My Madeleine

And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; . . . . But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.
— from Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust (aka The Cookie)

Today’s Writing Group prompt: Do you have any foods that are tied to specific memories or emotions?

Huh. The title of this prompt was Eat Your Feelings, which is an actual thing that I do, so at first I was thrown by the substance of the prompt. But then I remembered that just last Sunday, on my birthday, driving home from dinner at the tapas restaurant where David and I had our first date, I posted this on Facebook:

It’s amazing how a piece of crusty bread with chorizo and manchego can so thoroughly transport me back to Spain. Proust was on to something.

So of course there could be no other quote to head this post. I’m telling you, I sighed audibly when I took my first bite last weekend. And really, I don’t even need the chorizo or the manchego.  Sometimes just olive oil, with a little salt and pepper, for dipping.  And sometimes just the bread is enough to send me back, especially when it’s still warm.

One of my favorite things in the whole world to do with the crusty bread is something I discovered in Spain: pan con tomate (I almost wish I  could reuse the quote from that post for this one – too perfect).  Trust me on this one. This is the dish that brings me most immediately back to Spain – to so many tiny restaurants in Barcelona where I had it for the first time, to Salamanca where I made all my new study abroad friends try it and felt like a native, to a private room at a restaurant way up in the hills way outside Barcelona with one old friend and 12 new ones where I had it for the last time in Spain. I’m tearing up just thinking about the last one now – I remember sitting there that night, listening to five different conversations floating around me – in both Spanish and Catalan – drinking wine, sharing bread (I don’t even remember what else we ate), laughing so loud, thinking how lucky I was and how I’d always remember that moment.


Cake Lady Strikes Again

I went to the store to buy a candle holder.  They didn’t have one, so I bought a cake.
— Mitch Hedberg

The Conductor’s 4th birthday was January 3rd, and the family convened in Richmond to celebrate.

My sister-in-law Molly, she of the Princess cake, struck again with this race car-themed cake:

The gummy bear spectators on Lego grandstands kill me.  He loved it so much, which was the best part.  When I have kids, I’m totally enlisting Aunt Molly to make all their birthday cakes!

Sunday, SUNday, SUNDAY

Sunday is a golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Only 11 days to go – after today – til the end of NaBloPoMo.  I won’t lie, this is hard work.  But it’s been nice getting back into the habit of writing again.

Today was a good day.  My mom was here overnight with her Little Sister.  They spent the day in D.C. yesterday and met us for dinner last night.  This morning we all went to breakfast, and then they headed back into the District to go to the aquarium.  I went to the pool and swam laps and then laid out for a while. On the way to the pool, I saw a little boy, no more than four, running crazily down the sidewalk laughing, and he was wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt.  Made me smile.

After, I came home and watched the end of the British Open with David – what a heartbreaker for Tom Watson.  Then the Tigers game was on, so we watched that, though I fell asleep for a bit towards the end.  The Tigers fell to the Evil Empire while I napped.  Boo.  By the time I woke up, it was nearly time for the Braves game, but I had to go grocery shopping, so David paused the game for me (ahh, the magic of TiVo).  Worked out well for him, since he was in the middle of a golf game on Wii.

I went to the store and stocked up on lots of goodies.  I’m really trying to get myself back under control food-wise, so I bought plenty of fruits and veggies and stuff to make and freeze for lunches during the week.  When I got home, I started cooking three meals at once – two for lunches, and our dinner for tonight.  It was a little crazy there for a while, but I managed to get everything done, and the last dish is in the oven as we speak.  It makes me feel good to know that I’ve made it possible for me to be successful this week by planning ahead and taking the time to get things prepared.  I’ve been wildly off program as far as Weight Watchers in concerned over the last year (which may be the subject of its own post here soon), so I’m trying to slowly get myself back into the right mindset.

We had dinner – pork chops a la Emeril, one of our favorites – and a salad with fresh cucumber from our balcony garden.  Yum.  Now we’re relaxing, finishing up Season 3 of the Sopranos (we broke down and bought the complete season a few weeks ago at CostCo – we had a coupon for $50 off!).  All in all, a nice end to a nice, relaxing weekend.

Tuna Noodle Memories

In the childhood memories of every good cook, there’s a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot, and a mom.
— Barbara Costikyan

When I came home from work today, the foyer of my building smelled like tuna casserole, which reminded me of a funny story.

When Nate and I were kids — probably 8 and 10 or so — we asked our parents if we could make dinner for them.  They agreed, and we made them promise not to come in the kitchen while we cooked.  We decided on tuna noodle casserole, which our mom had made us plenty of times before.

So we set about crafting our casserole: egg noodles, tuna (of course), peas (I think), something to make it creamy (cream of mushroom soup, maybe?), and — just for good measure — a dollop of peanut butter.  I kid you not.

We put the whole concoction in the oven to bake and proudly served it up to our parents a little while later.  They dug in, and all of a sudden: Crunch.  Crunch.  Crunch.

We didn’t know we were supposed to cook the noodles first.

To my parents’ credit, they both cleaned their plates, and we laugh about it to this day.

Everyone Needs Goals

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.  I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and try to follow them.
— Louisa May Alcott

Karen and I have nothing on this lady.

Don’t even talk to Jean Scardina about all the Christmas shopping and baking you have to do. She will humble you with the hand-knitted dog sweaters she made for her daughter’s rat terriers, gingerbread houses and marzipan figurines of Santa’s workshop she makes as decorations — oh, and the 6,000 cookies she bakes as gifts.

Wow.  What else can you say?