its shawl carefully around
it)”things i mean the
Rain is no respecter of persons
the snow doesn’t give a soft white
damn Whom it touches

It’s by ee cummings, of course, and I think it’s about playing lego batman with absolutely no ambition on a snowy day. It’s about writing stories with interesting good guys, and submitting them even though you haven’t got a chance. It’s about embracing every strange thought in your head, about Isaac’s perfect lego house with the beautiful bank of windows and two ladders to the roof, about Malcolm’s story about a hood full of snow, about making anything, doing anything, about getting out of bed in the morning. It’s about tall hopes and graceful weighty wishes. Do you think I would do this if I wasn’t hoping for something?

Sparkly sugar cookies

Sparkly sugar cookies

These are just ordinary sugar cookies. They’re easy to roll out, and they hold their shape fairly well, though they do puff up a bit. I’ve arrived at this recipe after much experimentation. These cookies are simple, but they’re also sort of perfect in the way that simple things are. We put sparkly raw sugar on them instead of frosting, because this particular snow is the sparkliest I’ve ever seen. David said they also look like flowers, which is a hopeful thought!

Here’s Shiny Things by Tom Waits

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Clementine almond pastry cake

Clementine almond pastry cake

Clementine almond pastry cake

Sometimes when we have trouble making a decision we’ll ask Malcolm for help. Usually it’s a small thing–choosing between two paint colors, say, or whether or not I should add olives to a stew. He’s very decisive, but he’s thoughtful, too–he thinks quickly. And when he gives an answer it always seems to have been the obvious answer all along. It sounds silly, but I’ve been wracked with indecision lately on the subject of a story I’m writing. It was going along in the usual halting, stumbling way of most of my stories, when I noticed that it kept getting longer and longer. The characters were in my thoughts all day and night, and they were becoming more complicated, and all of these ideas about what things could be about started haunting me. I know you’re supposed to write something until it’s as long as it needs to be, but at some point you have to decide what you’re doing, you have to know where you’re going and have some idea how to get there. So I asked Malcolm. I was mostly joking, but I said, “Hey, Malcolm, should I write a short story or a novel?” I was thinking he’d just laugh it off, because it’s a ridiculous question. But he said, “Well, tell me about it, tell me about some of the characters, what’s it about?” This kills me! It’s so smart and sweet. And Malcolm had an idea for a story, too, which I’m going to help him write by asking him questions, so we were just like two writers, together, just a couple of story-writing friends, discussing our work. And I’ve decided to think like Malcolm, when I’m choosing if the story goes this way or that way…I’ll think quickly, and make it seem like it was inevitable all along. He chose novel, by the way, so we’ll see how that goes!

Clementine almond pastry cake

Clementine almond pastry cake

It’s a pastry cake! I’m very excited about this…I feel like I’ve invented a genre of sweet food. I first encountered the phrase “Pastry Cake” in one of my favorite books, Joan Aiken’s Go Saddle the Sea. I couldn’t find an actual pastry cake any where, so I decided it should be a thick dense cake, almost like a soft shortbread. The first one I made had a salted top. This one has clementine zest in the batter, plus almonds and a pinch of allspice and a drop of sherry. It’s stuffed with milk chocolate chips, and topped with sugar crystals, which gives it a nice sort of crispiness. Very festive, very tasty!

Here’s The Choice is Yours by Black Sheep
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Pear and gianduja tarts

Pear and gianduja tarts

Pear and gianduja tarts

Snow Day! They cancelled school before it even started snowing today, but by the time the boys were out of bed the snow fell thick and fast, and it’s still coming down. We trudged around our pretty town in the slush, the boys sledded a few times, Clio ran like a crazed reindeer in a snow-covered field, and now it’s pjs and legos and hot tea. Yeah. Last night we watched Searching for Sugarman, and, oddly, it featured more than a few shots of Rodriguez trudging around Detroit in thick snow. Just shots of him walking in the snow, and they were oddly moving. The whole film was surprisingly moving, as a matter of fact. It wasn’t really the story that got to me, although it’s a remarkable story, and although the music was intriguing, I didn’t feel like I knew all that much more about it for watching the film. It was the character of Rodriguez himself, as articulated by all the people around him. And not by the music critics and record producers, but by the Ordinary people in his life–his three wise and eloquent daughters and the bricklayers and construction workers he sees from day to day. We don’t actually hear him talk too much himself, which somehow suits the mysterious character we’ve been told about, who was so shy he performed facing the back of the stage. But his daughters and co-workers present the picture of a man who is content, not in a comfortable lazy way, but in a satisfied way, in the way of somebody who finds a lot to be happy about in small things, who is happy with what he has achieved, who is constantly curious and questioning, but not dissatisfied with what he has. Somebody who has his own definition of success, which extends from recording music to the hard labor he does to support himself in Detroit–demolishing and cleaning out houses. I’ll let Rick Emerson, a construction worker and friend of Rodriguez’s, tell you all about it, “He had this kind of magical quality that all the genuine poets and artists have: to elevate things. To get above the mundane, the prosaic. All the bullshit. All the mediocrity that’s everywhere. The artist, the artist is the pioneer….What he’s demonstrated, very clearly, is that you have a choice. He took all that torment, all that agony, all that confusion and pain, and he transformed it into something beautiful. He’s like the silkworm, you know? You take this raw material, and you transform it. You come out with something that wasn’t there before. Something beautiful. Something perhaps transcendent. Something perhaps eternal. Insofar as he does that, I think he’s representative of the human spirit, of what’s possible. That you have a choice ‘And this has been my choice, to give you Sugar Man.’ Now, have you done that? Ask yourself.” It’s almost as though he’s been reading Rolands Barthes, ““The film spectator might adopt the silk worm’s motto: inclusum labor illustrat: because I am shut in I work, and shine with all the intensity of my desire.” Because he’s shut out of a lifetime of fame and fortune, because he’s shut into the cold troubled city of Detroit, because he’s shut into his own creativity, he shines, and makes everybody around him shine with him.

Pear and gianduja tart

Pear and gianduja tart

I bought some pastry rings at the flea market, and I confess I didn’t know what they were for. A small amount of research suggested that you place them on a baking sheet and line them as you would a tart pan. So that’s what I did. I made the crust out of a sort of shortbread dough. I had some crumbled hazelnuts and chocolate chips from another recipe I’ll tell you about soon, and I decided to combine them with a bit of egg and milk and process them until smooth, and then top all of that with slices of pear. Yum. I made two smallish tarts (I think they’re 12 centimeters across) but you could easily make this in a ten-inch tart pan. You might want a bit more pear, that’s up to you!

Here’s I Wonder by Rodriguez from Searching for Sugarman.
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Caramel apple chocolate chip cookies

Caramel apple chocolate chip cookies

Caramel apple chocolate chip cookies

    And they all pretend they’re Orphans
    And their memory’s like a train
    You can see it getting smaller as it pulls away
    And the things you can’t remember
    Tell the things you can’t forget that
    History puts a saint in every dream.

    Down the street the dogs are barkin’
    And the day is a-gettin’ dark
    As the night comes in a-fallin’
    The dogs’ll lose their bark
    An’ the silent night will shatter
    From the sounds inside my mind
    For I’m one too many mornings
    And a thousand miles behind

    In this life, in this life, in this life,
    In this, oh sweet life:
    We’re…
    Coming in from the cold.
    It’s you – it’s you – it’s you I’m talkin’ to –
    Why do you look so sad and forsaken?
    When one door is closed, don’t you know other is open?

    Hear the corncrakes and the deerhooves
    And the sleet rain on the slate roof
    A medallion locked inside her hand
    in her hand

    Monday morning wake up knowing that you’ve got to go to school
    Tell your mum what to expect, she says it’s right out of the blue
    Do you went to work in Debenham’s, because that’s what they expect
    Start in Lingerie, and Doris is your supervisor
    And the head said that you always were a queer one from the start
    For careers you say you went to be remembered for your art
    Your obsessions get you known throughout the school for being strange
    Making life-size models of the Velvet Underground in clay

    Just listen to me I won’t pretend
    To understand the movement of the wind
    Or the waves out in the ocean
    Or how like the hours I change
    Softly slowly plainly blindly
    Oh me oh my!

    Visions occupy my synaptic’s space
    Command and shake, to illustrate my mind’s landscape
    The tall grass, the low plains, the mountanous ridges
    Thickets among the forests, rivers beneath the bridges
    Presence of hilltops, lit up with tree tops
    Eavesdrop; and hear the incline of sunshine, nine
    Stones in orbit, refuse to forfeit
    They all form a cipher, and they came to observe it
    I follow suit, and face it, embrace it
    Shinin bright, but still I’m careful not to waste it
    Destined to rise, because I’m basement adjacent

What are these? These are all lyrics that I love! These are all lyrics I could read as poetry, which are only made better by the addition of music. There are a lot more songs where these come from, and I’m going to make them into a list. So that’s the subject of today’s Sunday interactive playlist. Songs with powerful lyrics. They could be beautiful or funny or clever or moving…whatever you like.

And these cookies…well it all started when Malcolm wanted to try to make dulce de leche. I’ve made dulce de leche in the past, and it turned out okay, so I thought, why not? This time I was distracted, and I cooked it too long on too high a temperature, and it became like caramel, like those lovely chewy, slightly chalky milk caramels they used to give out at the used book store across the street. I think they were werthers chewy caramels. If you have a batch of overcooked dulce de leche, you can use that, if not, I’m sure you can get some soft chewy caramels at the store, and use those!

Here’s a link to the interactive playlist. Add what you like or leave a song in the comments and I’ll add it through the week.

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Hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookies (with black currant jam)

Hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookie

Hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookie

Yesterday was a bright, blustery, bewildering day. The leaves are all gone from the trees, but the wind shook the dark branches, and the light came white and strong at such an angle that it was always in your eyes. We walked the boys to school, and in about five minutes I got a call to pick Malcolm up, because he had a headache. An hour later I got a call to pick Isaac up, because he felt like he was in an oven and someone was playing ping pong with his head, and because he felt a little noxious. They spent the rest of the day flying around the house singing. They were fine, mostly. They’d sit down every once in a while and say they felt queasy, but it never lasted for long. I’m perpetually dizzy, myself, so we made quite a trio. It was a strange, nice day, the time passed in odd leaps and it felt like an in-between day…not quite sick, not quite well, not quite dozing, not quite awake. We don’t have too many days home together once school starts, with me gone at work all weekend, so it felt like a needed day. Malcolm and I went to the grocery store, which sounds dull, but is one of my favorite things to do, and one of the things I miss most about summer. He was very quiet, and said he felt a little funny, but he also said he was fine. We talked about what might be worrying him, what might be giving him a headache that sends him home from school. He’s had lots of academic stress lately, and today he’s at sleepaway camp for the first time ever. We talked a little about those things, but mostly we just drove through the slatted white bright sunshine and it felt good to be with him not talking. At the store he asked for a bag of mints, and I said sure, because he’s not feeling well and he was being so thoughtful and kind. It was on the top shelf, and when he brought it back to the cart he said, “You can always reach something if you really want it.” We came home and I was confused about the time of day so I was useless for anything but baking cookies. We made pizzas and packed Malcolm’s bag. This morning I had a brief moment of panic, a sort of lost slipping feeling, that I wasn’t packing Malcolm’s lunch for school, that for two-and-a-half days I wouldn’t be there to make sure he had enough to eat and was warm enough and got everything he needed. But he’ll be alright. If he really wants something, he can always reach it.

hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookies

hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookies

These are the cookies I made yesterday. Hazelnut and chocolate chip shortbread with black currant jam in the center. Of course you can use any kid of jam you like, but I recommend black currant, because its tartness sets off the sweetness of the rest of the cookie in a nice way.

Here’s Dizzy by Tommy Roe.

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Lemon cream tart

Lemon cream tart

Lemon cream tart

My resumé looks like a tattered patchwork quilt. The pieces are fading and torn, the pattern strange and irregular, and it has giant gaps. Nothing quite reaches, nothing fits together. This makes it fun to apply for things! It’s a craft project!! First there’s the entirely practical and responsible career as an editor, then there’s the entirely irresponsible and impractical career as an independent film maker. And then both of these trails become lost in a tangle of overgrown undergrowth, a riot of branches and new green leaves and flowers and shifting sunshine and shadow. This is, of course, where the boys come along. And the decade of being a mom and a waitress and a once-and-future filmmaker, a filmmaker in my dreams, literally. Nobody wants to see that you were a mom or a waitress, nobody writes that on their resume. But I think maybe we should, because I genuinely believe that it makes you better at everything. Let’s taking writing, for instance, because that is what has me all-absorbed at the moment. One of my all time favorite quotes comes from Alyosha, whose elder tells him that we should “…care for most people exactly as one would for children…” Well, I think we should write about them that way as well! We should see them at their most vulnerable and needy, stripped bare and messy, but we should love them anyway. Even as we see all of their faults, we should feel an irresistible affection for them and generosity towards them. And surely this applies to all people, not just to writing about them, but to being with them and working with them from day to day…to bosses and co-workers and patients and customers and students. They might not be your child, but they’re somebody’s child. They were infants, once, just like the rest of us. In this way we can turn our disdain and frustration into empathy and tenderness. It might not be a marketable skill, it might not be something you list on your resume, but it seems very important to me right now.

Lemon cream tart

Lemon cream tart

Lemon cream tart! With a pecan shortbread crust! It all started when I saw an article in The Guardian about Perfect Lemon Posset. I love the idea of a posset, it seems so warm and comforting and Joan Aikeny. Not this version, though, this version was cool and elegant. And it looked delicious. It’s just cream, really, which somehow magically sets into a silky sort of custard. No eggs, though. It’s magic! All of the recipes suggested that it would be good with a shortbread cookie, so I thought, why not put it in a shortbread crust? That way you’re not just eating thickened cream. (You’re eating thickened cream with more butter and sugar alongside!) And I decided to flavor it with bay leaves and lemon, because this is an intriguing combination I’d seen in an old cookbook that I’ve wanted to try for a while. And I decided to add some rum, because a posset should have alcohol in it, dammit, even if it’s cooked off. I made a smallish tart, but if you wanted a full-sized one, use the full pint of cream.

Here’s Smooth Sailing, by Pete Rock, because this dessert is so smooooooth.
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Pecan, coconut, chocolate chip cookies and Cornmeal almond cinnamon cookies

Cornmeal almond cinnamon cookies

Cornmeal almond cinnamon cookies

Last night we watched Au Hazard Balthazar. I found it incredibly moving and beautiful, but I need to think about it more before I talk about it, so I’ll talk instead about something that it reminded me of. Which is, of course, Zola’s Germinal, which takes place in the same part of the world about 100 years earlier. Au Hazard Balthazar is the story of a donkey, a working animal in rural France, who faces abuse and cruelty at the hands of his many masters. Germinal tells the story of a community of miners in rural France whose world is awash in casual and thoughtless cruelty, at the hands of their masters and amongst themselves. Of course this cruelty extends to the animals who live with them, who work for them, and whom they eat, it’s all part of a cycle of violence and poverty and need. And this cruelty is a source of tension and anxiety in the novel, it adds to the suspense of a situation that is becoming unbearable, which is about to violently explode. Souvarine is a young Russian revolutionary who believes the entire world needs to be razed clean with blood and violence. He cares for nothing and nobody, except for a fat rabbit that has the run of the house where he boards. And she loves him, too, she loves to sit on his lap while he gently strokes her ears. It’s a scene of real affection and peace, and it’s followed immediately by a scene in which the entire town feasts on rabbits. We worry for her, for Souvarine’s friend. Just as we worry for the finches tied sightless and motionless in cages for a singing contest at a fair, and for the horses who spend their entire lives in the pit, five hundred meters below the earth. On Etienne’s first day in the pit, he’s horrified by the hellish conditions there, and his journey back to the surface is delayed by the nightmarish scene of a horse being lowered into the pit.

    Meanwhile, however, operations were proceeding in the shaft, the rapper had sounded four times, the horse was being lowered. It was always a worrying moment, for it sometimes happened that the animal was so seized with terror that it was dead by the time it arrived. At the top, trussed in a net, it struggled desperately; then, as soon as it felt the earth disappearing beneath it, it remained petrified, and as it vanished out of sight, with its great eyes staring, it didn’t move a muscle. Today, the horse was too large to fit between the guides, and, once they had strung him below the cage, they had had to bend his head round and tie it back against his flanks.

    Soon, Trompette was laid out on the iron slabs, a motionless mass, lost in the nightmare of the dark and bottomless pit, and the long, deafening fall. They were starting to untie him when Bataille, who had been unharnessed a little earlier, came up and stretched out his neck to sniff at the new companion who had fallen from earth to meet him. The workmen formed a wide circle around them, and laughed. What was it that smelled so good? But Bataille was deaf to their mockery. He was excited by the good smell of fresh air, the forgotten scent of sunshine in the meadows. And he suddenly let out a resounding whinny, whose happy music seemed muted with a sorrowful sigh. It was a welcoming shout, and a cry of pleasure at the arrival of a sudden whiff of the past, but aslo a sigh of pity for the latest prisoner who would never be sent back alive.

There’s more about the horse’s fall into hell, and Zola continues to imagine the horses’ dreams of the pastures and sunshine of their youth. In a book as gritty and factual as Germinal, it’s a rare flight of fancy. It’s this empathy that makes you feel more moved by the plight of the humans, and gives you hope that they will learn to be kinder to each other. If you can understand the suffering of a horse, and can sympathize with the animal, you can’t be blind to the suffering of your fellow humans, you can’t have turned yourself off and resigned yourself to the cruelty of the world. You can allow yourself the euphoric pleasure of dreaming of a day when everybody is equal, and justice reigns, and “all the populations of the earth are totally transformed without a single window being broken or a drop of blood being spilled.”

Pecan chocolate coconut cookies

Pecan chocolate coconut cookies

I’ve been making lots of cookies, lately, so I thought I’d tell you about two kinds at once. They’re both very easy and quick. I made them both entirely in the food processor, but if you don’t have one you could make them by hand. One is a pecan coconut chocolate chip. It’s chewy and crispy and very sweet–like a candy bar almost! But irresistibly good. The other is cormeal, almond cinnamon. It’s more of a cakey cookie, soft and dense. But it has a built-in crunch from cornmeal and finely ground almonds. I said almond and cinnamon remind me of Christmas, and David said he could eat these all the year round.

Here’s Odetta with All the Pretty Horses.

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Mint leaf and chocolate chip cookies

Mint leaf and chocolate chip cookies

Mint leaf and chocolate chip cookies

I think I’ll change the name of The Ordinary to Tales of the towpath. Today’s tale is my favorite kind of story, seemingly uneventful and yet somehow significant. Here’s how it all began. Last night David’s beautiful sister and her beautiful wife and their beautiful 5-week old daughter came by for dinner. After, we wanted to go for a walk, because the air was perfect. Of course I thought of the towpath because I always think of the towpath, and because the town was rapidly filling with tourists here for the fire works. At first it was bright enough…there were few trees and the way was lined with porch lights and street lights. After about a block the streetlights stopped and a tunnel of trees arched over the path, making it shadowy and dark. The boys raced into this, laughing and gleaming. Clio pulled my arm off trying to reach them, so I asked Malcolm to slow down, but he just laughed and said “You can’t catch us!” Well, obviously I can’t, but Clio can, so I let her go! (I told you this is an uneventful story!) She raced into the tunnel of dark trees, and then all three of them adventured through together: Clio of the sea-grey eyes, Isaac with the sun-bright hair, and fast-swimming Malcolm. They flew to the next island of light, further down the path, and danced in mad circles, trying to catch Clio. I walked into the tunnel of trees at my own slow pace. It wasn’t a frightening darkness, here in the tunnel, it was the good kind of darkness that transforms something well-known into something mysteriously beautiful. The branches were dark as night, but the sky reflected in the water had a lingering lilac lightness to it. Behind me walked my family with a brand new life, and ahead of me danced my life…life I had made and life that has made me. When I reached the light I caught Clio’s leash and we all went into town and got ice cream. It was fun. The end. (In literature, this is known as an Isaacian ending.)
IMG_0842

Malcolm had the genius idea to make mint chocolate chip cookies with fresh mint from our garden!! He wanted them to have extra sugar and extra vanilla in them, so they do. They were surprisingly delicious. I didn’t know how the mint would like being baked, but it seemed to like it just fine. Perfectly minty, if you know what I mean. I used the mint growing wildly in our garden, and I’m not sure what kind it is, but I think any fresh mint would do. I made these completely in the food processor, but you could chop the mint finely with a knife if you don’t have one.

Here’s Whistling in the Dark by They Might Be Giants, which is Malcolm’s favorite song at the moment.
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French cake a week–Tarte aux cerises

Tarte aux cerises

Tarte aux cerises

In which Claire, who doesn’t speak French, bakes her way through a French cookbook from 1962.

What?!?! French cake a week? French cake every few months is more like it. It’s been a while. I got side tracked. But we’re back! And in keeping with the almost-forgotten tradition, we’ll talk about a French film as well as a French cake. This week’s offering is Séraphine. The film tells the true story of Séraphine Louis, a maid who has a secret passion for painting. She’s “discovered” by Wilhelm Uhde, a noted art critic who happens to be renting space in the house where Séraphine is employed. That’s the story of the film, but the film is truly about Séraphine herself; about her slow, quiet movements, about her passions and fears and loneliness. The film itself is slow and quiet, following Séraphine as she collects the materials to make paint, which is a mysterious and beautiful ritual. Séraphine is happiest outdoors, and her almost religious love of nature translates into her paintings, which are wild and vibrant and beautiful. Séraphine doesn’t paint for wealth or fame, she paints for the glory of god, and because she has to paint. She has a lush, vivid world inside of her head, and it spills out onto the canvas with a sort of ecstasy. She paints with her hands, with the power of her whole body, and the fervor of her fevered soul.

Tarte aux cerises

Tarte aux cerises

And it’s another cherry tart! This one is quite simple, just fresh cherries (and bittersweet chocolate chips, which weren’t in the recipe but which I couldn’t resist adding) in a simple crust, with a sort of “cream” poured over. Sometimes simple is best–this was delicious. I had a little bad-tempered trouble trying to piece together the lattice, but I don’t think it needs to be perfect. It’s all getting eaten, anyway!!

The soundtrack to Séraphine was lovely…deep and moving, and here’s a song from it.

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