Sunday, May 25, 2014

I miss you, Sabbatical Chef

I feel as if I have been in hiding.  No new posts in three weeks, almost four.  I have been teaching the usual classes, going to the usual meetings, supervising the usual after school study hall, tutoring the usual kids who need some extra help, doing the usual house work, cooking the usual meals, sleeping the usual 6-7 hours a night.  Maybe I am just really tired.  Maybe my thyroid med isn't doing quite what it should be.  Maybe it's the let-down at the end of the school year.  Maybe the end of the exchange with my Frenchies.  Who knows?  But with so much writing that has to be done, correcting papers, writing exams, writing progress reports, there is no time left for writing for fun.  But I am about to shake off all that have-to writing as summer vacations quickly approaches.  June 6, here we come.

Speaking of June 6, I have made the acquaintance of a gentleman who landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.  Mr. Ed Chappell came to speak to my French exchange students and to my 8th graders in April.

He told us his story of the landing in Normandy.  He also served in the Pacific, as I found out when I talked to him on the phone a few nights ago.  I came home with a few leftover euros in March and decided to send them to him along with a thank you note for talking to my kids.  See, he is headed back to Normandy and to Omaha Beach for the 70th anniversary.  Robin McMahon, a fellow French teacher and woman I greatly admire is taking Mr. Chappell, another WWII veteran, and some high school kids for the celebration.  They have been tirelessly raising money for the trip for the past several months.  I volunteered to go along with Ed, assuring him that I could be his translator and that I would keep him out of trouble (ha!).  His daughter is going with him, however, and he hinted that there are several women in line before me who have also volunteered to go over with him.  Alas, I will just have to wait until he returns to hear all about his adventures.  He has promised to spend the euros I sent on something delicious.  What a wonderful man.  What an honor it is to know him.

I also invited Mr. Joe Collie to come speak to the students.

Mr. Collie was recently awarded the French Legion of Honor medal (established by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1802 and first awarded in 1804) for his service during WWII in France.  He explained his landing in Marseille and the journey that took him into Germany.  

I have heard of Mr. Collie for years because his grandchildren attend my school and I helped his daughter-in-law make plans when the whole family went to Normandy for a visit.  I had not had the privilege of meeting him, however until he came to talk to us. Another great honor.  Both of these men said that they are not heroes.  They were doing their job.  Yes, they were doing what they were trained to do, but history has proven them to be heroes, with or without medals.
This is a painting done by Mr. Collie in 2007 as a tribute to the region and his memories.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed meeting him and having the chance to ask him questions.  He is an excellent teacher and speaker.  An American hero.

I did take a personal day and headed up I-40 to the mountains to visit Mama Mildred for Mother's Day. I got to spend time with her, my siblings, my niece, nephews, and great-nephews.   I persuaded my sister Moo to make her broccoli-cauliflower salad.  Moo is a pretty good cook herself.  I finally watched as she prepared the dressing and plan to make it myself this morning to take to a cookout tonight.

Moo's Broccoli-Cauliflower Salad

1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
1 head of cauliflower, cut in small pieces
Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3 Tbsp Duke's mayonnaise
3 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp white granulated sugar

Wash and prepare the broccoli and cauliflower (see photo above for size of pieces).
Make dressing by mixing the ingredients together until smooth and sugar has dissolved.  Taste and adjust, if necessary.  It can be made sweeter or tangier, according to taste.
Add dressing to salad.  Stir.  Add shredded cheese and stir.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours before serving.  (You can serve it immediately, but it's best if it sits for a few hours.)

Bon appétit and Happy Memorial Day weekend to all, especially to Mr. Ed Chappell, Mr. Joe Collie and the heroes who have served our country and kept us free!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

MoonPie's Tiramisu

Today is La Fête du Travail or Labor Day in France.  It is always on May 1.  So while the French girls have the day off, I will be travaille-ing in here in Durham.  Actually, they have two weeks off (to recover from their stay here??), but other Frenchies have today off and then they will faire le pont or make the bridge by taking Friday off, too.  I am hanging on until June 6 when the year officially ends for me.

May 1 is also the day to give lilies of the valley to your sweetie.

photo from

My grandmother loved these flowers and grew them behind her house.  She also wore perfume made from them.  I quizzed my students today by showing them a picture of these beautiful little flowers, but not one single 7th or 8th grader knew what they were.  A couple of them even guessed tulips or buttercups.  They simply must get out more often.

Why do the French offer these flowers to their loved ones on May 1?  According to my source, the website 1jour1actu, Charles IX started the tradition in 1561 by offering a sprig of the bell-shaped flowers to all the ladies of the court.  Beware-- don't eat them.  They are poisonous.  One 8th grade boy knew that, even if he didn't know the name of the plant.

What would taste good on May 1?  Something with fresh vegetables.  No muguet mixed in.  How about risotto with asparagus?  While on the subject of fresh asparagus... IronWoman invited La Brune, Mlle de Tavel, MoonPie, the Ex-Ex and I over for dinner while the Frenchies were here.  Wow.  Kir royale (crème de cassis and sparkling white -- champagne, par exemple) for apéritif.

Fresh goat cheese with fig jam (MoonPie brought that to IronWoman and she shared it with us!)

IronWoman's hubby being entertained by Mlle de Tavel's adventures in English...

Grilled steaks and scallops, along with oven baked baby asparagus and onions.

We had two desserts, mousse au chocolat (honestly the best we've ever made, or at least that I've helped make- light and really fluffy) and MoonPie's tiramisu.  I am not sure I got the story straight about how she has such a great recipe... Italian relatives?  In-laws?  It doesn't really matter.  She calls it une recette presque française-- an almost French recipe.

She has been dubbed MoonPie because she bought a huge box of them one of her first days here. IronWoman's husband thought it was hilarious that this French woman would buy those things to take home to the land of croissants and macarons.  Go figure.

We had great fun while they were here.  My house is eerily quiet without my two guests upstairs.  The cats are lost without La Brune.  And I am back to thinking up what to serve for dinner without their input.  All good things must come to an end, so they say.

We played a game after dinner.  Cards Against Humanity.  Well, we didn't really play it.  We just read funny answers out loud to each other.  To test the girls' English.

I haven't made this recipe myself yet, but I ate my fair share of it.  MoonPie wrote down the recipe for us. Tiramisu literally means pick me up, pull me up, lift me up in Italian.  This dessert will do it for you. Trust me.  Make it yourself.  Not as complicated as I thought!

MoonPie's Tiramisu

Cocoa powder
3 eggs
6 Tbsp. granulated white sugar
1 jar of mascarpone
1 or 2 boxes of boudoirs (also called biscuits à la cuillère-- she found them at Harris Teeter in the fruit section, not with the cookies or imported stuff; the closest we have to this is ladyfingers, sponge-cake like cookies)
1 c. warm brewed coffee
White sugar
Some alcohol (marsala is best, but amaretto or rum will be fine also)

Put the sugar in a bowl.
Separate the eggs.  Put the yellows in the bowl with the sugar and the whites in another bowl with a pinch of sugar.
Beat the yellows and the sugar until it turns light yellow.
Put the mascarpone in and stir.
Whip the egg whites and salt until it looks like mousse.
Add the whites to the yellow-sugar mixture and stir very cautiously.  Fold in gently.
Add 2 tsp. of alcohol.  Stir.  Again, gently.
Add some sugar to the coffee, along with 1 tsp of alcohol.
Dip the boudoirs in the coffee briefly and arrange them in a dish.
When one level of boudoirs is complete, put the mousse mixture on top so that the boudoirs are covered.
Make another layer of boudoirs (reheat the coffee, if necessary- it needs to be warm).  This layer can be wetter than the first- so that they seem to float on the mousse.  Cover with the mousse mixture.
Put the whole dish in the fridge for at least 8 hours before serving.
Just before serving, add the cocoa powder to the top.
It's ready.  Enjoy!

Bon appétit, Bonnes vacances, Bonne Fête du Travail, and Happy May 1st to all!