when berries ferment, the squirrels, along with everything else, get brazen…

In this world of ours, every believer must be a spark of light,
a center of love, a vivifying ferment for the mass;
and it will be that all the more as, in the depths of his being,
he lives in communion with God.

Pope John XXIII


(Julie Cook / 2018)

This is what happens when both time and berry picking get out of hand…
One of the two starts to ferment…and everything seems to simply…
well, go to hell in a handbasket from there…

And it’s all because the alcohol starts flowing…

Frist the squirrels become brazen…

They stealthily emerge from the security of the woods and boldly skirt across the
large, very open, expanse of yard.

“Hawks be damned” is their day’s battle cry…as they raise their tiny glasses…
all because the bubbly is starting to flow…

Yet the mockingbird, king bird of the yard, is none too keen to share
his private stash of hooch…

Notice very carefully in the lower left of the bush and you’ll see the hidden usurper.
The culprit in which the mockingbird is loudly raising havoc over.

Too bad I didn’t video this melee allowing you to both hear and see the ruckus and the clamoring
taking place between the squawking bird and the barking squirrel…
one protecting while the other usurping…

Now throw in both cats who are merely, and might I add intensely curious, bystanders…
wondering why they have been excluded from this soiree.

But wait…
Is that a rabbit now making tracks across the wide open and dangerous field??
And is his tiny glass empty as well…

Too much of a good thing is really never a good thing…

Frankly my dear, I knew it

“Rhett, Rhett… Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?”
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

(the parting scene between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara in the movie
Gone With the Wind)

I knew it was just a matter of time and I suppose the time is finally here.

I read yesterday morning that the movie Gone With The Wind is being pulled from Memphis theaters due to being “racially insensitive.”

Here is where I need to remember to watch my problem with my knees,
that kneejerkitis that often afflicts both of those pesky knees of mine because
I need to choose my thoughts here carefully.

When I was in high school during those heady days of the mid 70’s, I read for
one of my lit classes, J.D. Salinger’s 1951 book Catcher In the Rye.

I was an angst filled teen who longed for understanding so Salinger’s angst
filled tale seemed to be a good choice, right?
Well, not exactly.

Holden Caulfield was a messed up kid.
Spoiled, lost, and empty.
And there I was a lost young girl trying to connect with a lost young male character
in a quintessential tale of the lostness of adolescents.
Sigh…

Not a good combination really.

The language was off putting to me even back then,
as was the heavy black curtain which seemed to hang over me the reader…
heavy like a cloud of suffocating stale cigarette smoke, as
Holden himself seemed to be constantly drowning in the book under the weight
of his own heaviness.

Yet it was considered a classic…a troubled classic much like Holden himself.

In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book
in public schools in the United States

wikipedia

Talk about an internal struggle.

It was a book that was so controversial that it’s bad boy status catapulted
it to being one of the most sought after books of it’s time…
nothing like being told you can’t do, read, see or hear something
that spurs on that endless thirst to do just that…to do, read, see or hear
that which one has been told one can’t….

Catcher in the Rye is not a book I would now want to go back and read,
and perhaps it was a book that I should not have read back in high school.
I don’t like the storyline, I don’t like the graphicness, the lostness, the
angst ridden quest which never seems to find salvation….

I learned a long time ago in my Christian journey that surrounding myself with
that which is edifying is important.
It’s like being a recovering alcoholic and surrounding one’s self with a
room full of drunken sots.
A broken individual can only be strong for other broken individuals,
being strong alone, for just so long….

Which in this case mirrors my connection to the world.
If I continue to fill myself with that of the world, then I stay pretty much
in the world and a part of the world…a broken, lost, messed up, angry world.

It’s when I fill myself with those things of God’s glory and grace, and that alone,
is when I can finally be uplifted…
Yet the world, like a bottle of alcohol to that alcoholic,
keeps calling me back…’come back to being a part of the quagmire…watch the
“moralityless” shows promoting homosexuality, promiscuity, vulgar language,
lawlessness, brokeness… listen to the music that promotes gang violence,
sexual abuse of woman…’because misery is loving some company’
while no one is considering Salvation.

But all of that brokeness and lostness is not my point…
my point is back with Gone With The Wind.

When I was still teaching, I worked with probably the best Media Specialist
on the planet (Hi Phyllis)…
She started her career as a librarian…
but librarians were soon to be rocketed to the stratosphere with the advent of
technology within the schools…So what was the humble school book clerk
transitioned to being something akin to a superman or woman…the Media Specialist.
These are now the all knowing techie gurus in schools who still just so happen to
be the keepers of the books and periodicals.

Part of my friend’s job was to meet with the faculty ever so often in order to
share the latest list of banned books or books that were being challenged by
the outside…be it by parents, community members or whomever felt the need
or calling to challenge.

There would be an announced “hearing” where we the faculty and the community
would be invited to the said hearing forum where the banning arguments
were to be heard.

I never attended such hearings because I preferred laying low.
So I can’t speak first hand to the whole banning process.

But it was just all too much for the American loving freedom fighter in me who
would simply get really riled because the only thing I could picture in my mind
were the Nazi’s and their book burning bonfires.
A sure enough time when the lunatics were indeed running the asylum.

On the US list Mark Twain is a frequent guest.
As is the Bible.
As is George Orwell, Willian Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway…
with the list going on and on and on.

And yes, Gone With The Wind is also on the list.

It seems to me that we will allow current trending movies, television shows
and music to run happily amuck, promoting everything from sexual promiscuity
to violence against woman to disrespect to the glorification of gang violence…

But let us dare to perceive something in our past to be insensitive,
especially what we now consider to be racially insensitive….

Well our overtly culturally correct loving Nation is now the greatest group of
hypocrites since the Victorian aristocracy….
and yet no body seems to get it.

We have bigger fish to fry, like aiding those caught in the middle
of a raging catastrophe along the Gulf….
so therefore all this negative anger needs to be channeled toward helping and caring
for those in the greatest need…
yet everyone is too busy being selfish and too caught up in their own tunnel
vision to get it.

So like Rhett Butler, I want to say to the latest statue disputes,
Berkley protesters, Alt right and Antifa idiots among us…
as well as to the latest book or movie banning squads out there that
this growing madness over “insensitivity” is…well…
Frankly my dear, I just don’t give a damn.

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men,
but God knows your hearts.
For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 16:15

Loss

“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
― John Steinbeck

DSCN2941
(blooming dogwoods / Julie Cook / 2016)

Friday we lost a member or our ever shrinking family..
My 92 year old father-n-law.

Despite his advanced years, his dependence on a walker, he had gotten himself up and dressed as usual… as he readied to head to work…
To the business he started single handedly 70 years ago located in a small west Georgia town.

It was a massive heart attack.

He was a widower, a proud World War II Veteran, living indepentalty alone…
Yet he got dressed each and every morning, complete with dress shirt and tie, waiting for a grandson to pick him up in order to be taken to his beloved store.

Despite the years of alcoholism, abuse, misfortune, and heartache…there had been a reconciliation within this past year…a healing…for which I am most thankful…especially for my husband.

Families are funny that way.

There will be difficult days ahead for his grown children and grown grandchildren… each who will struggle in their own ways with the memories of the shifting shadows of childhoods that were less than ideal.
With each one piecing back together the ebbing and flowing of a shattered past.

I’ll be in and out over the next couple of days, but hope to be back soon…

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
John 14:1-4

Setting the example—Happy Father’s Day

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
Umberto Eco

DSC01720
(3 AM 26.5 years ago / Tanner Hospital / Julie Cook)

DSCN5343
(groom and best man/ Julie Cook / 2014)

Parenthood has never come with an instruction manual–
much to the frustration of many a first time parent.

On top of not having a step by step manual,
throw in having no clue as how to be a parent—
as your own background of dysfunctional raising,
by two individuals who truly had no business really being parents,
left only an example of what not to do.

Forget manuals, your parents didn’t even try to pretend they knew what they were doing.
Throw in moving 5 times before your were 8. . .throwing out all thoughts of stability.
Throw in alcohol.
Throw in abuse.
Throw in the fact that this was a time when no one talked about such. . .
There were no Betty Ford clinics, no fashionable rehabs, just the state mental hospital.
How were you to tell your friends that your dad’s on another binge and was taken away kicking and screaming?
Throw in the fact your coaches, teachers and friends all saw the bruises, but again, this was a time when such things weren’t discussed out in the open, only in secretive hushed tones.

Mix all of that and the fact that you hadn’t really known what it was to be a husband and now you waited until you were 40 to start a family. . .
You had only one clue as to where you should start. . . you simply knew what NOT to do. . .
And so you ran with it. . .

Add in being. . .
Scared
Frightened
Anxious
Determined to be different
Never to repeat the same offenses you yourself endured.

And so you began your own journey into parenthood, with great trepidation, almost 27 years ago.

It wasn’t easy.
You immediately gave up smoking
You named him yourself
You worked long hours
You changed diapers
You made him laugh for the very first time
You gave him your full attention, each evening you were home, despite having worked 14 hour days
You fed him in the middle of the night allowing your wife some precious sleep
You never wanted to exclude him
You held him tight before his surgery
You cried when he was hurt
You offered him the gift of Nature.
You took him fishing, camping, hunting, hiking
You took him to the ocean’s shore for his very first time
You taught him how to swim
You bought him a boogie board and later a surf board.
You disciplined him when you absolutely had to, and it about killed you
You didn’t care when he couldn’t follow in your same athletic agilities and accomplishments.
You worried
You fretted
You cried
You obsessed
You gave him your old truck
You reluctantly bought him a new truck when he wrecked your old one
You afforded him college, to the place of his dreams, that turned out not to be a dream.
You later helped him settle into a place more suited for him.
Always teaching him how to begin again.
You offered comfort and only the positive when he fell, when he failed, when he lost.

You showed him what it means to be a man.
To be responsible.
To get up and try again when things look hopeless.
You taught him how to run forward. . .running toward the trouble, rather then running from the trouble.
You demonstrated that a man never hides from his troubles or mistakes.
You showed him what unconditional love is all about with your own attention to the father who never deserved your concern or care.
You demonstrated how to be a husband during both the good and the bad life has to offer.
You showed him how to give abundantly when it was little he would receive in return.
You demonstrated how to be honest in a dishonest world.
You taught him to be just, forgiving, strong, determined while keeping a gentle touch.
Reminding him to always walk with integrity while holding his head high. . .

You did this on your own. . .
With no direction
No manual
No help from your own father. . .
You demonstrated to your son, what being a real father is all about. . .
By giving him the greatest gift possible. . .
yourself. . .

Happy Father’s Day my love. . . .

Cooking with Cookie or Vanilla Extract Part II

DSCN1875

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Robert Burns

Oh Robbie Burns, you smooth talking Scot you, you’re singing my song. Or better yet, this is the story of my life. I suppose you could say that my life is a single strand of small cliches strung together over the course of almost 54 years….with my time in the kitchen being no exception…hence the best laid plains of mice and men…or actually the best laid plans of Cookie….

I love to cook and I’ve written a previous post on the art of baking verses cooking— with my inclinations leaning more toward the cooking end the spectrum as this is the area that allows me to be most creative and not as dependent upon the chemical reactions of fats, sugars, yeasts, heat, etc… My pilopsophy is add a little of this and a little of that…and if that doesn’t do the trick… add something else—and when in doubt, perhaps, throw it out.

So I thought it may be nice to have a bit of a diversion today…nothing too heavy, historical or controversial…something more along the lines of taste and of tasting good. And mind you that doesn’t necessarily mean uber healthy rabbit food…..but homemade, perhaps homegrown and soul satisfying….

Do you remember the post Vanilla Extract or is Cookie a Lush…written back in May? Well, it was time to taste test the maturation of the alcohol and beans…ummmmmm

Here the bottles were back in May ready to head to the dark corners of a forgotten cabinet.DSCN0069

and here they are today…bronzed with time….
DSCN1877

I don’t know what I was expecting. Heady vanilla goodness? Sweet, luscious and decadent?
I pulled the bottles out of their dark hiding place, the tomb, aka cabinet, where they’ve been allowed to “do their thing” for these past several months. They have been pulled out from time to time in order to get a healthy little shake—always fighting the desire to pop the cork for a quick whiff of that heavenly amalgamation of vanilla and alcohol—in this case your choice of either vodka, bourbon, honey bourbon, spiced dark rum, Tahitian beans or Madagascar beans…this is hard core extract making.

I pulled out a little silver teaspoon–only the best for this virgin tasting. I placed all the bottles on the counter, and deiced which one I wanted to “test” first. Ooooo, a little shiver ran down my spine, my first decanting…too exciting! I give the bottle of choice one last shake, pop the cork, and I’m suddenly greeted by the unmistakable scent of vanilla which fills the air, but there is also a faint sterile whiff of alcohol….hummmmmm…..

I pour a little of the glistening brown liquid into the spoon, I raise it to my lips and let it fill my mouth. At first millisecond, there is a warm sensation, then suddenly…. AAAGGGHHHH, cough, cough, cough…..yewh…oh God, do I swallow, do I spit…AAGGGHHH…hot, hot, fire….oh dear lord, oh my gosh what was I thinking… a cordial, a cloyingly sweet liquor? AAAGGHHH… what’s in my mouth is on fiiiirrrreeee!!

Now granted I am not one to drink my liquor straight. I’ve just never been that kind of girl. I may be a southern girl who grew up at THE University of Georgia back in the day, who may have had my share of bourbon and coke–of which I no longer seem to desire as I think I had my bait of that oh those many (35ish) years ago…whoops,digressing I do go…. Now give me a little tonic and a lime, a splash of this or that… but straight, no thank you….

My dad has been a Scotch drinker his entire life. One Christmas I spent the most money I’d ever spent on a gift for my dad and that was simply a single barrel, 25 year aged bottle of Scotch from the Speyside area of Scotland. He drinks it neat, or over ice and it’s usually a double to a triple…geeze… I thought there really had to be something to this Scotch business. Sophisticated men (and I’ve only known one woman to do so) have always seemed to drink Scotch. There is an air of sophistication associated with it—tweeds, crystal glasses, driving caps and delightful accents. The whole mist of the moors mystique. I stupidly think that I too need to add this to my repertoire.

Big terrible mistake!!! One taste of Scotch was enough to last me a life time. Liquid burnt peat, that’s all it is. It’s a fiery taste of burnt rubbish. They say you have to acquire the taste for Scotch…if I have to practice to enjoy tasting it, forget it—I’m a love at first taste sort of gal. But don’t tell that to a Scotch drinker. No wee dram here—no sir. Give me my antispetic vodka, the tofu of alcohol –meaning it’ll take on the flavor of whatever you may pair it with—in this case, vanilla beans.

I taste the bourbon extact, the honey bourbon extract, the spiced rum extrat, and the vodka extract—all with similar flair and fire. Ugghh… I pull out a store bought bottle of extract from the cabinet and give it a go just to compare… am I on the right tract or I have created poison?!

Thankfully– the store bought has similar characteristics of my concoctions. Fiery alcohol with some sort of spicy note….just call me the sommeliers of extract.

Time for the true test…to bake a little something in order to see if these bottles are ripe, or still need a little more time to cure…….

Hummm…I need to do something quick as my son and his fiancee were coming over for supper. The need for something streamline nixed the bourbon and rum based extracts as I wasn’t thinking chocolate—I know, who doesn’t think chocolate, but it was a hot day, I needed something light.

Ahhh, meringues…brillant

The smaller meringues, the Boccone Dolce or sweet mouthful in Italian– or even the more showy and larger cousin the Pavolva—are the quintessential vehicle for visually stunning deserts…billowy crisp outer shells with a soft chewy marshmellowesque interior. These are sold, a bit larger than what I make, by bakeries all over Italy and France as a quick pick up go to desert show stopper. One may fill them with mounds of decadent whipped creams and luscious fruits…which is more along the traditional lines of a Pavlova or they may be filled with your either your choice of sorbet and fruit or ice-cream complete with shaved chocolate bits, drizzled with chocolate or caramel sauce and sprinkled with a few roasted nuts or toasted coconut, it will appear as if you have labored for hours.

They are easy to make as long as you follow a few precautions—humidity being the first real kill joy. The other being any unsuspecting egg yolk that drips down into the bowl of whites as you’re separating the eggs. Here is a quick recipe for Boccone Dolce or simply put filled meringue shells:
you will need to”
— preheat your oven to 225ᵒ F
—Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (I also spray the parchment with Baker’s Joy)
— 3 eggs separated, allowed to come to room temperature (I use 4 and I find that if I crack them first
separating the eggs then allowing for the whites to reach room temps, the shells are not as prone to
shatter sending small shards into the whites)
—a small bit of cream of tartar 1/4 teaspoon–remember I don’t measure, I just give a little
sprinkle)
–3/4 cup granulated sugar
–1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (here I am a bit more liberal–I use a splash, more like a teaspoon and
a bit more
–Using a hand held mixer I begin whipping the whites and cream of tarter fist just still the whites get a little foamy. Continuing mixing, I slowly add, a little at a time, allowing for it to be incorporated, the sugar. Still mixing I add the vanilla. I mix until the whites are think, shiny, and can hold up stiff peaks if I pull up on the mixer.
–I then gently scoop out 6 mounds onto the parchment lined baking pan. Using the back of a spoon I gently form a nest by hollowing out an indention in the center of each mound.
–Pop the the sheet into the oven and bake for about and hour and a half.
–Once time is up–turn the oven off, leaving the meringues in the oven for at least one more hour as this dries them out.
(now I have found that my meringues cook best in my regular oven verses the convection oven as they tend to cook too quickly-the meringues should not brown but remain a lovely pale off white. You want a nice crisp exterior and a soft mellowly interior.
–here is where you can be creative filling them with decadent goodness topped by more of the same.

These particular meringues cooked and cooled while I prepared supper. As I didn’t have ample time to pull out all the stops for these little puppies, I simply filled them with peach ice cream, topping them with freshly cut peaches. I have been known to sauté the peaches in a tad of butter, sugar, cinnamon, a squirt of lemon till a nice peachy syrup develops ladling this over the ice cream and shells….
DSCN1853

The vanilla was spot on, I could actually taste a very nice hint of warm vanilla laced throughout every heavenly bite of meringue–boccone dolce –truly