Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Emily Dickinson the Cook! She Wrote Poems Midst Chocolate Wrappers....

I saw this article in the NYTimes and thought you might like to read it.  It seems our dear Emily was not only composing poems about bees but she was also making good work of their honey!  Here's the article and a coveted recipe, as far as I'm concerned:

Emily Dickinson, Sweet Genius

Emily Dickinson in an undated photo.Amherst College LibraryEmily Dickinson in an undated photo.
Whatever you happen to think about when you think about Emily Dickinson, it’s probably unlikely that what first leaps to mind is an image of the Belle of Amherst stuffing her face with cake.
In the public imagination, at least, this spectral titan of American poetry comes across as a figure of austerity, mystery, luminosity, seclusion. Somehow it’s hard to envision her even eating a meal, let alone taking delectable pleasure from it.
But as with many things about her, the truth is richer and more fascinating than the cliché. Emily Dickinson, it turns out, was totally into baking.
In fact, at a reception on Thursday evening in Battery Park City, New Yorkers will get to sample a slice of one of her favorite treats. Manuscripts, letters and fragments from the poet’s life are going on display at the Poets House, many for the first time, and among them is her handwritten, bare-bones recipe for coconut cake, which a local poetry collector and avid baker named Carolyn Smith is conjuring up for the event.
Ms. Smith has made six of the cakes, which she baked at 350 degrees for a little over an hour. Admittedly, she didn’t have a whole lot of data to go on; the recipe itself is really just a list of ingredients: 1 cup coconut, 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon soda and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar.
Emily Dickinson's coconut cake recipe. President and Fellows of Harvard College Emily Dickinson's Coconut Cake Recipe.“It looked like it was probably similar to a pound cake, so I treated it like a pound cake,” Ms. Smith, 69, said on the phone. “It’s a very dense cake, and it’s not too cloyingly sweet, which is nice.”
Just hearing about that coconut cake leads to a fresh perspective on how Emily Dickinson lived and worked. Pay a visit to the Web site of the The Emily Dickinson Museum, and you’ll learn that the poet seemed to do a lot of her writing and thinking in the kitchen, even at one point scrawling stray lines of verse on a wrapper of Parisian baking chocolate.
“Emily Dickinson was known as quite an accomplished baker,” said Alexandra Mann, the publicity and marketing coordinator for Poets House. “She won a competition for her rye bread and was known to have often sent baked goods to friends and family for all sorts of occasions. In fact, some of the letters on view in this exhibition were sent along with baked delicacies that she made.”
Could it be? Did this woman whom we’ve been led to think of as a prim ascetic actually have a vibrant epicurean streak? “The tradition was that she and her friends would dip the coconut cake into a little sherry,” Ms. Smith said. “So that’s what we’re doing tomorrow night.”

I don't know what you'll be doing this weekend, but I can tell you that I'll be attempting to make Miss Dickinson's Coconut Cake, and I'll be dipping into as fine a sherry as I can purchase.  Or, as fine as I can send my Hub to purchase, as the case may be!

And, I'll be reading her poetry.


"Last Minute Knitted Gifts" by Joelle Hoverson ~ Simplicity Made Beautiful

Published by:  Open Road Media/Abrams
Pages:  107
Release Date:  September 13, 2011
Now in Ebook format


Today's knitters are chic, smart-and busy. Although they love to knit and enjoy making gifts for family and friends, they're constantly faced with the challenge of finding enough time to actually finish what they've started. Last-Minute Knitted Gifts solves this problem. Joelle Hoverson, owner of Purl, the hip knitting supply store in downtown Manhattan, has designed more than 30 fun, fresh, beautiful patterns, most of which can be made in less than ten hours—some in as little as two! Known for her keen sense of color, Hoverson includes instructions for classic gifts like baby booties and bonnets, sweaters, and scarves, plus imaginative options like a cashmere tea cozy, a felted yoga mat bag, floor cushions, and a poncho—surely something for everyone on the gift list. And to make each present extra-special, Hoverson offers easy tips on how to incorporate knitting and other yarn embellishments into the gift wrap.

Perfectly awesome video of Joelle and her work:  Found on Open Road Media at:

The Dame's Review :

This is a book radiant with color.  How I would love just to spend a few days in Joelle's shop, wandering around, touching the yarns, pulling colors and learning to knit a couple of her patterns.  The way she's written this particular book gives it not the urgency one might think is needed if you're making a "last minute" gift, but a kind of serenity and assurance that all is well.  So, that makes it just plain entertaining.

Oh, just kill me now, Sleeping Beauty!  I'm going for the sharp needles!
Because time is spent here helping us understand color, color relationships, substitutions of color and yarns; and about which needles will produce the product we hope to achieve.  We get a good idea about felting, fluffing and fancy yarns, along with the basics of knitting from a pattern.  While this book is easy on the eyes of any stage knitter, it's also filled with good, solid information that can be a reference any time.

I have to say that I had a hard time resisting the precious bonnets and cotton caps in this book.  Oh, my, they made me want to call my children and beg for new grandchildren!!  But, the color crunched big kids caps are just as delicious and are perfect for all ages.

The drawstring pouch on the cover of the book is simplicity and beauty in one.  It can be used as a bride's purse, a gift bag, a jewelry pouch and a place to store secret, small treasures or memorabilia.  Joelle suggests stitching it with alpaca and silk, "a soft, luscious drape and a lustrous sheen."  But, I can also see beads, pearls, silk ribbons accessorizing...  Leave it to me to take the simplicity away!

Without putting too fine a point on it, this book is a good little addition to your knitting and crafts collection.  The directions, glossary and darling designs make it a keeper for reference and to "go to" often.

5 multicolored blended stars


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Maman's Homesick Pie" isn't all you'll find in this moving memoir and recipe book!

Published by:  Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Pages:  250
Genre:  Memoir


For Donia Bijan’s family, food has been the language they use to tell their stories and to communicate their love. In 1978, when the Islamic revolution in Iran threatened their safety, they fled to California’s Bay Area, where the familiar flavors of Bijan’s mother’s cooking formed a bridge to the life they left behind. Now, through the prism of food, award-winning chef Donia Bijan unwinds her own story, finding that at the heart of it all is her mother, whose love and support enabled Bijan to realize her dreams.

Donia Bijan graduated from UC Berkeley and the Cordon Bleu.  After presiding over a number of San Francisco's acclaimed restaurants and earning awards for her French-inspired cuisine, she ran her own restaurant, L'Amie Donia, in Palo Alto for ten years.

The Dame Savors This One:

This is a memoir to savor.  It's a breath-taking account of a young woman who lived the life of a cherished and richly encompassed child of the world at large.  I became spellbound by Donia Bijan's life story immediately, and found myself holding my breath as I grasped her book, not wanting to read it slowly, but speeding through its pages like a delicious crepe filled with Turkish coffee ice cream.

While Ms Bijan's memoir is captivating in and of itself, her exotic recipes included at the end of chapters are both slightly tipped with the savory and screaming to be tried in one's own kitchen.  I can hardly wait to try her Cardamom Honey Madeleines.  Proustians everywhere know of his love affair with Madeleines to begin with, so her distinctive twist of cardamom with trying out farmers' market honeys makes this recipe irresistible to me. We have a great farmers' market in Naples.
Not to mention that I have a fabulous Madeleine pan I've never used!

What I found intriguing among so many things about this memoir is the tone of her literary "voice."  I suppose I expected a lilting celebration of food and family...a "warm and inviting kitchen" experience as expressed on the cover review.  Instead, Ms Bijan's telling of her past life as a refugee from revolutionary-torn Iran, to the shores of a hip and culturally shocking San Francisco, and an unimaginably glorious but difficult training in the bowels of kitchens in Paris, France, is somewhat maudlin.  It's reflective.  I found it a surprise, and a powerful memoir for that reason.

Food, studying the art of food preparation and restauranteering isn't what's important in her memoir, it seems to me.  What is important is the underlying story of trials, family obligations and examples of dedication to others, of loving and sharing gifts through food, of finding wholeness within the simplicity of homemade and close-to-home foods and ingredients that are discovered.  Food was the life-blood of Donia's family. It is also the foundation of her heritage,where she is today, and where her son and future generations are going.

It was significant to me that her mother was not only a central figure in Donia's learning the importance of food and cooking, but she was a strong role-model: a midwife, a women's liberation advocate, a tireless volunteer in wartime, a teacher, a woman of grace and celebration, a needlewoman, a mother and devoted wife.  Her mother didn't show her the example of taking the easy road in life, of failing to show up and give ones best efforts.  It's obvious in Donia's life.

I highly recommend this book of many trips through a life that's magical and meaningful.  There is much I've left out because there's so much in this memoir, beautifully told, never boring--quite the opposite--like a teatime set with Brussels lace on a silver tray holding lemon tea steeped in a china pot draped in a knitted cozy...side served with a plate of freshly baked cardamom Madeleines; this book will be in your hands until the last perfect word is read.

5 delicious stars