Hazelnut chocolate cherry tart

Hazelnut chocolate cherry tart

Hazelnut chocolate cherry tart

David showed me a story earlier today, and I can’t stop thinking about it. [David showed it to me here, on Futility Closet, where you can read the whole story much more concisely and coherently.] It concerns Michel Navratil, the last survivor of the Titanic. He and his brother, who were 2 and 3 years of age at the time, survived the crash, but had no adult to claim them after, and spoke no English, so they came to be known as “the titanic orphans.” A woman who had been in their lifeboat looked after them until the true story could be discovered. As it happens, they were the children of a French tailor who had taken them from his estranged wife, and planned to escape to America with them. He’d taken them to Monte Carlo, and then to England, and they’d boarded the Titanic under assumed names. As the ship was sinking, their father “…dressed me very warmly and took me in his arms, A stranger did the same for my brother. When I think of it now, I am very moved. They knew they were going to die.” Michel’s voice is so sweet and thoughtful, and his memories are so unexpected, yet so perfect for a child. You can’t help but fill in the story, you can’t help but wonder if the brothers were friends, as my boys are. Did they travel with their arms around each other, as my boys do? They’d already had such adventures by the time they reached the Titanic; were they scared? Were they angry at their father? Did they know where they were going? What would their life have been like if the ship had never crashed? Michel does not remember being scared. He enjoyed his time on the Titanic, he found it “A magnificent ship!…I remember looking down the length of the hull – the ship looked splendid. My brother and I played on the forward deck and were thrilled to be there. One morning, my father, my brother, and I were eating eggs in the second-class dining room. The sea was stunning. My feeling was one of total and utter well-being.” And even after they struck the iceberg, he wasn’t frightened, “I don’t recall being afraid, I remember the pleasure, really, of going plop! into the life-boat. We ended up next to the daughter of an American banker who managed to save her dog–no one objected. There were vast differences of people’s wealth on the ship, and I realized later that if we hadn’t been in second-class, we’d have died. The people who came out alive often cheated and were aggressive, the honest didn’t stand a chance.” Michel and his brother were eventually discovered by their mother and taken back to France (on a boat!) His brother died aged 43 in 1953. Michel became a professor of philosophy, and he lived to be 92 years old. But he says, “I died at 4. Since then I have been a fare-dodger of life. A gleaner of time.” A gleaner of time. Good grief.
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I call this a cake, but you could make it in a square pan and cut it into bars and call it bar cookies. It’s dense and delicious. It has dried cherries, toasted hazelnuts, oats, and chocolate. It’s plain in many ways, but it’s also complicated and delicious. David and I joked that it was like trail mix bars, but trail mix bars with plenty of butter and sugar in them!!

Here’s Take Me in a Lifeboat by Flatt & Scrubbs
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Le gateau au chocolat de Nancy with blackberry-cassis sauce

Le gateau au chocolat Nancy

We went blackberry picking yesterday. We get a boxed share of vegetables from our CSA, but part of the deal is that we can go to the farm and pick certain crops. This week it’s blackberries. Of course I got lost on the way there, following a detour it turned out I didn’t need to make. Picture me, if you will, driving in circles on beautiful but bewildering country roads, with two little boys in the back seat, and me up front, cursing my head off. The boys meekly suggested that we just go home, and I yelled, “we’ve been driving for hours so we could get one **$*#$ pint of blackberries, we are not going home without our pint of *$#*&$** blackberries!” Yeah, they’ll have glowing memories of lazy summer days with mom. So, almost by accident, we found the farm. We walked across dry and blistering fields to the long rows of blackberry bushes. And then it was really nice. The bushes made a bit of shade, there was a warm, blackberry-smelling wind blowing all along the hedges. The boys ate berries right from the vine, the bees and butterflies danced dizzily all around us, but weren’t interested in us at all. The thing about picking blackberries on a farm is that many many people have picked before you, so it can be hard to find the ripe fruit. You could, in theory, find yourself having a cross and panicky moment in which you think about how long it took you to get there, and how you’ll go home with a pint of sour red berries, which you tugged, unripe from the bush in grudging anger. And then bright little Isaac said, “Mom, look down here! There are millions.” And truly, when I crouched down and looked up at the world from Isaac’s point of view, the bushes were teeming with ripe fruit. I reached my hand into the fragrant green spaces the leaves made, and the berries literally fell, with gentle little thuds, to the ground. We had our pint in no time, but we kept walking to the end of the row, where it was lovely and shady by the wooded edge of the farm, and we stopped to rest there a moment before the hot march back. And I thought about how everything in life is probably better if you look at it from Isaac’s point of view.

Blackberry picking

For some reason I felt determined to bake yesterday, and I felt determined to bake with chocolate. I’d been reading my French cookbook from the 60s. I don’t really like to follow recipes, but this cookbook is different, because I don’t really speak French, and because it doesn’t really spell out how to make the recipe in a step by step way. So it’s like solving a puzzle. I’m not sure I made this cake correctly, but it turned out delicious! It has lots of butter, chocolate and eggs, and 1 tablespoon of flour and a smicker of ground almonds. It’s dense, but light, soft, flavorful. We ate half the blackberries fresh, and we turned the rest into a sauce with cassis and sugar. The blackberries and the sauce were quite tart, but I thought they went well with the sweet chocolatey cake.

Blackberry sauce

Here’s Jeanne Moreau singing Le Tourbillon, which always sounds like summer passing too fast, to me.
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