cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Proust's Cookie

But my cup of tea

Excerpt from Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time: Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called "petites madeleines," which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?...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. And all from my cup of tea.

Proust's cookie was not really a cookie, it was a cake. But to this measure i here provide no astute revelation, for what would it matter if it had been a cookie, a cake, a pot of kraut, or the dried-out back end of the prior nights dinner loaf. The cookie matters not; the chicken or the egg right, what matters is the expedited fashion in which the cookie propelled him down memory's wistful garden lane. Now reader, special brownies aside, is it possible for the average Joe, comme toi et moi, to achieve such prompt from a taste--from any taste? Perhaps it is not sweet little old mum who brings you a dainty cake to jog your romantic existential query into your past self, but perhaps for you it is your cousin Leon whose generous offerings of overcooked blood sausage on your tuesday evening visits that bring you back to that street corner at age twelve accepting from that vendor what you thought to be a neuveau bratwurst "stick style" but in fact, and to your hearts horror, produced for you a mouthful of iron. Proust didn't give a shit about the cookie or the tea; though many a food writer and culinary historian have spun the reference to spur their own crusade to create the bonafide proustian madelein--what the asthmatic mama's boy wanted us to focus on was the concept of involuntary memory triggers. Side note: did you know that Freud was a coke user? When we examine food as a memory trigger in allusion or comparison to Proust, we miss the point. Food as a stimulus for memory should not be an involuntary sub-conscious exercise. no no no. Where is any humanistic purpose in that? Perform it as an exercise.

Memory, memory, i'll tell you a bit about memory. Proust....mumble mumble...Proust....mumble
mumble...n'est ce pas? Rang the droning comentary of Monsieur Quoi during our stimulating literature course at le Catho--me, averting my gaze from the window framed roof-tops: hmm? ah oui oui, n'est pas, oui oui Proust, quel(le) homme bien sur...attendez--on parle de quoi? Here is what i tread on Proust: (note-i do not imply that i have stomped his marble at Lachaise ) I envy the man and I want a cookie equivalent. I want to twine together a taste with a remembrance so strong that my body physically aches under its pressure. I echo the sentiment of acting mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow. But then i look down and see my tea. No sight to behold, my tea is always there, my constant companion, the warriors sword, the journalist's pen, Linus's blanket. I want to create a memory with this tea, i muse, though perhaps it would be wise to cease musing out loud. What will i remember it as?

I will remember it as yesterday, as tomorrow, and as today. I will remember it as morning, as midday, and as sundown. As a tireless companion to late night essays on Roman conquest, as a comfort to both soul and soles after early morning runs. No discrimination of weather; will take pleasantly in positive as well as negative mercury. Sometimes with dinner, sometimes as dinner. You cannot hide from me--i'll search and consume you in Dublin, in Paris, in Rome. The kitchens of every hostel, you they proudly boast: in Krakow, in Lisbon, in Lille you succumb to my will. At home, the round crystal jar forever bursting with your geminates. Half full, and sometimes half empty you are left on counters and chairs in the dash to the door. In the car you've been many a time, sloshing against the plastic cylinder contracted for your containment. I have sipped you with sugar, and gulped you bitterly without. Always with milk, though sometimes with soy (for here when i say "tea" i am referring solely to the milky English style. all others need not apply.) Too often you are mixed with tears, the salty reminder that more often than not life is not perfect. But more is the reprise--and not to mention sweeter and less diluted--when mixed with cheer. But I don't need to create a memory with this tea, it creates one every moment. It's a memory of everyday this tea, a memory everyday of--me.That being said, perhaps i have an unhealthy relationship with this tea bag?

Well we know Proust liked Madeleines, but what about Montaigne? Perhaps a rum cake, maybe. And Voltaire, Rousseau? Rousseau would prefer something a bit hereby; of potpourri in the feeling of having just ingested
perfume thus triggering the gagging reflex, not unlike moonlit river boat cruising. But i can see Baudelaire with a nice plump poppy seed cake. What would dead French literary figures favorite food stuff be. Who cares? Exactly. But you know, someone must.

So reader this is now where i ask you for your pity and good wishes--a good luck, a bonne chance, a boa sorte, a shot of tequila, whatever--for this monday i am to take my oral comprehensive exam on French literature (in French) and am one step short of nervously breaking down (ahhh, you sigh, now it all makes sense.) But what do i know about French literature? Let us put it simply as minds are not meant to stay as tabula rasa. Pass the exam and receive a bachelors degree in the French language. Fail, and well...i'm down to one degree. What does a BA in the French language do anyways? Dunno. What do i need a "degree" for to tell me that i can speak
French--i think it is evident whether i can or not just by opening my mouth non? But for some reason i want it. And the only thing separating us is a one hour conversation on the dead. Will it get me any nearer to ceasing to feel mediocre, contingent, and mortal--well the tea and cookie did it for Proust. So perhaps the panel members will allow me their audience with teacup in hand.

à bientôt

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Thoughts on Tapioca

I like it.
Let us begin by saying that it is time for something sunny. Negative temperatures and omnipresent grayness are catalysts for the tumbling into that rotten state of dejection and despair. Not the instigator, the fuse or spark that gets the ball rolling; but the agitator--the shoulder-rubber in a boxing ring. Want him gone? You're the one wearing the gloves. Say the word, the fun little bubbly word of the bubbly textured cream and perhaps you feel better already. Tapioca. Why would i make tapioca? Because i like it. Because it is a tabula rasa to do with what you please. Because it is gluten free. Because it tastes of ambrosia. Because you can mix alcohol with it and dedicate it to a little sister's 21st birthday. Because it's simply good. Because it's tapioca. on y va.

What has been done to tapioca throughout the years; it's a flour, a pudding, a thickener, a starch. Tapioca flour makes a cake much more appetizing than potato flour, and it's lighter and more mailable to taste than a clunky quinoa. What exactly is tapioca? Well it is a flavorless, colorless, and odorless root starch from cassava. Cassava eh...cassava is also known as manioc, yuca, and mandioca. Tapioca is a gem of many faces. The root is primarily indigenous to southern Brazil, Thailand, and parts of Africa, but consumed all over the world. Brazil eh? Would you like a story? I thought so.

Flash back: restaurant in Paris seated with D and F two classmates qui vienent do brasil ask--you want to sprinkle that with manioc? (small white flakes in a bowl) with what? with manioc. maniac? maniac? oh like maniac en anglais, ca veut dire maniaque! hahaha. maniac. Proceed for the remainder of the meal chittering and referring to me as the maniac, all this in portuguese of course. Me, i sit and smile. Two hours later: a quick consultation of wikipedia and i am ahhhhhh, it's tapioca; tapioca is all. Tapioca flour sprinkled on black beans and rice? Fine by me, gluten free. But hark; it appears that tapioca can be used for far more than a mere 20 minute pudding of gelatinous pearlage--and indeed it can. Soups, stews, potato substitute as root, wheat substitute as flour, cereals, deep fried, Pão de Queijo, and of course, tapioca pudding.

O the things you can think; yes a book by Dr. Seuss, but also a descriptor of our pustulous pudding. What shall be done with him? The first thought came from dedication to my little sisters birthday this 22nd of January--the big 2-1. Also gluten free, my sister R would benefit greatly from a sup of tapioca. But tapioca de quoi? Well, 21, alcohol. Rum. Rum raisin. Of course; the raisin married the pearl many a year ago. But alas, i do not have rum. What is there...limoncello, pomegranate vodka, and cachaça. Limoncello; been there done that. Vodka tapioca? mmm delicious. Cachaça? Well, close to rum. But oh no--cachaça and tapioca? I didn't mean to! These things just happen. But the result, was brilliant. And the gummy bears? Not particularly appetizing, i agree. Though a glitzy photo prop to supplement the vibrant lemons and limes in a citric crusade against the deadness of winter i will verily testify to. Perhaps though there will be some guests tonight that will not agree to the taste of cachaça; halve the batch for a vanilla-almond variant. Ah yes guests of course--for these are not in the end for dear sister R who passes her birthday festivities frivolously away in sunny LA; but who can blame. Would it be--i'd be anywhere but here. Save Siberia. I hear it's a bit chilly off yonder in eastern snow-deserts. Either way, happy birthday sister. I scored some pudding off of your birth.

Tapioca may seem awfully simple, no recipe other than the goods at hand and an imagination. Though it is good enough for Salty, we ask you to bear patiently by us; we have now begun the writing of our thesis, and perhaps may be slightly distracted. But never distracted enough to neglect our dearest home here. Though there might be increased mention of liquors, and liqueurs...Try some tapioca. While its bubbly texture may not be for everyone, it is worth your effort to try. But who couldn't like tapioca? I ask--and shocked I was upon discovering my three housemates in their loathing of the dessert--well we can't all be perfect now can we. More for me.

à bientôt

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Foggy Window Pane

a Poppy, a Grape, and a Window Cake

When the cake is shaped, the scraps are tossed aside to dry out on the counter board. Who will eat them now? They'll pass on into the garbage pail of dejection, along with that last cold spoonful of oatmeal left at the bottom of the bowl, the army of soggy spent tea bags, and the jaundice yolks stripped of their whites on meringue day. Garbage. As worthless as a sunken souflee or a foot-less macaron. Failures; close but not close enough. That tease and sudden dropping sense of complete bottomness. Holly Golightly sitting in the back of the cab with Paul, gee golly damn so close you can feel it with her. I never knit a ranch house, but i've seen the mean reds, and i'm a sap for chicken in chocolate sauce. Does life play the joke--you the real time star in some twisted sadistic daytime nighttime anytime melodrama. Failure; the royal fuck up. In life, in love--ill fated. We've all felt it before; that aching desire for just one day to not have to be you anymore, just one day where someone else could step in and you could have a break from everything you fault.

Standing at the sink, vacant eyes sunk in an anemic complexion, i wait to hear the electric water pot rattle its readiness. There is nothing pleasant about a Tuesday morning. The steam fogs the window it sits under, clouding the view of the neighbors ramshackle porch and the birdless-feader vacated for the snow. Smart birds fly south for the winter. Spokane is such a dismal place to live during these monotonous gray months of January, February, March, and into April. The noon sky is as dark as the dawn is at dusk. Yeah but how do you think the Swedes feel. The steam has fogged the entire breadth of the window. But even with its dreary view, its framed monotone hues, i need that window clear. We need to see that celestial death shroud in order to remember that through all of the self-pity, loneliness, and doubt, that the sun is still above us, hiding behind the haze, invisible, but still there. Life on earth continues, so by definition, by scientific definition--the sun did indeed come up this morning. So i brush my hand in circles over the foggy window pane to clear a starboard porthole, and do the same for my own socketed windows whose usual blueness has changed lately rather to a shade of red. There is nothing to see out this window, but perhaps if i keep it clear, and wipe off each boiling fog, i'll see something eventually.

I would guess you are feeling slightly depressive thus far in reading this diddy; don't. To write about life means to adhere to its foggy side as well. No want for pity or motivational speeches, only adjectives. Perhaps we have to get sad, mad, forlorn, in order to appreciate when we are happy. Maybe everything's a muck, and maybe i just like to yap, and maybe i like windows and sunshine a bit much. But regardless of its inspiration, be it born of ecstasy or despair, a cake is a cake is a cake. And for all the talk of window gazing, wandering thoughts, and failures, of course a window cake is born. on y va.

Originally my thought was to stick it (it being my complete sense of having failed life completely thus far in every aspect shape and form) by baking something i had previously attempted that had gone terribly wrong; a rebirth of a pastry failure to reverse all my woe. But thinking back on the duds, i realized that nearly all have been fixed and redone. I've made sunken quick breads, soggy muffins, drippy fudge, chunky mousse, feet-less macarons, wax-paper infused peanut brittle, and the list goes on. But never you mind those--for none, the reason unbeknownst to me, were taken personally as a mortal blow, but rather as a must get better next time. And they did. So, while peering out the window i turn, perhaps then something i've always wanted to do and never did. I jumped immediately to the stored mental image of a Battenburg cake i spotted on a blog a few years before this one ever lived (ehem, this would be Bron Marshall, the first food blog i recall ever seeing. for serious) and i fell in love with it. Battenburg cake, a window cake, perfect! How ironic, i will be such the romantic poet of symbolism it will make the whites of the masses roll back.

You are saying to yourself; eh eh, a Battenburg cake is pink and white. Correct, but this is not a Battenburg cake, it is a knock off hybrid window cake. A traditional Battenburg is a vanilla spongecake of which the cake batter is half dyed pink, and half dyed yellow. The cake is assembled into a four corner check pattern (like a window), the pieces of the cake are fused together with apricot jam, and then the completed rectangle is encased in marzipan. Very British you know. As such, I, being the tea-dumping American that i am, must change its pinky colour and flavour to a color and flavor of my own. Touche. Everyone is mixing poppies and lemons--good idea. But i did yellow last month, a contrast calls for something dark, where can i get black for my mood...poppy and...grape! No one does grape. What a yankee rebel .

Poppy & Grape Window Cake
*(pardon my french and portuguese please, it's a language practice activity)
ingredients: 1 cup flour (farine, farinha) ~ 1 cup sugar (sucre, açúcar) ~ 1 tsp baking soda (leveur chimique, bicarbonato de sódio) ~ poppy seeds (graines de pavot, sementes de papoila) 2 sticks butter (beurre, manteiga) ~ 1 packet vanilla sugar (sucre vanillé, baunilha açúcar) ~ 4 eggs (oeufs, ovos) ~ grape jam/ syrup (confiture de raisin, uva horas) ~ marzipan (pate d'amande,

method: 1) cream butter and sugars, add beaten eggs 2) combine flour and soda, slowly add to butter mixture but don't over mix--it will be kinda thick 3) pour half of the batter into a separate bowl and mix in poppy seeds 4) line a square 8x8 baking tin with parchment paper and spray slightly, add a separate piece of parchment that hangs over the middle to act as the divider 5) while holding up the diving piece of paper, pour one batter into the pan and smooth out, pour the other into the other side and trim extra length off of the paper divider 6) bake at 350 until done, and let cool completely 7) cut and groom cake into 4 equal geometric strips 8) stick them together with the grape jam or syrup slightly heated in microwave 9) roll out thin a hunk of marzipan, measure your cake with a ruler, and cut the sweet stuff accordingly. yes it will feel like an architectural project. get over it 10) brush grape jam on marzipan (i put it on the cake) then drape over, fasten and smooth.

Self doubt is a fault. It seeps from one event and trickles into all others. If i did this so wrong, then maybe everything else as well. What exactly do i have anyways? In a moment the thought of being you is so enervating you pity anyone unfortunate enough to have to talk, think, and even look at you. Failure. Just like the cake scraps. The problem is sugar, you're stuck being you. So here's what i did instead; i cut the scraps into cubes, set them in a bowl, sprinkled with sugar, and set them out on the table. No one's the wiser of their previous worthlessness. Great things come from windows. We'll try to remember that for the next time.

footnote: if you are wondering where the lake came from in the photo above, it is Lake Coeur d'Alene, in Idaho, about thirty minutes drive east of Spokane

à bientôt

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rouge, Vermelho, Rojo - RED

Food Photography on Red Safari

Red is a key color in the world of gastronomy for both chefs, bakers, and pastry artists alike. A bleeding steak is far more desirable than a blackened gritty piece of leather that once upon a time resembled muscle tissue. Tarts in a pastry shop window; the pear is undoubtedly delicious, though there is something more drawing about the eye popping geometric strawberries glistening in sugary syrup. It is the contrast against the crust, don't argue, just accept. We eat first with our eyes. Red is alive. We are drawn subconsciously. Snow White could not overcome the seduction of the sports-car red polished apple the witch offered her. Red is a spice, saucy, hot, and naughty? Blood is the basal concept of the pigment, life and death therein stem. Red is always a stream of opposites; red for evil, for devil, for sin--red for love, for heart, for life. Red is the color equivalent of the exclamation mark; red emphasizes, emboldens, and warns. You are overdrawn in your checking account; Red. The editor has returned your manuscript, is there even one word not molested by Red? Red is the leader; strength, dominance, and fiery emotion. The Red planet, Mars--synonymously the god of War. My tongue is Red, and my nose gets Red when i eat mustard, does yours? What is so enticing about red lipstick? Victoria's Secret sells more Red lingerie than any other color. Dorothy clicked her red heals. Red m&m is original, yellow peanut is his sidekick. And most importantly is the royalty of a red red wine. on y va.

Why Red? Well why not Red, it deserves. Though how ironic (uh huh) it is that the present theme for the monthly food photography contest hosted at Jugalbandi is Red. The contest is open to all participants with or without a blog, and entries will be accepted until the last day of the month at midnight. Please submit if you are a photographer, photo enthusiast, or a random vagabond who somehow got lucky with a camera while seated in front of a pile of food.

Pondering Red, the firsts appear: apple, red pepper, tomato, strawberry. So, those are hereafter off limits. Then what? I move toward raw meat and wine. I cannot afford meat right now, and well wast wine for a photo? Not on your life--there are a hundred things i'll waste for a photo, but wine does not make the list. Perhaps a wine substitute? Why yes, a cranberry cocktail, not the right shade i agree with you, however it gives the illusion. If you thought just now that perhaps you would like to show me up and use real wine, then i first implore you to practice one hundred frames with a water stunt double to make sure the ISO is right. Which is the greater evil: wasted wine, or a grainy photo? I rest my case.

Ketchup and beer are obnoxious and highly representative of the college image of junk food and, well beer. Is there anything more classic than the Red party cup? No, no there isn't. While at the market, i found myself in the pathetic international aisle staring at Mexican products. Aiya, i think, two dollar canned sardines? Bet those are delicious. Who the hell would buy that...hmm that's a nice red can. True, the cat-food smelling headless sardines photographed above were not eaten, but i yet see that they died for a purpose. And the photo below, you will ask yourself, why the hell is that here? It's not red. Well, there is no reason other than i like it, was in one of those i love fish moods. Think of it this way--there is red inside them, well, there some point.

Are you wondering about the little guy sitting in the field of Red sugar? Well you should be. Always ask questions now. We are very Socratic here at the Salty Cod. He is a small clay shaped man curiously flipping through the pages of the book he doubles as his lawn chair (he and a few pages fell out of the book for the photo). I acquired him at a small over-stuffed book shop in Lisbon. The book he's reading actually has full sentences and page numbers. Here he sits reading for eternity Os Direitos da Criança, which, after the consultation of a dictionary, appears to be The Rights of Children. So the little guy is a lawyer. Or i suppose in his case, an advogado. Isn't Portuguese fun. But not so much in size five point font. Instead, i sit waiting for him to read it out loud to me from his dusty shelf. Next to him is my Red polka dot egg cup, not from Portugal, but from Paris. I told you once before that the egg cup is the most important piece of dishware one will ever own. So i tell you again, and i daresay it won't be the last.

The Sperry Top-Sider bottle--water is a food when it's not photographed cascading from jagged rock cliffs. Beleive it or not, i consume more water than any other beverage. True story. And can you tell i'm into playing with fast action photography right now? My bro and i started to fiddle around with water scenes--he poured i shot. Thanks brother. But either way--Sperry Top-Siders, if you are unawares, are the chicest, most comfortable, and fashion-forward shoes available for consumer purchase--they are boat shoes. I happen to live with the daughter of a distributor, ergo she has everything stamped with the brand logo. Stationary, tote bags, cups, and even water bottles. Thanks F, your bottle came in handy.

Red is a good color. We may not all have Red fruit, Red tubers, or Red seeds, but all of the animals and fish of the world bleed Red, the culinary artery that connects us all through color. Vegetarians--as usual i am excluding you on purpose. Do we like Red here? Yes, yes we do. There are so many different shades to choose from. And my Red Sox cap is quite chouette, though i am not a baseball fan, i do have a sister in the Boston area, and of course, the necessity of all necessity, Red Sperry Top-Siders. Jealous? i thought so.

please submit and or view current contest entries for the Click! Food Photography contest for the Red month of January. Besides, you never know who might just be a judge...

à bientôt

Thursday, January 1, 2009

We Could All Be a Little More MoominMinded

Dallying With Mushrooms and Moomins Indeed
They pretend and pretend. But that's why they have such a good time. Are you familiar with the Moomins? Surprise! They are not French, they are Finnish. straight from Finland. Finnish you say? Finnish indeed. With finesse, finite personalities, and finicky story lines, Moomintrolls lit up the pages of childhood literary fantasy in a predate of Harry Potter for Swedish speaking children--and a few crazy American ones as well--beginning in 1945 through the pen of author Tove Jannson in short novels and comic strips. What on earth am I talking about? Well when I was little, I was assumed the dud. Not terribly bright in grammar school. I couldn't spell (wait, past tense?) I didn't read much aside from what was forced upon me, and even then i played the read every-other-page game. You see, I beleive my head was stuck in a tutu (there we go tripping about with the past tense again) As the extremely gifted prima ballerina, (that would be me) i didn't have time for words and their silliness in between dress rehearsals and costume fittings. Besides, with an older sister already a prodigious math wizz and a younger one born god's gift to academics as a member of the schools "gifted" program, I had to claim singular allegiance to something or risk failure in the sororal competition of distinction. So what if everyone thought i was dumb, maybe i was. People could be other things besides smart, couldn't they?

Then one day, maybe i was ten, perhaps eleven, i found a book titled moomin with little white critters on the cover that appeared to live in the clouds. Well it looks a lot better than Pippi Long Stockings, i thought to myself. And who woulda thought that after that quick glance at the cover i would start to like words, like letters and sentences and verbs. I began to see books and reading and story in another light, and pretend? pretend yes, that is why they have such a good time.

Moomins are really just Finnish people, you see their whiteness is a result of the lack of daylight hours. Have i offended you? The correct answer would be, oh mallory, then you are Finnish eh? (you are to utter a chuckle, a giggle, or guffaw here) They are little trolls A Moominmama and a Moominpapa live with their son Moomintroll and their adopted son Sniff who is actually some type of marsupial in a lighthouse in the Finnish land of moominvalley. There is a wandering vagabond character named Snufkin, and a growling gray blob named Groque. Moomintroll's even got himself a girlfriend, the flirty and fun Snorkmaiden whose tuft of blonde hair and classy gold ankle bracelet are all that distinguish her from the other white trollish looking creatures. But they truly are a match made in heaven. The stories are nonsense fairy tales, outlandish with words and names that could only be the product of, well, a Fin. They are, if you allow my truism, purely just a bit of foolishness where one can live happily ever after, eat jam, play with barometers, and fiddle about in a life with no consequences where nothing matters except entertaining your relations and wanting to be happy on you own terms. ahk! moomins or mallory?

How did this come up you ask? The ten year old me suddenly invaded my consciousness? No. The truth is, well, it was all because of a cup. You know how Americans are with their coffee/tea mugs--they are sacred. Touch my cup and i'll kill you. And i have a new one, a christmas gift from my sister, a moomin mug from Denmark where she spent the last four months. I stared at the tiny pink and white mug freshly shorn of its wrappings, what on earth? She--it's moomintroll! Don't you remember? I saw it and had to get it for you! And the floodgates of memory lane had been opened, the thousands of metric tons of water came crashing down, how could i have ever so completely forgotten little moomintroll? But then i think, have i really forgotten him? When i think about it, moomintroll has found me again, he was always there, slowly making his way back to the surface. Either way, Moomin Valley after all is nothing other than a variant word for cabbage patch, and really, don't we all wish for, more than any other possession, more than any other gain, wish just to be happy? Just to be happy, just like the moomins. So really, we all could and should be a little more moomin-minded. indeed.

Little moomins, what could i make moomin-inspired? Moomins are happy-go-lucky, they represent bohemian tolerance and that dirtiest of dirty words liberalism. Short of baking a marijuana infused-vegan-gay pride-peta-grassroots-free love-cake (did i cover all things nauseatingly hippy alternative?) I decided to go with Finnish. Cloudberries are the national fruit of Finland. Sounds like my kinda berry. But no cigar. I dare you to find a cloudberry in the western half of the United States. So eh, cloudberry jam (bakeapple is another word, but grows only in Newfoundland) Well perhaps mushrooms then as well. yes. Shrooms. The Finns and their shrooms. Can you tell I have never been to Finland and know absolutely nothing factual of the country? Excellent. But drug references aside--as i do not partake in any drug use other than the coffee bean, grape, and advil, if you do then that is your decisions--but i propose that instead of smoking out the mushrooms, bake them. Macarons seem like the perfect moomin treat, they look like moomins, but mushroom macarons? Nah, i won't go that far. Cloudberry macarons and mushroom muffins, cottage cheese mushroom muffins for you, for me, for the little moomins--of course, on y va.

Moomin Muffins are cottage cheese parmesan muffins adapted from the recipe here, and instead of tomatoes, mushrooms were used. Moomin macarons are cloudberry macarons, use Helen's instructions here, and for cloudberries (if you have them? then i am jealous) use cloudberry preserves (available at Ikea) to make a butter cream ganache with red food coloring to give it a pink tint. The muffins, as was told by their consumers, tasted pretty much like a mini-quiche, while the macarons--the macarons to the never-before-heard-of crowd were quite the success. What is this? was the repetative ringing phrase heard throughout the evening from people who are unfamiliar with French pastry and well, anything french desert. Is this thing on your blog? I wanna make this! hmmm. well well well Gabrielle, we'll talk. 2009...god damn i feel like an old lady now, my blog archive lists three years! ahhh!

Moomins are funny, are they not? Nationalistic cartoon characters make me very happy for some reason or another. They are similar to the Belgian Smurfs and my favorite investigative journalist Tintin, Japan's Hello Kitty, France's Asterix and (though upon further investigation she's actually German, but whatever)Diddlina, Brazil's cute little Monica, and America's...America's...Micky Mouse? Bugs Bunny? Sure. They all are so, so--so moominminded indeed.

I wish you a happy beginning to 2009, the year I finish college and start____life? I don't know what this year will bring, but i feel a change in the wind, and with any luck, i will take at it with an attitude a bit more true to happiness just as a genuine moomin would. Cloudberries, cloudheads, irrational, impractical--this is our year. I have great hopes for this year--hopes for me, for you, and for us. Bring on the New Year!