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« Les mondes meurent, puisqu’ils naissent. Il en naît, il en meurt sans cesse. Et la création, toujours imparfaite, se poursuit dans d’incessantes métamorphoses. […] Les cieux, qu’on croyait incorruptibles, ne connaissent d’éternel que l’éternel écoulement des choses.

[…] Quand nous disons la vie, nous entendons l’activité de la substance organisée, dans les conditions où nous voyons qu’elle se manifeste sur la terre. Mais il se peut que la vie se produise aussi dans des milieux différents, à des températures très hautes ou très basses, sous des formes inconcevables. […] 

Il se peut aussi que ces millions de soleils, joints à des milliards que nous ne voyons pas, ne forment tous ensemble qu’un globule de sang ou de lymphe dans le corps d’un animal, d’un insecte imperceptible, éclos dans un monde dont nous ne pouvons concevoir la grandeur et qui pourtant ne serait lui-même, en proportion de tel autre monde, qu’un grain de poussière. Il n’est pas absurde non plus de supposer que des siècles de pensée et d’intelligence vivent et meurent devant nous en une minute dans un atome. »

— Anatole France, Le jardin d’Épicure

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💀 For the November Hags: @graveyarddirt, @hagothehills, @anancientgrace, @eccentricnightengale, @sycamore, @hexenmoron, @satsekhem, @anothertroy, @crushedbasil, @queenofloci 

Both my mother’s mother, and mother’s father passed this year, one before spring, one before winter. 

In life, they were a beautiful pair, married 69 years, a church-going couple who rarely fought, giving one another a good deal of space to do the things they enjoyed, but always returning to one another for strength and comfort and love.

I have years and years of fond memories of them both, having spent nearly every Sunday dinner with them for my whole childhood, all holidays spent there, even if we also had a version at our own home, or at my father’s mother’s house. 

Every spring full of long walks, fishing and fish cleaning, garden prepping, Easter celebrations and pancake breakfasts, cleaning out the basement, while summer was studded with barbecues for dozens of friends and family, pool parties, berry picking, tomato harvesting, and every fall was awash in the glory of bringing back a deer or two, or three, to skin and mount and butcher and save and share, and every winter there were hills to sled and snowmen to make and trees to decorate and lights to hang, cookies and candies to make, and to share. 

Every season with them was for celebration; my grandmother was the kind of woman who took a picture of every cake she made for a party, and my grandfather was the kind of man who ate as much of that cake as she’d let him, along with spoonfuls of butter pecan ice cream directly from the freezer, several times a day if he could help it.

It was not a surprise that either of them passed – not to me. I saw it coming, and knew when it would happen, though in my grandmother’s case, I was unable to see her one last time because I was out of state celebrating a longtime friend’s wedding, and for my grandfather, with the pandemic raging, not even my mother could hold his hand to say goodbye, but I had enough foresight to send him a card, and his favorite chocolate, that he might have a little bit of sweetness before he faded off to sleep; even if we could not be with him in the room, he would not be alone.

It is no surprise to anyone who knows me well that for me, food is everything; I cook when I am happy, I cook when I am angry. I cook when I am so messily strung out with grief that it’s clear I’m performing an alchemy of sorts, turning all my feelings into love, into as much dopamine as a perfect, velvety mouthful of savory bisque can give, as much serotonin as can be generated by feeling the crumbling saltsweet of shortbread on your tongue.

And so, in memory and honor of my grandfather, who passed only a short time ago, and my grandmother, who left us earlier this year, I recently made the turkey divan she made for us all every year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, using leftover bird from the family feast, one of grampa’s favorite meals, and turtles, one of the candies he would eat by the handful, stolen from tins hidden all over the house.

We ate them together, around the table, and played crazy 8s as I did with grampa, when I was just a little girl, and he would always win, somehow always holding an 8 until the very end. We sang songs at the suits (Diamonds are a girl’s best friend! and Heart of My Heart - I love that melody!) and trash talked one another (with love) and in the end, a tightness that had been in me since February finally eased. 

I am… disastrous at change, and at transition, and at saying goodbye. But this time – THIS time – I might have managed it well.

It’s an easy recipe, to be sure, and one that, if you scale it up a little, can feed as many people as can fit at your table.

Boil some pasta to al dente, and blanch some broccoli florets in the leftover pasta water – for me, it was two full boxes of Barilla chickpea rotini, and four or five small heads of broccoli. 

Standing over the steaming water, you can wait and breathe and know that it’s simple enough that even if something doesn’t quite come out right, the whole of it is better than the sum of its parts. Casseroles are forgiving. Comforting. As big-dish meals should be. There is a time for fussiness, for perfection, for demanding dishes that require concentration.  

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And then there’s a time for a 9x13 pan stuffed with cooked pasta, because we’re cooking like GRAMMA today, my babies and in Gramma’s kitchen, we EAT BIG.

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The water is cloudy because it’s the pasta water. Drain it, but don’t bother rinsing. The starch helps the sauce thicken.

Speaking of sauce, the next part is a cheese sauce, which can be as complicated or as simple as you like.  No time? Pour out a jar or two of alfredo and be done with it. A little time? Try a can of cream of mushroom soup, milk, some minced onion, and 2-3 cups of your favorite meltable cheeses, plus 2-3 slices of American. The secret is the American, honestly. It’s just cheddar plus extra salt and fat and emulsifiers – it keeps even the fussiest of cheese sauces from breaking. Lots of time? Start with a roux you only cook enough to get the raw taste out of the flour, then add minced fresh mushrooms and onions, then milk, and finish with 2-3 cups of shredded cheese plus the American. 

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Stir the broccoli, the pasta, the sauce, and several handfuls of chopped or torn turkey meat from your holiday bounty, and stuff it into a casserole dish. (Side note: you can use any meat here, or white beans, or nothing extra at all – this was simply a good way for my grandmother to use up some of the massive turkey she’d cook for Thanksgivings, because we would always have leftovers that might last until Easter, because not only was there a turkey, but a ham and pierogies and kielbasa and other casseroles upon casseroles upon casseroles)

Marvel at how all of that managed to fit into a single dish. Giggle and steal a noodle or two, to eat standing at the counter. Just to taste. Add a little pepper.  Pour the extra sauce over it, and then top it with crushed potato chips and extra shredded cheese. Get handsy. Press it all down and in and together so nothing falls out once you’ve popped it in the oven. There is no getting around the fact that this dish is an indulgent casserole, meant to fill bellies with warmth and induce a soporific form of joy, and so if it ends up a heaping mound of creamy, cheesy soporific joy, that’s missing a few noodles and a potato chip off the top, so be it. 

Gramma was a woman with two kitchens in her house, to handle all the cooking she did, strong arms for so very many hugs, and soft, weathered hands that snuck tastes of everything that was cooking, no matter what it was. 

Raw eggs in it? “Liddle bites. ‘Ey don’t getchoo sick if its liddlebites.” 

Too hot to handle? “Liddlebites. Blow on it and take liddlebites. Are ye’ll gitcha tongue all burnted up.”

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Right before the oven, you COULD put it in the fridge and let the flavors marry, if you had the time, if you were making this ahead of time. This is the kind of thing you can leave in your fridge overnight and ask a roomate to throw in the oven the next day, about 45 minutes before you’re ready to eat. It will bake up nicely, get melty and wonderful, and be a nice hot dinner once you get home out of the cold.

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Whenever you happen to manage it, bake it at 350 for as long as you like, until the cheese on top is barely melted, mostly gooey, or even crispy – whatever’s your pleasure. If I’m doing it out of the fridge, it can be up to 40-45 minutes, but if it’s straight out of the pans, I only put it in for about 20.

We served ours in bowls topped with finishing salt, a mushroom flake variety that added just a little more crunch. The bowl was hot, the noodles were soft, the chips were crispy, the broccoli still had a firm bite to it. It tasted like memories of Sunday family dinners, of the continuation of plenty. There was always so much of it in the pans gramma made of it, we only ever seemed to eat half at a time, no matter how many times my uncle or cousins would go up for seconds, thirds, or more. We can’t entertain right now, but the flavor of this is family. The feel of it is family. It’s a dish that comforts from the inside out.

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Don’t let the not-quite-filled bowl fool you – that thing is the size of a mixing bowl, and I ate it until I was nearly stuffed, without shame. One thing about my grandmother is that she would pinch your cheeks and your love handles and your butt and gleefully proclaim how fat you’d gotten, and tell you that you must be well-loved. “Merry Christmas! So happy you’re here! Oh, look at how FAT you’re getting! So much love! The food is almost ready. Come, come, have cookies while you wait!” 

My grandfather was the primary beneficiary of my gramma’s love; she fed him as much as physics allowed, and kept him stocked in all his favorite candies and treats. She refilled the dozens of candy dishes that were in all the places he spent any time – his workshop, his upstairs recliner, his spot at the table where he did crosswords and jumbles, his side of the bed, his downstairs recliner, his glovebox, and so many other cabinets and cupboards. She would buy candy every shopping trip, bags of butterscotches, lemon drops, strawberry-jam filled hard candies, root beer barrels, bridge mix, orange slices, spearmint leaves, Jordan almonds, pastel non-pareils, those dissolving after dinner mints that look like little pillows, and on and on and on. 

Still, on top of this, he would also buy candy: chocolate assortments, big flats of ribbon candy, pounds and pounds of saltwater taffy, and even more bridge mix and non-pareils, as well as boxes upon boxes of peanut brittle, but the thing he would buy and keep for himself, and save and only share on special occasions? 

Pecan-caramel turtles. 

In gramma and grampa’s house, it was impossible to go hungry. Every cupboard and shelf was full of food, packed there the way one might only think is reasonable if one had grown up in the depression. If you saw food and you wanted to eat it? It was fair game, because gramma was always in the middle of making more. Always. You found candy in a dish? Have a handful. Have two! Don’t spoil your dinner if you can help it, but no one was going to tell you no. 

Except for the turtles. Those were special. You knew he was in an especially good mood when he’d take out a box or a cannister from its hidden location, and spread the love amongst his children or grandchildren. Snagging one of those and feeling the soft caramel catch on your teeth, the toasted pecan snap under your bite, the milk chocolate begin to melt at your fingertips? Heaven. Utter heaven.

They’re not hard to make, especially if you don’t have time to bother with the fussiness of homemade caramel – just buy some of the Kraft baking caramels. At worst, you’re spending time unwrapping them while chitchatting with family around the table. Pop them in the microwave for a minute, add a teaspoon of water, and do another 30 seconds. Stir, and do another 30 seconds. Heat it up until it’s pourable. 

In the mean time, put clusters of nuts on a parchment-covered baking sheet–3-4 is a reasonable amount per grouping–and put them in the oven for about 7 minutes at 350. 

Melt milk chocolate–bars or chips–until they’re pourable (don’t get any water in there, it’ll seize and then you’re just going to be sad).

I didn’t take process shots of this, because to be perfectly honest, you have to work fast, and I was caught up in enjoying making them, and thinking about my grampa.

Once the pecans are toasted, pour a dollop of caramel over the top of each cluster. Just enough to touch each pecan, so they stick together. When that’s set, pour a dollop of chocolate over the top. Make sure the chocolate covers the caramel, and then exercise all the patience you can muster, to leave them be, until the chocolate has set. 

Should you temper the chocolate first? Sure. Should you add cream to the caramel to make it even softer? Sure. But as my gramma would say “We dunn gots time for det nonsense. Too busy enjoying living.“

That being said, these came out perfectly, and I definitely got busy enjoying them.

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Chewy, sweet, salty, perfection.

COVID is still here. The orange menace is still in office until the end of January. The holidays are still hard without the warm crush of our enormous chosen family surrounding us – but for now, we have one another, bellies full of warm food, a little sweetness on the tongue, eyes and ears full of laughter, and hearts full of love. 

American Thanksgiving’s a problematic holiday for all kinds of reasons, but the spirit of the idea I was fed as a child–

Generous and welcoming and overflowing with bounty and gratitude, sharing what we have with others, bringing them to our table. Every wedding, funeral, baby shower, birthday, Christmas, barbecue, graduation, pool party, Easter, Thanksgiving, Sunday family dinner. Every celebration. Every gathering. Every single cookie-studded, spiedie-grilled, squash-roasted, butter-slathered visit bookended by long, tight hugs and unreserved kisses from everyone, for everyone. Food is love; please share in it with us. Pull up a seat. Join our table.  

–was always at my gramma and grampa’s house. 

Always.

To rejoice in where I have come from, and to honor the dead who loved me into being myself, for every start, and every goodbye, for all the changes, and all the things I hope can be the same, I have decided, it will always be at mine, too.

Always.

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In my opinion, they are soul-sucking shitholes for prissy farmer people and stoners to walk among each other in one place. 

I fucking hate them. But I guess people are nicer, kind of nosey, but, there’s nothing better to do I suppose. There’s always someone willing to help you like, move boxes or give you a ride when your car is in the shop. 

 I guess it all comes from perspective, I was friends with the prissy 4H girls for years, looking back that sucked balls, and now I’m friend with the stoners in this newer town, they have too much sex, everything smells like weed, which looking back, having not been in that school in a while, it also sucked balls. 

 Small Towns are were kids dreams die, it’s like we just know we’re stuck here, we know our fate is cow shit and trailer parks and smoking weed while our six kids, with whom we regret having, run around with knives and needles. 

It’s exactly what the small towns in “Stranger Things” and “I am not okay with this” are like.

Maybe I’m being negative, there are good things. 

 So I mean, I hate them, so don’t take my word for it. They’re cheaper, quieter, you can live in the outskirts and you’re pretty much left alone, I guess.

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Thanks for the votes. Evalfay was selected. Persei will survive to the next round.

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By Bee Shapiro

The singer-songwriter talks about finding her rituals (and learning how to deal with carbs).

Published: December 1, 2020 at 09:13AM

from NYT Fashion & Style https://ift.tt/3ltTQ8Y
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