Beware the Walu

“Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison,
and everything I don’t eat has been proved to be indispensable to life…..
But I go marching on.”

George Bernard Shaw

poop fish
(an image borrowed from the web of a “Walu” fish, otherwise known as escolar–the image says it all)

Firstly I want to thank you all for your the prayerful love extended to both me and my family as we struggled over the weekend, and continue to struggle, with the sudden the death of my father-n-law.
At some point in the near future, I will touch base on this latest detour within Life’s journey…
however today…I thought we could all benefit from a bit of uplifting levity.

I always marvel at God’s impeccable timing…as well as for the depth of His comfort, joy and even laughter when it seems we are at our lowest…and have fallen to the bottom of our despair…
…Of how He works ever so gently, reminding us of His ever constant presence…especially when we feel most overwhelmed and alone.

Sometimes He comes as a gentle breeze cooling the tear streaked cheeks of sorrow…
other times He comes riding in on the wings of comedic diversion….

Today it is upon the wings of comedy I wish to expand as I want to share the tale of a fish…
A fish by any other name would taste so sweet….

Saturday had been a very long day.
It was the day following the sudden death of my 92 year old father-n-law. Whereas he was in his ninties, he was still very much alive and quite active…still working and very much a part of our daily lives.
I had been cooking for him on Wednesdays as my husband and I would take him supper and then breakfast every Sunday. He was not one for wearing his dentures, so meals were “soft”–lots of fish and mashed potatoes.

Saturday evening following the visitation at the funeral home and prior to Sunday’s funeral, my husband and I found ourselves exhausted both physically as well as emotionally. Here it was 9 PM as we drove back home when we suddenly realized how hungry we were…as we couldn’t remember when we had actually last eaten.

Thinking by 9PM most restaurant crowds would be tapering off, we headed to the local Longhorn Steak House… only to be met by throngs of girls in softball uniforms waiting outside. It seems a tournament had taken place earlier and now the hungry players had amassed for a healthy dose of protein.

“Go on to Lil Hawaiian” my now disgruntled husband groused.
Lil Hawaiian is a local restaurant run by a Hawaiian chef who specializes in fresh fish with a Polynesian flare. His fish is not the typical fish found so far inland such as trout, catfish or tilapia but rather fresh fish he has flown in often from the west coast.

Tired and very hungry I scan the menu noting that several of my go-to favorites are sold out. My husband sticks to his safe standard of steak and shrimp as I eye something that sounds good asking our server her opinion.. “Oh I love walu, it’s a buttery fish”
Butter?
My ears perk up.
Being a lover of all things butter, I tell her I’ll take it.

Moments later our food arrives.
I am presented with a lovely piece of white pan sautéed fish topped with a ginger shiitake mushroom sauce paired with jasmine rice and sautéed snow peas.
The first bite was divine.
A wonderful unctuous and satiny fish that practically melted in ones mouth.
I offer my husband a bite, who laments that he now wishes he’d been adventuresome, ordering the same.

As I finish the last bite asking my husband, who is an avid fisherman, if he’s ever heard of walu.
He casually munches on his shrimp and cheekily tells me that it’s probably a trash fish.
Grabbing my phone I decide to google walu.

My eyes suddenly grow wide and my mouth hangs open as I begin to scan the top links for the walu fish…

“World’s most dangerous fish…”

WHAT?

“Don’t eat escolar…”

Escolar??!!?

“Oh I didn’t eat escolar, I ate walu…WHEW”
the rising panic starts to subside…
when the very next line listing the other names offered for the escolar fish….
jumps right at me…W A L U

From food blogs to nutritionists, from fisherman to even TripAdvisor…every link’s top line consisted of one of the following disclaimers…

“don’t”

“beware”

“dangerous”

“to be avoided”

down to

“avoid at all costs the ex-lax fish of Hawaii

or

“don’t eat the poop fish of Hawaii.”

By now I’ve turned pale while my husband stares at me during mid chew of his steak.

I begin reading aloud…

...The escolar, aka walu fish, is a delightful buttery fish with a dangerous side effect.
It is so bad that the fish has been banned from public consumption in Japan, Italy, Australia with the EU mandating that the fish be packaged with a health warning…

Warning number seven on one such disclaimer especially caught my eye…

7. Pre-Existing Conditions. As always, pregnant women have no fun. Also, people with malabsorption or bowel problems should probably just stay away. Unless you find your bathroom comfortable and you dislike your pants

Anyone who knows me, knows I have suffered with IBS my entire life.
My stomach and I are not friends and I work very very hard to keep it happy.
This is absolutely the last thing I needed…an innocently consumed yet guaranteed trigger for misery….
all during a very important and busy weekend…

What exactly happens to those poor souls who knowingly, or unknowingly such as in my case, consume this so called “butter” fish of which you are now most likely wondering…
well…I don’t wish to be too graphic but I will simply cut and paste to the chase…

“But the buttery fish is actually a kind of snake mackerel, a deep-sea bottom-feeder full of a wax ester that accounts for its dreamy velvety texture. Unfortunately, that oil is not digestible by humans and causes severe gastrointestinal distress in some people. It has earned escolar the nickname “Ex-Lax fish.”

Well, a ‘laxative like effect’ is how my fish monger described it. Others would describe it as closer to diahhrea. An expert would call it ‘keriorrhoea’. Literally translated, it means ‘flow of wax’. Oily orange droplets pouring out your pooper. Keriorrhoea occurs because the wax esters in the flesh of the fish pool up in your intestine.

Symptoms can begin anywhere from 30 minutes to 36 hours following consumption.

With that last little fun fact, my husband quickly asks for the check, as he hasn’t even finished his last bite of food, wondering aloud why in the world would a place with a Hawaiian chef, of all things, knowingly offer such to their customers?????

We race as if our lives depended upon it head home with me wondering if we shouldn’t just detour to the ER so I could get my stomach pumped.

A long story short…

With our Sunday filled with the sorrow of official good-byes, families, friends and an emotionally heavy sadness, I knew the last thing we’d need would be for me to be in some sort of physical distress.

I actually did not feel well throughout much of the night but hoped it was simply nerves generated from the current events.
The following morning, in order to be on the safe side with an added bit of insurance to safely survive the funeral, I downed several Immodium.

By late that evening we gratefully realized we had made it through the rigors of the day.
Following the ceremony, the family gathered back at my father-n-law’s house as the church ladies provided the family with a lovingly cooked meal…but I hadn’t much of an appetite only picking over the food.

By Monday morning I thought that my 36 hour window was coming to a thankful close. I would be home free… escaping the wrath of the walu—-that was…until after a morning cup of coffee…

Oddly and seemingly out of nowhere, there were strange rumblings coming from somewhere deep within our house…alarmingly it dawned on me, those loud rumblings were coming from somewhere deep within my own gut….and they weren’t rumblings of hunger….

Later in the morning, I managed to call my husband, who was by now safely at work and back to a much needed routine…
I wanted to inform him that it was official…
the walu fish had finally made its presence known in my life…and it was not pretty…

The good thing, the thing that I was most grateful for however, was that I made it through the difficulties of the weekend without the added misery of an unhappy digestive tract…as disaster thankfully waited to strike at a more convenient time.

Had I not “researched” the walu fish, I would have thought for certain that the sweet church ladies had given me some ghastly gift of food poisoning with their love offering of a wonderful southern spread.
But with my having been fully educated at the dinner table the night prior, I knew all too well that I was suffering from the revenge of the Walu…

Odd coincidence or bad dinner choices or perhaps God’s delightful way of adding a little levity and a bit of diversion to our otherwise overtly sad detour on the journey of Life….

Now can someone please quickly pass the Immodium…

Here’s a little link for your own research into the effects of the escolar / walu fish…

http://blog.medellitin.com/2008/12/escolar-world-most-dangerous-fish.html

The simple path

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
― L.M. Montgomery

“The Simple Path
Silence is Prayer
Prayer is Faith
Faith is Love
Love is Service
The Fruit of Service is Peace”

― Mother Teresa

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(a simple lovely breakfast / Julie Cook/ 2015)

5 readily available ingredients. . .
eggs, simmered 6 minutes–preferably as fresh and organic as they come, hence an orange yolk
1 slice of bread, lightly toasted–preferably a nice little rustic slice
butter, a light unctuous spread of the real deal
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
and there, my friend is a meal fit for both king or pauper.

Simple, unadulterated, humble fare.

And please excuse that sound of retching in the background because when my aunt sees this picture,
she will begin to throw up as she does not like eggs–not the sight, sound, smell or taste
but we shan’t allow that to stop this particular thread of thought this morning, she’ll quickly scroll past the picture.

Now, back to where we were. . .

Simple fare.
Nothing frufru,
nothing fancy smancy
A soul satisfying plate of bare bones simple.
As in less is more.

As human beings we have grown greatly accustomed to making more from less
We think more, bigger, extravagant equates to better, perhaps even best.
We want to top this with that.
We vie to go beyond.
Often not knowing when to leave things be.
We perfect and perfect some more.
We build upon what was there striving to make it all so much more special, more grand.
Stopping is not an option let alone failing. . .
We examine, expand, explore. . .always being ready to fix and to add
We pile on while always going beyond.

Satisfaction is fleeting
Settling unheard of
Resting on laurels passe

Yet it is when we scale back
Strip things bare
Pare down
Slow down
Detox
Declutter
Downsize
Clean out
Throw out
Simplify

Life becomes sweet, savory, pleasant, peaceful, complete.

So on this new morning to this new week, as life prepares to offer you a myriad of paths throughout a busy and most likely chaotic week, don’t be afraid or deterred when choosing your path– make the conscious decision to choose the simpler path. . .you just may be surprised that the choice of the simple and the less, in the end, is delightfully more satisfying.

Yummy in the tummy with both Julia and Julie!

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
Julia Child

“With enough butter, anything is good.”
Julia Child

JuliaWithMallet

Who doesn’t love a woman wearing a grin from ear to ear, while raising a mallet high over head, ready to smash some unsuspecting something to bits?
“How ’bout dinner in half a minute?”
What a marvelous concept!
Only Julia could give us a complete satisfying meal in under a minute or an elaborate labor intensive 3 day arduous Beef Bourguignon.

Pity being this is not the day to extoll the virtues of Julia, although we probably should, yet fear not for I have done so on numerous occasions in numerous posts prior. . . and most likely will do so again. . .
Today however is a day to hail the often maligned omelet. An amalgamation of egg, a touch of water, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, a dab of butter, a bit of heat and you suddenly have a mix of warm, soft, light, airy, nourishing, wonderment. . .the epitome of the blank canvas.

There are those days when you just want, gotta have, something warm and soothing. . .something that envelopes you from tastebud to tummy. Be it a comforting, yet quick, breakfast or a light little brunch, an elegant lunch, a quick supper on the fly or even a lucious late night snack– an egg transformed can provide all of that and then some.

On a trip to my mecca, aka William Sonoma, a couple of years ago, I saw the most intriguing little pan.
A rolled omelet pan.
Ooooooo. . .
A sucker for any little boost in the kitchen, I made the purchase.

Which brings us today. . .
I’d like to share with you how this fun little pan, coupled with a few simple ingredients, can create a satisfying delight which can be happily turned out in less then a minute. And remember that an omelet is a “vessel” for all sorts of goodies, be it chopped ham, chopped bacon, chopped peppers, onions, spinach, tiny shrimp, crab—the sky’s the limit

For all practical teaching purposes, we’ll keep things simple and make a humble soul satisfying cheese omelet. . .

I highly recommend this particular pan but you may certainly use a round small sauté pan, however you just won’t have the fun little rolled variety of omelet but rather the folded variety which for some odd reason is just not nearly as fun or easy to make, nor will it be as tasty. . .

You’ll need:
2 eggs
a touch of butter or PAM
a sprinkle of salt and pepper
a few slices of a nice cheddar cheese
a touch of water.

Place the pan on the eye of your stove over medium heat. Despite being a rectangle pan on a round eye, trust me, magic will happen. Put in a dollop of butter ( 1/2 tablespoon) and heat until sizzling.

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Meanwhile in a bowl (a fun little bowl I made years ago when I was in the classroom) crack two eggs, add a splash of water ( 1 Tbl) and whip up until light and frothy–notice the honey wand I’m using to mix the eggs. . .made by our own little Michael over on http://michaelswoodcraft.wordpress.com

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Next pour the egg into one of the wells of the pan.

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Continue heating, slightly tilting the pan, allowing some of the egg mixture to pour into the other well. . .

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Continue tilting back and forth as the egg begins to “set up”
At this point lay your slices of cheese on top of the egg, on either side of the well.
I’m using a lovely double decker cheese, a two tone of Red Leicester and creamy Double Gloucester.

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(image taken from the Londoner Dairy cheese site–I found the cheese at my local Publix)

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Now take the nice little spatula that was included with the pan, gently pulling and pushing one end of the omelet, rolling it toward the other end.

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and Voila—the whole process takes maybe 4 minutes, from prep to plate

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I’ve included a YouTube link to the omelet episode for the TV series of The French Chef

Bon Appétit

Life’s fragile moments

Beauty is a fragile gift.
Ovid

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(gerber daisy, with a small shield bug / stink bug / Julie Cook / 2014)

This beautiful gerber daisy continues blooming like nobody’s business, unaware that in a few short weeks, the first frost of the year is predictably scheduled. Until then, I suppose we shall bask in the vibrant colors and beauty of the last hoorah of a slow fading season.

Beauty of a flower, with it’s often quickly fading glory, is not the only fragile “gift” I’ve recently been privy to observe. . .rather, it is Life herself, that is most tenderly fragile. . .as I have so poignantly observed over the past couple of weeks. . .

I did something this morning that I have never done before. I finished my 30 minutes of pure torture on the elliptical when something unexplainable inside myself made me push the start button—again.
A double run.
It must have been an outer body experience.
Sweat was already pouring down my face, my toes were already numb and luckily I had yet to inhale my gum.

Maybe it’s because in two weeks I’ll be turning 55.
Maybe it’s due to the black cherry juice (yes black cherry juice but more about that another day).
Maybe it’s because of the cheesecake.
Cheesecake, did she just say cheesecake?!
Yes.
And I’m proud of it.
I made the most heavenly and unctuous cheesecake over the weekend. I haven’t made, let alone eaten, a cheesecake in years.
What’s so bad?
It’s got all the major food groups—dairy, eggs, grains —graham crackers are a grains right?
And for all of you über svelte individuals out there who post your latest marathon number on the back window of your cars and nosh on kale chips and who are currently rolling your eyes over my paltry 30 minutes of weights and a 30 minute elliptical “run”, now doubled, on this fine Tuesday, may it be noted that I work rather hard at striking a balance, trying not to go too far off on any one tangent— or ledge for that matter.

Life is all about a healthy balance. . .
A balance of activity, spiritually, health, relationships and butter. Yes you heard / read me correctly, butter.
Remember, I grew up as a member of the Julia Child butter is life club. . .life is no fun without butter. . .

Yet it is my having witnessed and observed a couple of “encounters” over the past several weeks which has not only touched my heart, but has brought my attention around to this precious thing we call Life. . . with all of her tragedies, her triumphs and her fragility, of which has maybe pushed me a bit further this morning in the pushing of myself. . .

Two weekends ago a friend of mine popped in on a Saturday afternoon for a visit of catch up. Her daughter, who went to school with my son, has moved far way. And not that she’s not been away before, she has. It’s just that now, her mom ( my friend) always knew it was temporary—as in away at college, away on trips, away on study abroad programs–always knowing she’d be returning . . .home. . .
This time however, the move is more of a permanent nature.
As in moving to Chicago to live and work sort of permanent.

She and her husband had just returned from a quick weekend visit–the first visit since the big move.
The daughter had plotted and planned a grand weekend adventure for her parents as it was their first trip to the Windy City. At one point during the adventure, the daughter looked at her mom asking if there was anything special she wanted to do or see before having to head back south to Georgia.
My friend then said something that struck such a deep chord in my soul. She turned to her daughter, locking her arm around her daughter’s arm and said– “I didn’t come up here to be entertained. I don’t care if I do or see a single thing. . .the only thing I wanted to do was to be with you”

WOW!

That took my breath away not to mention the sudden tears filling my eyes.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have a mom anymore who can say that to me or that I can now finally truly appreciate hearing that from my mom–or that I would long hearing that from my mom.
I suddenly felt a tremendous sense of sadness missing my mom.
Maybe it’s because I was thinking sightseeing mode for my friend and the fact that she just wanted / needed to see her daughter, as that was all that simply mattered, caught me by surprise.
Only the love of a mother. . .

The next observation came Friday evening. My husband and I had gone to dinner at a local restaurant. The place was packed as we were lead over to our table. Scanning the overtly crowded restaurant, I thought I recognized the face of a former student but thought better of it as I knew he was now making his home in Atlanta. Out of the blue, a friend who had seen us being seated, made her way over to say hello. It turns out she and her husband were actually dinning with this former student and his family.

In the midsts of her conversation, she began telling me something about this particular student, when suddenly she said “after his accident. . .”
Accident? I inquired as I had no knowledge of him having been in an accident.
She proceeds to tell me that yes, he had a diving accident almost two years ago and was now paralyzed from the shoulders down.
“WHAT??!!”

Long story short. . . I got up and went over to his table to speak with him. He had come to see me just before I retired a little over two years ago. He had graduated college and was actually working at the State Capital. He had had this diving accident shortly after seeing me at school and has since been in rehab and therapy working on some hoped for mobility.

As I made my way back to my husband and our supper, I was still so terribly shocked. Such a vivacious, joyful young man perched on the periphery of a long career and happy future when BAM, he’s thrown a devastating curve ball. Yet he still possesses that most vivacious smile and joyful spirit.
I wondered if I could or would have any sort of spirit if I was sitting in his place or if I were his mom. The unfairness of life plagued my heart.

The last situation came about yesterday.
I had run up town to a local little farmer’s co-op when I ran into a young man I had had the pleasure of working with many years back. I had also had the pleasure of teaching his wife many years ago. I actually had worked with both this young man as well as his older brother as they each began with careers in education at my school. Having long left teaching, he now owns his own investment firm and is quite successful.

As this was a Monday morning and he was not dressed for the office, I asked if he wasn’t working today or did he take Monday’s off. He seemed to be a bit reserved which was quite out of character.
He hung his head a bit, telling me that “no, this is the second anniversary of my son’s death and I just couldn’t go in to work today.”

Hit with the enormity of his words, I felt winded.

Two years ago, as he and his beautiful family, his wife and three young sons, were leaving a restaurant off our town’s small downtown square, just as the family was crossing the street, a truck made a shape turn into the intersection, not seeing the young child at the end of family’s journey across the street, the truck struck and killed the little boy.

It was a terrible accident. The young teen driver had simply not seen the little boy. It was a devastatingly tragic accident. An accident which shook our entire community.
I had not realized, when I saw my friend, that this particular day had marked the very sad day of remembrance for his family. Again, the unfairness of life plagued my heart. As a parent, who has not suffered though such a tragedy, any and all words of solace on my part ring terribly empty, as simply, there are no words.

And so it is on this October day that I am most mindful of Life and of her most fragile nature.
Her Triumphs and her tragedies.
We are joined together, you and I, by the ties of such events which take place each and every day.
It is what joyfully or sadly grants us a unifying humanity. For good or for bad we journey together on this planet. We are all given choices. We may either join together supporting one another as the global family we are, or we may rile against one another with suspison, distrust and hate.

There are those who are bent on destruction and hate.
And I wonder, what is the point.
I am reminded of the lyrics of Gary Jules song, It’s a mad world:
“And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you,
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very, very
Mad world, mad world, mad world, mad world”

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5

May we choose caring, may we choose compassion, may we choose love, may we choose Life.
Life is simply too fragile to choose anything else.

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:3-4

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In need of a little comfort?

As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

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(Freshly baked Breton Biscuits / Julie Cook / 2014)

Where do you go when you find yourself out of sorts, stressed, tired?
Where does your heart wander when it is wounded, sad, heavy?
Where do your spirits travel when your world is rocked, your day is shot, your feelings weary?

To the kitchen, that’s where!!

I confess that I’ve been feeling a bit blue and out of sorts as of late. . .blasé
—the trees didn’t help. . .
. . .but I don’t want to talk about that.
I was flipping though my most recent edition of Saveur Magazine when I found myself stopping on one particular page.
One word stopped me. . .
Butter

If there is one little thing that screams “let me comfort you my dear” it’s the real deal unctuous amalgamation of cream and salt.
Butter.
YUMMMMMMMM

The article was entitled Butter Queen showcasing a Brittany (region in France) specialty, Gâteau Breton or Gallettes bretonnes–better known as a light, delicate, sandy textured butter cookie.
That’s what I’m talking—-a light hearted version of a shortbread!!
Comfort is now a recipe away!!

So let’s make a little comfort shall we. . .

This particular recipe is originally from Le Cordon Bleu’s cookies edition as taken from the Joy of Baking
A recipe for Sables—the French Butter cookie (how many names can a little butter cookie have?!)
It’s a simple no fuss cookie. It can serve as a canvas for the adventuresome and creative, or simply as pure pleasure for the purist.

Here’s what you’ll need:
–10 tablespoons (140) grams unsalted butter, room temperature (Plugra, Presidents or other European brands)
–1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
–1 large egg (organic)
–1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (my homemade brew)
–2 cups(260 grams) all purpose flour (unbleached King Author
–1/2 teaspoon baking powder
–1/4 teaspoon salt (Real Salt Kosher)
Egg Wash–1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

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Is it just me or is red a dominant color on the pallet of my products of choice?
When you make something as simple as a butter cookie, it is key to have the very best ingredients in your repertoire available as there are so few ingredients involved. With butter being the primary , the best butter you can get your hands on is crucial. Plugra is a great US butter which is out of Texas and handcrafted in the tradition of European butter–meaning it has a higher butter fat content–making for a richer, more savory creamy product—
(see the previous post:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/butter-and-lent/ )

I’ve chosen President, a French butter for a French cookie, mais non?

I’ve copied the original recipe here:

Sables: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat just until incorporated. Do not over mix the dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough a few times to bring it together, and then divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least an hour).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick. Using a lightly floured 2 inch (5 cm) round fluted cookie cutter, cut out the cookies, placing them on the prepared sheet. Place the baking sheet of cut out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 -20 minutes to chill the dough. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg with the water for the egg wash. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and brush the tops with the egg wash. Then, with the tines of a fork (or I like to use the end of a toothpick), make a crisscross pattern on the top of each cookie. Bake cookies in the preheated oven for about 12 – 14 minutes (depending on size of cookie) or until golden brown around the edges.

Cool cookies on wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
(using a 3 inch cutter gave me a larger cookie which numbered 18 total)

My organic eggs, since I’ve yet to procure “my girls” for the very real deal :

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The recipe calls for the use of a 2 inch cookie / biscuit cutter however I used a 3 inch cutter, making for a tad larger cookie. Instead of 3 dozen cookies I had 18. If you wanted to be festive, I don’t know why you couldn’t use fun cookie cutters, say pumpkins, or leaves, or turkeys, or snowmen. . .as these are not sugar cookies but a rolled and cut cookie all the same.

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I’m not a big fan of egg wash as I think it “yellows” the top of the cookie and “seals” the tops often allowing the cookies to get mushy after a day or so rather than staying nice and crisp–when I make these again, I won’t use egg. . .

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When you use a fork to crisscross the top of the cookies, use the back of the fork–the front of the fork will cause the soft raw cookies to pull–the back keeps the lines smooth.

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Not too sweet with a slight saltiness offering a clean buttery finish.
These could be fun little ice-cream sandwich base cookies or another type of filling sandwiched lovingly between theses thin little butter wafers of wonderment or even dipped in melted chocolate for a chocolate dipped sandy. . .skies the limit, but I prefer the simple buttery goodness.

Pure Comfort to be sure
Bon Appétit

If You’re Afraid of Butter, Use Cream
Julia Child

So Mrs. Landemare can cook eh?

“My idea of a good dinner is, first to have a good dinner, then discuss good food, and after this good food has been elaborately discussed, to discuss a good topic – with me as chief conversationalist.”
Sir Winston Churchill

During a visit to America, Winston Churchill was invited to a buffet luncheon at which cold fried chicken was served. Returning for a second helping, he asked politely, ” May I have some breast?” “Mr. Churchill,” replied the hostess, “in this country we ask for white meat or dark meat.” Churchill apologized profusely. The following morning, the lady received a magnficent orchid from her guest of honor. The accompanying card read: I would be most obliged if you would pin this on your white meat.”
One of the many Churchill stories

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I’ve just finished reading a most insightful, as well as, delightful book: Dinner with Churchill / Policy-Making at the Dinner Table by Cita Stelzer
As I truly adore Winston, I adore dinner as well–cooking it and eating it—what could be bad about a book which combines both?! The answer to that little notion would be absolutely nothing— as it was /is a great little read.

I have always been one to tout the virtues of feasting and fellowshipping, as I’ve often written about such, extolling the virtues of “breaking bread” with family, friends and strangers–because after the breaking of said bread, the latter will no longer be a stranger. It seems as if the Prime Minister and I were and are on the same page. Lest I remind you that great minds think alike—

As I was reading through this tasty little morsel for the mind, I came upon a description regarding the cook whom the Churchills had hired when Winston was Prime Minister. As the Churchills entertained a great deal, at either N0. 10 Downing as well as at their permanent residence at Chartwell, they were in great need of a great cook.

Enter Mrs. Georgina Landemare.

Mrs. Landemare was married to one of France’s more renowned chefs yet she, herself, was no stranger to the kitchen. Upon her husband’s early death, Mrs. Landemare decided she would take on some temporary work and job assignments cooking for some of England’s more prestigious events. The Churchills first procured her services for the occasional weekend gala or banquet at Chartwell. It wasn’t until the war broke out in 1939 that she actually offered her services full-time to the Churchills, as her part for the war effort—what a brave woman! Following the war, Mrs Landemare remained cooking for the Churchills for the next 15 years up until her retirement in 1954.

Imagine my excitement when I read in Ms Stelzer’s book that Mrs. Landemare had actually written a cookbook in 1958 on behest of Mrs. Churchill! Oooooo, I just had to find a copy! Imagine—me cooking dishes, the same dishes, Winston would oooo and coo over—I felt the excitement rising.

First I had to find the book.
And just as I pretty much figured—the book was long out of print.
But leave it to my trusty Amazon— there just happened to be a copy or two that could be found, for a wee fee no doubt, from a used book source. And in this case, one located in the UK.
Well, I’m a sucker for my quests and goosechases so I picked the copy I thought was in the better shape, pushed the order button and proceeded to wait with grand anticipation.

I had thought that once the book arrived, I’d pick a fun little recipe and give it a go here—you know, for you and me. I’d highlight a particularly Churchillian looking dish, preparing it step by step, taking photos all along the way, all for our fun—your’s and mine. That whole Julie and Julia thing but this would be Winston, Georgina, and Julie.

The book made it’s way from there to here, safely arriving at the end of last week. I was so excited. I practically ran back from the mailbox. I gently unwrapped it, taking in that musty old book smell, gently opening the marvelous little tome as I began to sift through the recipes.

Suddenly it dawned on me. . .
There will be hurdles.
Big hurdles.

There will be the wading through the “translation” as it were. I know, you’re thinking how in the world can you mess up translating from English to English—well, since we are talking about US English verses UK English, there are some very distinct and subtle differences. Also I fear we will run into a bit of trouble with the measurements. . . but thankfully this book does enlist, on the whole, the imperialistic measurement system, none of that metric nonsense I never could figure out in grade school (there’s a post there somewhere).

Plus certain items that may be called for, say in the UK, may not be called for here in the US or exist here in the US. Then of course there’s our love of the step by step, spell it out in plain simple terms, which is not exactly the mantra of this little book– or– maybe it is and that’s actually part of the problem. Then there’s the hunting and the procuring the right ingredients here in the US, which may not be as easy as anticipated—enter the world wide web. . .

And of course there was that whole rationing of food items as that was such a very keen part of the UK throughout the duration of the war and beyond. Cooking and substituting became a way of life to the intuitive cook—as is the mark of truly any great cook. And then there’s that whole modern take on things verses the not so modern. . .and with the book being written in 1958, we’re talking not so modern.

Just let me share a few examples with you. . .

The first stumbling block I ran across was Mrs. Landemare’s constant call for a “gill”
“A gill of cream”
“a gill of oil”
“a gill of water”
What in the heck does a fish have to do with any of this I wondered.

Then there was the call for “oiled butter” How does one oil butter—isn’t butter greasy enough?

Everything is to put into a basin. Would that be the kitchen sink or somewhere in the bathroom?

“Add a knob of butter”—now you’re talking. . . I wonder how many tablespoons the average doorknob measures.

Mrs Landemare will have us bake in “a slow oven”, “a medium oven”, “a cool oven,” yet “the oven should not be too hot”—no clue there.

When adding the butter to the flour, one is to “rub it together”—between my hands, my fingers. . .hummm

When mixing, one should beat things for 20 minutes or longer, be it eggs, sugar, cream—I’m thinking that is by hand so surely a mixer could cut that by at least half.

Measurements come in a wide variety: 1 teacup, 1/4 teacup, 1 coffecup full, 1 salt spoon, 2 breakfast cups or a dessertspoon full. . .hummmmm. . .but I do like the call for one wineglass of rum—my wine glasses are those rather large balloon types–could make for a little fun or a little disaster in the kitchen. . .

There is the “bare 1/2 oz of yeast” —bare? does that mean naked or minimal?

the 2 tablespoons of Kümmel —what is Kümmel?

dark foot sugar, caster sugar or Demerara—-still trying to figure out the dark foot business

a call for French sago or the 1/2 pound of nouille paste—again, what???

the need for the crushed ratafia biscuits–what??

the whole Vanilla essence verses Vanilla flavoring–whatever happened to good ol extract?

one should mask the top of the pudding with the jam—really?

pour contents into castle pudding cups–mine don’t look like castles

grated suet–I thought we fed that to birds

I need to increase my variety of flour as she calls for rice flour, potato flour, self-rising flour and good ol plain flour.

one example of say, I’m guessing, chocolate sauce is to:
“Melt 6 bars (yet she often calls for a slab–is a slab bigger than a bar?) of chocolate (would that be a hershey bar, milk, dark, unsweetened, bittersweet, 70% , 60%, 3.5 oz??) in a gill of water (again how much water can a fish gill hold?) add 1 oz of sugar and a knob of butter (again my happy place of excessive butter but I fear it might make things a tad greasy) Cook 5 minutes (cook on what, low, med, simmer? Should it be in a bowl over simmering water, over direct heat ???)

And just for fun I’ll offer her recipe for a wedding cake. No need here anymore for that but I was quite taken by, first the list of ingredients and then secondly by the “simple” preparation—

3 lbs. butter
4 1/2 lbs sugar
36 eggs
4 lbs of currants (tiny raisins for you and I)
4 lbs sultans (raisins for your and I)
2 lbs peel (I’m thinking maybe lemon?)
1 lb chopped almonds
4 1/2 lbs plain flour
1 lb glacè cherries (I think those candied types)
1 teaspoon spice and cinnamon mixed (I suppose it’s your call on the spice)
1 gill of brandy (I was hoping for the wine glass)
Grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon (which takes me back to that whole 2 lbs of peel business)

Cream together the butter and sugar, preferably with the hand (hummmm—don’t wear your rings) until very light.
Beat in the eggs and sifted flour alternately (all freaking 36 of them and 4 1/2 hefty pounds)
Beat all together for 10 minutes (I’m thinking that is again, by hand)
Add gradually all the fruit (does that include the peel?), spice (remember, your call) and grated rinds.
Finally stir in the brandy (just a gill no wineglass?)

Cover a baking sheet with salt or sand ( whoa, sand??!!) Line the tin (would that be the cake pan?)
or tins ( layers or one giant thing) with greaseproof paper (hummm) and place three thicknesses of brown paper on the outside of the tin. (What?!)

Place cake mixture in tin, or tins, stand (how’s that work?) on the prepared baking sheet (with the sand) and bake in a moderate oven (not slow or cool, but moderate) for the first two hours, lowering the heat slightly for the further five hour. ( 7 hours to bake a cake??!!)

Once I settle on a recipe, I’ll let you know—it won’t be the wedding cake, but I’ll find us something tasty. . .
Until then I’ve got to find some dark foot sugar.

***PS–Please, all my UK friends, forgive my ignorance—I’m learning–it is obvious that Mrs. Landemare had the gift of the intuitive—she cooked and created by an innate sense and ability. A gift that can take others a lifetime to barely develop—hence why the Churchills loved her.
Thanks to a little internet research I am uncovering the secret identity to gils, ratafia, and oiled butter—but the dark foot sugar—still a mystery. . . .

A colonial artist and a famous yellow line

When the sword of rebellion is drawn, the sheath should be thrown away
John Singleton Copley

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(statue of John Singleton Copley, Copley Square, Boston, Mass / Julie Cook / 2014)

Well I suppose I made it too easy for you.
Yes it’s true, I’m a tag-a-long on a quick trip to Boston.
I’ve never been to Boston before but being a lover of history, I’m certain I can find enough to keep me happy, as well as entertained.
It also helps that I love lobsta. . .

Have you ever noticed how the New Englanders end all their words with an “a” sound?
Have you also ever noticed how the minute I open my mouth, every one immediately knows I’m from “down there”, as in waaaaayyyy down South?
I swear I do not intentionally add syllables to my words. . .as they probably think the er at the end of a word is pronounced as an “a”—go figure.

And I wouldn’t be a very good art teacher if I didn’t share with you the surprise encounter with a familiar friend, who I accidentally ran into this afternoon. As our hotel is located in what is known as the Back Bay area near Copley Square, I ran into John Singleton Copley–or actually I ran into, not literally mind you, his statue.

John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) was a colonial American painter best known for his portrait work. Copley established himself as a successful artist long before our war for Independence.
He is claimed as a favored son of Boston who was born to humble parents. . . who had actually made their way to this fledgling new country by way of Ireland.

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A notable Copley portrait of Paul Revere painted in 1770

Copley’s bronze statue, which I stumbled upon by mere happenstance, is but a stone’s throw from the famous yellow finish line of the famed Boston Marathon. As I walked along the sidewalk, heading back toward our hotel up from the finish line, I was deeply touched noting the small subtle remembrances left behind by individuals who have gently woven tributes into the fabric of this city– small reminders to and for the victims of the Marathon bombings. There remains a palpable determination deeply rooted in “Boston Strong”

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Stay tuned—today there is to be a small personal adventure and quest for the remaining traces of Julia—
“Julia” you ask?
Why of course silly—Julia, as in Julia Child, as in Julia lived in Cambridge and her house is still there —I come to seek the queen of butter. . .I can’t wait!!

Some folks come to Boston in search of Lobster (aka Lobsta), some come for the Red Socks, some come for a tea party, some come to run. . .but I come for the queen of cream. . .