Last night Clio and I went for a walk after dinner, as we almost always do. It wasn’t even close to 8 o’clock yet, but it was getting dark. There was a chill in the air, but we could feel the warmth radiate from the wall of rocks, which had soaked in sunshine all day. Earlier in the day, we’d seen that someone had stuck a piece of tassly grass into the trunk of a tree. It looked like a little bouquet, or a little spray of fireworks. However, at dusk, it seemingly took its true form.
The spirit of the end of summer. He’s laughing at us from behind a tree, full of mischief, but a little sad, too, maybe even slightly scared. He seems substantial, but if you run your hands through his tresses, as we did today in the bright afternoon light, he falls to nothing. Through his winking eyes and gaping mouth, you can see the beautiful darkening light along our towpath, and watch the leaves fall like bright shadows.
Cherry, white peach, chocolate, and almond tart
This tart contained many of my favorite flavors. It was fun to make, and I realized I hadn’t made anything slightly complicated in some time. It’s not complicated as in difficult, but it does have a few steps, a few layers. The first is a sweetish buttery crust. But you don’t roll it out, you just press it down with your hands, so it’s not that hard. The second layer is bittersweet chocolate. I melted the chocolate chips over a low heat till they were just soft, and then spread them into a thin layer with the back of my spoon. The third layer is a frangipane, but on the firm side, not too custardy. And finally, of course, the fruit! I like the rich, tangy, sweet but not too sweet quality of this tart, and ate if for breakfast and before bed for days. We also ate it with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream, and I recommend these presentations as well.
Cherry chocolate tart with amaretti meringue topping
Last night we went out for Indian food and we brought our restaurant-drawing book. Malcolm set us all the task of drawing clowns, so we did.
The restaurant was glowing, the food was good, the boys were happy–we all were! And all night long I had the strangest dreams. I dreamt that David and I went to the bank, and there was such a long line that everybody waiting got a chair to sit in. David went to get some food, and then the bank teller called my number, 76, like I was in a deli line. I said, “Oh, but it’s not my turn next!” And everybody explained to me that I’d won a special opportunity to partake in “Community Supported Banking.” Everybody waiting with me, surrounding me in their chairs, would be given a special rate (for what? I don’t know!) as long as we all agreed to be responsible for each other’s financial situation from that moment forward. I woke up at that point and I thought about how I’d be anxious to be responsible for other people’s financial situation because they might be dishonest or irresponsible, and then I felt bad for having such a dim view of human nature. When I fell asleep again I dreamed that we were at the ocean and Malcolm jumped in the waves even though it was winter time and icy cold. We laughed and looked around for a towel, and then a wave the size of the ocean came down upon us, and I couldn’t find Isaac and Malcolm was far away and I could see David but I couldn’t reach him. And then David woke me up and told me I’d been crying. I’ll spare you the account of my other dreams of the night, but they were many, and they were strange. We’ve determined that we often have strange dreams when we eat Indian food, I wonder if it’s true, or if it’s just a self-fulfilling superstitious belief. Winsor McCay believed that Welsh Rarebit could give you strange dreams. In 1904 he began drawing a cartoon in which each day a person would eat Welsh Rarebit and then have bizarre, sometimes frightening dreams.
The stories became so popular that Edwin Porter made a beautiful film version in 1906.
I’ve been thinking about Winsor McCay a lot recently, because each morning when I finally shake off my dreams and clear my eyes, I see long icicles hanging from the wires outside our window, and I know that our world is covered in frost and snow and it has been for weeks and it probably will be for weeks. I wonder if instead of waking up, I’m still dreaming, and I’m in Slumberland with Little Nemo, exploring Jack Frost’s palace.
I was busy helping Malcolm plan a trip to Planet Mercury yesterday, and I never got around to posting a Sunday Interactive Playlist, so this week we’ll do a Monday Interactive Playlist, and the subject is sleep. Songs about sleeping, songs about not sleeping, songs that make you sleepy.
Cherry chocolate tart with amaretti-meringue topping
This tart is deeeeeeelicious, if I do say so myself and I do. It’s got a rich dense bottom layer, a juicy middle layer of cherry jam and bittersweet chocolate chips, and a top layer of amaretti meringue. What’s amaretti meringue, you ask? Well, it’s a meringue, and I hoped it would turn out like amaretti cookies, and it did! I’m so pleased! I’m not usually very good at making meringue, but this one turned out crisp and light, just as I hoped it would. I think if the weather was more humid we might have some problems with mushiness, but at the moment everything is wintery dry, and finally we’ve found a reason to be glad of that!
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
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!!
I’ve been trying to write a story. I like it so far, and I think about it a lot. I dreamed about it two nights in a row, which is a nice feeling, because when you wake up the characters seem very real and complex. At this point, you’d think I could just write it all down in a rush, and get it finished. But for some reason I haven’t done that. I know it will come out as a completely different story depending on the exact time that I sit down to finish it, and that thought is giving me pause. I don’t think it will hurt the story to marinate for a bit, anyway. As long as I can keep all the pieces in my head, and not let them all scatter like marbles from my addled mind.
ANYWAY…the subject of this week’s Sunday interactive playlist is storytelling songs. Songs that tell compelling, funny, or otherwise entertaining stories, with lively appealing characters. As ever, the list is interactive, so add them to the list yourself, or leave a comment, and I’ll try to add them through the week.
Plum, peach and cherry tart
In other news, it’s yet another way to combine cherries and chocolate. This time they meet in an almond crust, in the company of sliced peaches and plums, and under a topping of sliced almonds (and chocolate chips.) I took some time to arrange the plums and peaches in a pretty pattern, but of course you couldn’t see them at all under the crisp topping! Silly. You could try putting the topping under the fruit, rendering it no longer a “topping,” but it was nice this way, and at least the peaches and plums were evenly distributed.