Banana-chocolate chip-cranberry sauce cake

Banana cranberry sauce cake

Hello, and welcome to another installment of “Claire clumsily paraphrases wikipedia in an attempt to share an artist that she loves.” David recently purchased a many-volume set of Memphis Minnie CDs. So much good music! She just kills me. She, quite literally, rocks. In the past I haven’t been able to find recordings of all her works, but I’ve read her lyrics like poetry. It’s so wonderful to be able to hear them now. Let me tell you a little something about her… She was born Lizzie Douglas, in 1893. She learned very young to play guitar and banjo, and ran away from home at thirteen to try to support herself as a musician. She landed in Memphis, Tennessee, and played in nightclubs and on the street. She travelled with Ringling Brothers circus for a while, and eventually she married and recorded with Kansas Joe McCoy. In the thirties she moved to Chicago, and formed a band with drum and bass, thus single-handedly inventing rock n roll. (What? what?) She went on to record during the forties, but her popularity and her health failed in the fifties. She died in a nursing home in 1973. Her songs are remarkable. On her gravestone it says, “The hundreds of sides Minnie recorded are the perfect material to teach us about the blues. For the blues are at once general, and particular, speaking for millions, but in a highly singular, individual voice. Listening to Minnie’s songs we hear her fantasies, her dreams, her desires, but we will hear them as if they were our own.” You do feel this way when you hear her songs! Her life was so different from mine – so wild and uncertain and vulnerable – and yet when I hear her songs I often think, “I feel that, way too.” Her words are so human and raw and honest and mysterious, all at the same time. The picture you form of her, from her songs, is of a woman who is strong and funny, empathetic but guarded, and who has been hurt and has known a lot of pain.

Here’s I Hate to See the Evening Sun Go Down,

I hate to see evenin’ sun go down
I hate to see evenin’ sun go down
Cause it makes me think, I’m on my last go-round

Some people take the blues, go jump overboard and drown
Some people take the blues, go jump overboard and drown
But when they gets on me, I’d rather stay ‘n go sit down

I been to the river, looked it up and down
I been to the river, looked it up and down
But when my mind never let me, to jump overboard and drown

There’s such a strange hopefulness in the lyrics, with the very blues that are bringing her down also buoying her up.

She has quite a few songs about prostitution, but I love the odd beautiful detail of Hustlin Woman’s Blues…

I stood on the corner all night long, counting the stars one by one
I stood on the corner all night long, counting the stars one by one
I didn’t make me no money, Bob, and I can’t go back home

New Dirty Dozen is a sassy, funny insult song, based on the game dirty dozens, which involves inventing increasingly hurtful insults about a person’s family, until somebody can’t take it any more and gets angry…

Come all you folks and start to walk, I’m fixing to start my dozen talk
What you’re thinking about ain’t on my mind, that stuff you got is the sorriest kind
Now you’re a sorry mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozens, your papa and your cousin
Your mama do the lordy lord

She has beautiful songs about rambling, about being cold and homeless, with sore feet and not enough to eat, songs about being treated cruelly by policemen and judges and doctors and boyfriends, songs about dirt dauber wasps building nests on her when she was a child, songs about superstition, even a song about President Roosevelt and a mule, she has a lovely song of admiration about Ma Rainey, she has generous songs offering shelter and food to desperate men, she has saucy, sexy songs, songs full of hunger and pain, songs full of warmth and humanity. And she plays guitar like a mother-flipper!

Here’s a small playlist of Memphis Minnie songs.

And here’s a cake that uses up leftover cranberry sauce and bananas that are past their prime. It’s rich and moist and tasty. I added chocolate chips, cause I love them, but you could easily leave them out.

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Savory sweet potato, turnip and pecan galette with smoked gouda and cranberry sauce

Sweet potato & cranberry galette

During the power outage (is she still going on about that? yes, but I’m almost done) it sometimes seemed to me that Malcolm has enough energy and Isaac is bright enough to light up the whole town. Monday night, the night of the storm, I had the clever idea of having a halloween movie-fest. We’d watched Coraline and were half-way through The Corpse Bride. Poor little Isaac was already hiding in the next room, creeping in to watch half a scene, and racing out again at the extra-spooky parts. And then the house went dark. Inky black dark, with wave upon wave of rain and wind battering the windows. Heh heh! Nothing to worry about here, boys! From that moment on I felt that I had to be brave and make the best of the situation for the boys. Of course I didn’t do such a good job of that, but I tried. Wednesday before the power came on we dropped them at school, and then I came back to the cold, silent house and indulged in a little breakdown. The truth is, the boys didn’t seem to mind the situation all that much. They handled it much better than I did. They were cheerful, especially Malcolm – nothing seemed to phase him. He didn’t mind not going to school and not taking baths, of course. He’s never felt the cold all that much, unless he’s sick. If TV wasn’t an option, he didn’t miss it. He loved making a fire in the backyard and holding bread over it to toast. He liked to play with the candles, which the small drops of wax on every single table in the house will forever remind us. He likes to be with his brother, though he drives him absolutely crazy. He liked to walk all around town, scrounging for interesting things thrown up by the storm. He liked playing games by candlelight. I taught him how to play spit, and he plays it exactly the way you’d expect him too. He’s smart and fast, but he keeps his cards in messy piles, which slows him down. I played blokus with Isaac, and though he’s sweet as sugar and was trying to let me win, he won anyway. Isaac seemed a little more nervous. When I sat in the kitchen playing solitaire, he stood close by me talking and talking, in the way he does when he’s anxious. He sang constantly. He sings his life. He seemed to try to fill up the unusual silence with his voice. When he got sick, his fast-paced nervous ramble accelerated as his fever rose, all through the night. When he finally got to sleep in the morning, Clio, who was ill herself, lay back to back with him, smushed up as close as could be. I took him to the emergency room to get a strep test, because none of the doctors had power in their offices. I was worried we’d have to wait for hours and hours, but I nearly cried with how efficient and nice the nurses and doctors were. I’ve spent a lot of time in waiting rooms with Isaac. It might sound siilly, but it’s an oddly precious time for me. We’re both usually a little tired and worried, and Isaac is so sweet and funny and chatty, and it always feels like a pocket of time separate from the rest of our days, running at its own pace in its own little world. In the emergency room the feeling was intensified, because we were so tired, and we were in a hospital, and all the days had been so strange. I had trouble sleeping at night during the blackout, because it was so completely dark and silent and cold. One night I ran through all of the events of the days in my head, cataloguing and documenting, trying to remember through the fog of my worry. It was a dark, cold week, but all of these moments with my boys glowed and shone.

This is something I had thought about making all through the blackout. The day we got power back, I roasted the sweet potatoes and turnips, warming up our icy kitchen and driving away the cold stale smell. We had (and still have!) tons of sweet potatoes. I thought it would taste nice to combine them with turnips (sweet & sharp) and a layer of cranberry sauce (sweet and tangy). Some lovely melted smoked gouda and crunchy pecans would provide the savory balance of texture and flavor. I thought it was very good. Malcolm, who had been back to school for two days, and was catching up on sleep, was so tired that he burst into tears and said, “I don’t always want pie. Sometimes I want a nice soup!” I didn’t have a full stick of butter left in my empty fridge, so I added some olive oil, and it really resulted in a flaky, crispy crust, so I might try it again! We ate the galette with potatoes roasted with cumin and paprika, which turned out very nice as well.

Here’s Velvet Underground with Beginning to See the Light. We’ve been teaching the boys about VU. And everything felt so upside down we very nearly did have wine in the morning and breakfast at night!

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