Today I had to hold the church coffee hour without my friend Lizzie who flew to Florida to see her dad. She flew to Florida! On a Sunday morning! What was she thinking?
Luckily I had a lot of help from friends at church. Also Lizzie made clam chowder for the coffee hour even though she would not be there. That is Catholic guilt! You cook for the coffee hour even when you will not be there to eat it.
I got to church 45 minutes early and I was nervous. I love to cook but situations where I have to be organized and know where stuff is do not bring out the best in me. And I got this great surprise when I walked in and the room was ready! The coffee was percolating away and tablecloths were on the tables. It was Bonnie who did it. Bonny Bonnie had set the coffee going and had also put on the tablecloths.
As was this coffee hour. Bonnie had already gone over to church and as I was trying to get set up, my brother George showed up with my niece and nephew and a Crock Pot and they helped me. Did God provide or what? Barbara, up above, arranged the cookies artistically. I had made these sticky banana brownies I found online, and gingersnaps from Martha Stewart Healthy Quick Cook.
Isn't that beautiful? And observe that cute little watering can holding the cutlery. Barbara brought that to add a spring touch to the table. So sweet!
So, all in all, a success. The only thing that went wrong was that the coffee that I had heard burbling away somehow became unplugged. I do not know how because if I had tripped over it or something, I would know! So the coffee was not as hot as usual. The joke, incredibly not started by me, went around that Protestants had sneaked in and unplugged our coffee pot. Ha, ha!
Whatever happened, I am weak with relief we got through this without Lizzie, albeit with her great help. I keep thinking: She'll be back in two weeks. She'll be back in two weeks.
Today I opened the book on Chopin that I bought at that sale yesterday. That is it pictured above! I still have not figured out the piano piece quoted on the cover. I played it but I cannot place it. I thought it was part of this one Nocturne I played but then thought it was not.
Here is the inscription on the inside page:
Isn't that wonderful? August 1894.
The recipient, "Little Two Shoes," was named Julia Grayson, followed by a last name I cannot make out. It looks like Wilson but when I pick it apart I do not think it is. She was a student at the Richmond Female Seminary. I know that because I also bought her copy of Mendelssohn's "Songs Without Words." The Mendelssohn was a present from her father in '96. Not 1996. 1896!!
My father gave me music too once for Christmas! I hope that up in Heaven my father and Julia's father meet. The Mendelssohn is just an old Schirmer edition but here is something cool: It was back when he was Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. If you want to live like a Victorian as I do one thing you have to do is say Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.
The Mendelssohn book is adorable because Julia wrote in all the titles in the table of contents starting with the first one which I studied in college with my teacher, Stephen Manes, and which thanks to him I still do play pretty well.
Lizzie and I went yesterday to two estate sales that are worth noting because of the way they are alike and at the same time different.
You know how you can tell from the sale what kind of person or persons lived there?
One sale, the occupant or occupants were clearly Scotch/Irish and very proud of it. There were CDs of Scotch/Irish music and Presbyterian hymnals and Scottish books and cookbooks.
The other sale, the folks were German and very proud of it. There were tons of books in German as well as German records and dishes and beer paraphernalia and tons of German Christmas stuff.
Lizzie and I were laughing about this coincidence later because as it happens her ancestors are Scots/Irish and mine are German. So there was one garage sale for her and one for me. Also, this is funny, but if you crossed these garage sales you would get Donald Trump. He is half German and half Scottish. I am just saying. If you wonder why he gets looks like this ...
... that is why. It comes from having the two most stubborn ethnic backgrounds imaginable.
One nice thing about both sales is that they both hovered this side of kitsch. Both the households occasionally indulged in frivolous things but there was tons of classical music and tons of books. Smart people with a sense of humor, is what I would guess.
At the Scottish sale Lizzie bought a Scottish cookbook and I scored a CD of Thomas Hampson singing songs by Stephen Foster. I have always wanted this recording! But it was on Angel, Leonard Pennario's label too, and it was too expensive. Or I was too cheap, you take your pick. Anyway, when I got home I listened to it.
I liked these Scots/Irish people for recognizing that Stephen Foster was one of them. He was Irish. More importantly they recognized his greatness. That is an appreciation I picked up from my father. Sometimes of an evening when I was 14 or 15 my dad and I would get together and I would play the accompaniment and he would sing songs like "Beautiful Dreamer."
I also picked up a second copy of a book of Stephen Foster songs that I own and love. And a book on Chopin. I will get to that.
At the German sale I forget what Lizzie bought but it was something. I got some German Christmas albums and Buffalo China bowls.
Two households, both alike in dignity! As Shakespeare would say.
On this snowy day, pictured above, as I made dinner I found myself thinking of this iron pot that turned up in my apartment years ago. This was my apartment on Delavan Avenue.
I am not sure why I had inherited this pot. This was back in the crazy time of my life when roommates were always leaving under cover of darkness and leaving me with all kinds of stuff. It was this big iron pot with a big heavy lid. Back then I did not appreciate iron pots as I do now. And so this pot mostly gathered dust in the pantry. Once in a while I cooked beans in it. Somehow it occurred to me that it was good for cooking beans.
But other than that, long story short, I did not appreciate this pot. And one night before garbage day I decided it was time to get rid of it. I took it out to the curb.
Son of a bean-boiling sea cook, I hate remembering that!
I wish I could go back in time and not take that pot out to the curb! I am so ashamed.
But anyway, I took it out to the curb, and I put it in the garbage.
However. Here is where it is good to be me.
I cannot throw anything out!
Late that night I thought better of it. I put on boots over my pajamas and I ran outside. And there was the pot, still sitting there. I lugged it back upstairs and inside. I hated myself as I did that. I thought, I am such a jerk, I cannot throw anything out. Why am I saving this iron pot?
Here is why.
That iron pot sits on the stove now, filled with polenta.
Hardly a day passes when it is not in play. I cook in it constantly. It has held thousands of stews. It has cooked hundreds of pounds of beans. When I make a bean soup, this is my preferred pot, because of how it is shaped. I love how the lid fits onto it. I admire it as a work of art.
File this -- again -- under Never Throw Anything Out. Pennario agreed with me on this.
Today it was back into the St. Michael's confession booth with me. Yes, I drew aside the midnight blue curtains, and in I went with my sinful self. Two funny things happened:
For one thing, the priest gave me this creative penance the likes of which I have not heard.
I was supposed to go home and take a piece of paper and list five things that brought me joy in the last year, and five people who brought me joy.
Then for every thing and person on that list I am supposed to say an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be in thankfulness. Hmm, the Glory Be looks funny in print, you know? But it is a prayer that I love. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen! When you say that prayer you are saying a mouthful.
So that is one thing that was neat about going to confession today. Here is the other:
I only just now realized that it is Shrove Tuesday. I was thinking of today as Fat Tuesday, starting with this big breakfast I ate. But it is also called Shrove Tuesday. I had forgotten that.
And Shrove Tuesday, I never thought about what it meant. It means confession! As in "shriven." Speaking of which, I am putting that in the headline because I read online there is some kind of slasher film stupidly called "The Shriven." I want people Googling that film to find me instead. Hahahahaa!
Ahem. Anyway, in days of old, people would flock to confession on Shrove Tuesday so you would be shriven in time for Lent.
I was shriven on Shrove Tuesday! And here I was just figuring I would beat the rush. I guess that was thinking back then, too. There were about a dozen people in line for confession at St. Michael's and for a while I had to stand and wait. A fellow penitent passed the time by painting my picture.
Then they opened a new confessional, the way at Aldi when there is a lot of people they have to open a new aisle. I have to say this, there were a lot of hipsters. A lot of guys. A few of them looked as if they must belong to a band.
All of us celebrating Shrove Tuesday.
past participle: shriven
(of a priest) hear the confession of, assign penance to, and absolve (someone).
present oneself to a priest for confession, penance, and absolution.
At our church coffee hour we are planning a Mardi Gras theme. Naturally that is all I can think about.
I am thinking of making these Bananas Foster muffins on this one Web log. It looks as if I have all the ingredients and my friend Lizzie and I have come into possession of a huge lot of bananas.
You know what kills me? I love food Web logs but the people who write them, they post way too many pictures.
You are scrolling down trying to get to the ingredients and it is all blah blah blah and photo photo photo photo photo. And most of the photos are pretty much identical.
Son of a rum-swilling sea cook, get to the recipe already!
But anyway. The Bananas Foster muffins look like fun. Only perhaps a Bananas Foster Cake would be better. You could cut it into mighty slabs.
I have a Bananas Foster story. Years ago in New Orleans, a group of us gathered there, as we used to do, magically, once in a while. And my friend Daryle and his then-girlfriend, now wife, Lisa, insisted on going out for Bananas Foster. The rest of us laughed ourselves silly because we were going to, I don't know, sit around the pool and drink Hurricanes, or something.
Now I know that Daryle was right!
Bananas Foster is a signature dish and not to go to Galatoire's and sample it is foolishness. Plus I should have trusted the good taste of Daryle, who has always, always appreciated the fine things in life. Would that I could go back in time. I would go with them! I would have been a third wheel on their date but that would be just too bad.
Oh well. As my friend Daryle would say: "That's what happens when you stray from the cool people."
Speaking of which, as we contemplate past regrets and future triumphs we can savor the music of cool New Orleans composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Pennario playing -- what else? -- "Le Bananier." Does it mean "the banana tree"? It does!