Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Prom, Cookie, Cookie, Selfie, Stinger, Audiobook

immature cookies
I brought the big, brash birthday cake cookies from Ben Mims's Sweet and Southern to Isabel's prom potluck last weekend.

sophisticated ladies
I was pleased with this contribution until I put the tin on the table and took a good look. Nope. You serve cookies like these at a kindergartner's birthday right after the clown finishes up, not to a flock of delicate 18-year-old gazelles in 7-inch heels. Although the cookies were fantastically delicious, no one touched them. Wrong occasion. I will provide the recipe shortly, but I need to iron out one kink in it before I do.

Interesting fact: Isabel and her friends went to prom without dates. 

Cause they're a buncha wallflowers, obviously.

Seriously, though, things have changed since I went to the prom. (Like no one says "the prom," it's just "prom.") Exuberant, eminently presentable girls like these would have had no trouble getting dates and if for some reason they did, they would have stayed home. Girls certainly did not go off to prom in big, boisterously happy packs. What does this all mean? Explain it to me!

A few nights later I brought jammy dodgers made from Justin Gellatly’s excellent Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding to Owen's band bake sale. 




Jammy dodgers are a British butter cookie sandwiched with, as you probably guessed, jam.  I've made a few versions, but Gellatly's is the best and easiest: you put all dough ingredients into the food processor and push the button. Refrigerate dough. Roll it out, cut shapes, cut a little hole in half the shapes, spoon jam onto the other half, sandwich, bake. The cookies sold out. Recipe here. You should try it. (Apologies, but you do need a scale for this. If you don't have a scale, you should think about getting one even if you don't want to make these cookies. Once you start baking by weight you won't want to go back.)

And now for something completely different.
If only I'd taken off that apron.
A few nights ago I mixed my first-ever stinger, a classic cocktail that is made of equal parts creme de menthe and brandy. I decided to take a picture because it was such a cool-looking, Scope-colored drink, but when I saw the blurry shot I forgot all about the stinger, so dazzled was I by my own youthful allure. Boy, was I pleased! The smudged camera lens had taken decades off my age.

The blurry photo gladdened my heart and gladdens my foolish heart as I look at it now, even though I know exactly what I really look like. This is called "willful delusion" and I highly recommend it to anyone who is starting to feel bad about her neck. I have given this some thought and decided that at a certain age it's perfectly ok to embrace the blurry photos and erase the realistic ones. I also believe it's preferable to remove your glasses before checking your make-up in the car mirror midday; you really don't want to see yourself that clearly. And I'm sure everyone can agree that it's essential to detach any satanic magnifying mirrors you installed in your bathroom when you were 30. Be on the alert for these horrible mirrors in hotels, especially expensive ones, and drape with a hand towel promptly lest they ruin even one minute of your vacation. In short, there is nothing to be gained from close, realistic scrutiny of one's visage after age 45 and much to be lost, like high spirits, self confidence, and money. If you only ever see blurry pictures and are careful about your mirrors, you will have more bounce in your step and never require Botox.

Do I really mean this? I just might. Full manifesto coming soon.

Back to the stinger. I made it after reading the cocktails chapter in the endlessly intriguing and irritating Prune. Gabrielle Hamilton's conceit in the book is that she's addressing her restaurant staff, and at the end of the stinger recipe she writes: "Give me a heads up if anyone orders this; it's rare that anyone does but I'd like to meet them."

One day I will go to Prune, order a stinger, and see what happens.

I enjoyed my homemade stinger, but one was definitely enough. In a cocktail, that's a feature, not a bug.

I'll finish with an audiobook recommendation: David Rakoff’s rhyming novel, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perishis a small, sui generis masterpiece. Characters include a lonely girl, a horrid socialite, a mistress, a spurned husband, and a gay cartoonist. Topics range from romantic anguish, to art, sexual liberation, the culture wars, and AIDS. The narrative voice is by turns silly, highbrow, bitchy, tender, furious, funny, and rueful. David Rakoff's actual voice (he narrates) is hoarse and weary, but he delivers his lines with a relish and poignancy no actor could ever match. He died of cancer at 47, something like two weeks after he finished recording. Such a loss. Such a strange, lovely audiobook. I've listened to it twice and will probably listen to it again before the week is done. Highly recommend.

58 comments:

  1. Interesting... I always said "Prom" and my mom insisted on calling it "The Prom." She was born in 1939 and I in 1974.

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  2. When Elaine Stritch died, I had a bunch of friends over to drink vodka stingers in her honor. To a woman, we found them to be vile and switched immediately to mojitos. MUCH better!

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I don't need to ever drink one again, I just couldn't get it out of my head after reading about it. Also on that list are the zombie, Singapore sling, pink squirrel, and brandy alexander.

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  3. my late mother-in-law and ex brother-in-law thrived on a diet of "stangers", as they called them. they liked nothing better than to mix up a few and play endless rounds of a card game called "hands and feet." personally, i think you hit it with the word "scope". hard to get past that. love the blurry selfie. you should do a whole series featuring different cocktails. after all, you are supposed to be the "tipsy baker." you sign up for that, you don't want too much crossfit.

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    Replies
    1. I dunno, I can't drink like I used to. Maybe a cocktail a week? Stangers! Are they from Alabama?

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  4. Caroline in SF6/9/15, 4:59 PM

    Fun post! You're channeling Nora Ephron a bit here; have you read her "I Feel Bad About My Neck"?

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    Replies
    1. Yes! The reference was to that book.

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  5. I cringe when I hear: "he graduated high school" leaving "from" out.

    When I first read the above "wallflowers" my brain read "wildflowers" .. I like that better .. they are all gorgeous.

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    Replies
    1. Of course they're gorgeous! Wildflowers is right. And so much spirit in that group. It was fun to see.

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  6. You look beautiful as do the girls and those cookies. Another book to add to my list.

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    Replies
    1. There are some recipes I didn't like -- I have to write more about it. There was one very elaborate cake that didn't quite work.

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  7. I loved David Rakoff's book of essays Don't Get Too Comfortable, so I bet I'd like this. I once saw him on a panel with Ruth Reichl, Jane and Michael Stern, and Ann Patchett. He was really charming and funny. The thing I remember best about the evening, though, was that Ann Patchett was the only person on the panel who was not a Jew, but she was the only one who did not eat pork. Because of Charlotte's Web.

    Those cookies are beautiful! The bakeries in NYC all have giant cookies with beautiful sprinkles on them, and sometimes they tempt me, but they're always dry and disappointing. And that's a lovely picture of you.

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    Replies
    1. What a panel!!! What was the topic?

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    2. I couldn't remember so I looked it up:
      http://www.thekitchn.com/an-evening-with-10578

      I remember they passed out honeydew lime popsicles at the end, along with copies of the August issue of Gourmet and a little popsicle making kit. Sigh. I love Ruth Reichl.

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  8. I would eat those cookies in a heartbeat.
    This is a beautiful picture; and I was just thinking how slim you look!
    Finally, just heard from a college friend whose daughter went to prom with 8 other girls. They had "perfunctory dates," but really, the girls were all going together. How wonderful.

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    Replies
    1. Isn't it interesting about these girls? So independent.

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  9. is it going too far to say this is some kind of post-feminist phenomenon. the really "cool" girls--the ones who are smart and accomplished and dare i say "pretty"--just don't want to put up with everything that comes with contemporary boys, who are themselves traumatized and terrified by girls? biology would suggest, though, that it works itself out soon enough. a nice whitman lad, or lads, awaits your daughter in walla wall.

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    Replies
    1. I don't know what's going on. I know a lot of kids do go in couples to the prom, so it's not like courtship is "over." But things are definitely different.

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  10. I will never forget Miss Piggy's beauty advice: "Ladies, if you start to see those pesky crow's feet when you look in the mirror, I recommend smearing a thin layer of vaseline on the mirror."

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    Replies
    1. God, yes. Miss Piggy and Julia Child are my gurus.

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    2. Strong women (and sows) from here on out.

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  11. BTW I look forward to the manifesto!

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    1. Seems like maybe Miss Piggy has said all there is to say.

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    2. No, I'm really curious about what you have to say. I already know I will agree.

      As for me, I think if you have people around you who love you (even perhaps reluctantly, or with a few caveats), you can blithely keep your distance from the mirror and take blurry selfies and live with your old-ass self. That's my strategy.

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  12. you are the best part about that stinger picture--it sounds revolting :) It also confirms why Isabel is so pretty. Those cookies are awesome. I know a 16 year old who would go coo coo for those....
    When ever I take a selfie I exhale on the lens to give it that blur....just kidding, but good idea, right?

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    Replies
    1. Very good idea! Tonight I made a brandy alexander for my brother-in-law and me (graduation party.) Now that's a good drink. More dessert than cocktail. You'll get full before you get drunk. Another mythical drink off the list.

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  13. Haha, I'm about to graduate college and those cookies look pretty good to me. Nostalgia is common when you have to get a real job. You should post the recipe!

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    Replies
    1. I will post the recipe. I was going to make them again for her graduation party to iron out the size problem, but I made madeleines instead.

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  14. You bear a strong resemblance to Charlotte from Sex and the City :)

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  15. Love your manifesto (and you look gorgeous). Also a big Rakoff fan. Much like the Ann Patchett anecdote, I often find myself at Chinese restaurants being the only non-Jew but also the only one not eating pork.

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    1. I don't think I know anyone who is kosher, but I could imagine myself in a Chinese restaurant with people who would only eat the pork if they knew it was organic.

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  16. I have a question that is not related to this post (which was great, as are all your posts! You are the best. I am a long-time and devoted (but shy) fan of yours who has only posted here once before). I recently made gougeres from the Smitten Kitchen blog recipe (I think originally Jacques Pepin's), which does not call for water. The Dorie Greenspan recipe that you have used and perhaps the SK recipe from her book do seem to call for water. I know the moisture (steam) makes it rise but the waterless SK blog recipe turned out great. I should just make both and compare but I wondered if you had any thoughts about using water in a choux pastry? Thank you! From Joan (Can't figure out how to just use my first name).

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    1. It's me again! I just googled "choux water or milk" and found people saying that milk results in a lower rise, tenderer texture, and browner crust (very true of mine). Apparently water alone makes a crisper puff. So the case is closed (although I will compare on my own) and no need to respond! I should have googled first. Thanks! Joan

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    2. Interesting! Thank you for providing me with this nugget of information, Joan.

      Delete
  17. I would never wear my glasses to look in the mirror. I like life to be fuzzy around the edges.

    Along those lines, a guy came into the gym at work at lunchtime and weighed himself. In the middle of the day. In his clothes. After he had already eaten. My head was spinning just watching it.

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    Replies
    1. Men are appalling. Men are lucky! I take off my bracelets to weigh myself and they are small bracelets. I know I'm not the only woman who does this.

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  18. Just went to Prune . . . the food did taste the same as the recipes (yes, I went and double checked my cooking against all the NYC eateries for which I own cookbooks, because if you're looking for a way to choose where to eat in an unfamiliar city, why not?). And staff seemed untraumatized by the notebook marginalia (although I did not call therapists for verification, they were fun and cheerful).

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