An October Evening

10672309_739287826106647_3085740688815148698_n It was an October evening.  Near to Halloween.  A lantern tour was being given at a nearby cemetery, Norwich town cemetery, by our local historian.  The Norwich town cemetery is the oldest cemetery in the area I live and it’s graves are filled with American Revolutionary soldiers, and founders of the new colonies.  Some of the one’s buried in this cemetery have their own stories, dating back to the founding of our city, Norwich, during the 1600 circa.  I decided to ride my bicycle to the cemetery around dusk to see the lantern tour and learn about some local history.  It was getting a little dark and I walked down the path the leads to the cemetery, past the French soldiers marker in memory of some French soldiers who perished during the American Revolutionary War, through the black wrought iron gates, and I stood with my bicycle and waited awhile.  Minutes past and I found myself alone in the cemetery.  I thought to myself someone will show up soon.  As I was standing waiting,  I heard the voices of a man and woman, as they approached me, the man was walking quickly behind the woman and he was speaking in an angrily tone to the woman.  I observed the couple, and I noticed he had a long dark pony tail pulled back in a black ribbon with a white shirt with ruffles on the sleeves and dark breeches.  She was dressed in a dark green 1700 circa style dress.  She wore a chain around her neck with a pine green stone pendant attached.  I noticed she wore her brown hair very long and her make up looked like it was terracotta with earth tone browns.  As the couple were walking past me, I asked the woman where “everyone was to see the lantern tour at dusk?”  She replied politely that she thought “they were gathering at the green.”  They walked off, he hurriedly ahead of her amongst the gravestones in the cemetery and vanished out of my sight.  I suddenly realized how very alone I was at dark in the cemetery, I grabbed my bicycle and rode it out of the cemetery as quickly as I could and down the road back home.  I thought of this couple afterwards…were they ghosts?

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Menu from Paris Butcher During the Siege of 1871 (in French)

Menu from Paris Butcher During the Siege of 1871 (in French).

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Recipe for Filet of Beef Wellington

Taken from The French Chef Cookbook, (Whole Tenderloin of Beef Baked in Pastry)  For 8 people       Take a tenderloin of beef, marinate it in herbs and wine, cover it with a rich cloak of mushrooms, bake it in decorated pastry, and you have filet of beef  Wellington.  THE BEEF  Order a whole loin tenderloin (filet) of beef.  Have the outside membrane and all excess fat remove, but have the suet (fat covering) saved.  Have the tail or small end turned back over the meat to make an even cylinder about 12 inches long, and have the meat tied a 1-inch intervals around the circumference.                          OPTIONAL MARINADE.  Although the tenderloin is the most expensive part of the beef, it has the lease flavor.  A 24-hour marinade will give it more character, and you can use the marinade again, for making the sauce.           1/3 cup light olive oil or cooking oil                                                                      A small heavy saucepan,  1/2 cup each of slice onions, carrots, and celery stalks, 1/4 tsp each of dried thyme and sage,  1 bay leaf,  3 allspice berries or cloves,   6 peppercorns,  An oval casserole or baking dish 12 inches long,  1 tsp salt,  1 Cup dry white vermouth,   1/3 cup cognac                  Place the oil in the saucepan and add the vegetables and herbs;  cover the pan and cook slowly until vegetables are tender – about 10 minutes.  Place the tenderloin in casserole or baking dish, sprinkle with salt, cove with the cooked vegetable mixture, and pour on the wine and cognac.  Cover and refrigerate.  Turn and bast the meat every several hours for at least 24 hours.  Just before the next step, scrape off marinade and dry meat in paper towels.     PRELIMINARY BAKING  Before it is cooked in pastry, the tenderloin has a preliminary baking to stiffen it, so it will hold it’s shape in the crust.    1 Tb. cooking oil,  A shallow roasting pan, Suet or oil  (Preheat oven to 425 degrees.)  Rub the meat with the oil and place in roasting pan.  If you have saved the suet, place it over the beef to protect and baste it during roasting.  (Lacking suet, you will have to baste the meat with oil every 5 minutes during roasting.)  Set in upper third of oven and roast for 25 minutes, turning and basting the meat once with the fat in the pan.  Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes or longer.  If you are doing this ahead of time, wrap and refrigerate the meat when it is cold; bring to room temperature before final cooking.      THE MUSHROOM FLAVORING;   2 lbs. mushrooms, 2 Tb butter, 4 Tb minced shallots or scallions, 1/2 cup dry Sercial Madeira,  Salt and pepper,  4 to 5 Tb mousse de foie or foie gras     Trim, wash, and dry the mushrooms; chop them into small pieces less than 1/8 inch in size.  You will have about 6 cups of minced mushrooms; so that they will cook dry, which is necessary for this recipe, twist them, a handful at a time, in the corner of a towel to extract as much juice as possible.  Save juice for the sauce.  Then saute the mushrooms for 7 to 8 minutes in the butter with the shallots or scallions; when mushroom pieces begin to separate from each other, add the Madeira and boil rapidly until liquid has evaporated.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and beat in the mousse de foie or foie gras.  Refrigerate in a covered bowl; beat to soften just before using.             THE PASTRY  The beef is baked and served in croute or in a pie-crust dough.  Use the following proportions:    3 cups all-purpose flour (scoop cup into bag, leve off the straight-edged knife) 13/4 sticks (7 ounces) chilled butter, 4 Tb chilled shortening, 2 tsp salt, 3/4 cup iced water    Blend together all the ingredients listed and chill for 2 hours before using.  So that the crust will be crisp when served, it is done in two parts:  a cooked bottom case to hold the beef, and a flaky dough topping.               THE BOTTOM PASTRY CASE.  Butter the outside of a loaf-shaped tin approximately 12 by 31/4 inches bottom diameter, and 3 inches deep.  Roll about three fifths of the chilled pastry into a rectangle 16 by 7 inches, and 1/8 inch thick.  Lay pastry on upside-down tin, press in place, and trim so pastry forms a case 1/12 inches deep.  With the tines of a table fork, prick sides and bottom of dough at 1/4-inch intervals to keep it from puffing in the oven, and chill at least half and hour to relax the dough.  Bake until very lightly browned in middle level of a preheated 425-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes.  Let cool 10 minutes on tin, then (un) mold.  (Case may be refrigerated or frozen.)      THE PASTRY TOPPING.  Roll remaining dough into a 16×7-inch rectangle, spread bottom half with 11/2 tablespoons cold but soft butter and fold in half to enclose butter.  Repeat with another 1 1/2 tablespoons butter.  Roll again into a rectangle and mock puff pastry, with layers of butter between layers of dough; it will be light and flaky when baked.  Chill for 2 hours, then roll into a 16×10-inch rectangle.  Cut a 3-inch strip from the long end and reserve for decorations; lay large rectangle flat on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper; cover with waxed  paper and a damp towel, and refrigerate.  THE DECORATIONS.  Cut strips, circles, diamonds, or leaf shapes from the 3-inch strip and chill with the pastry topping.    ASSEMBLING AND BAKING THE BEEF WELLINGTON   The beef takes about 45 minutes to bake, and should rest for 20 minutes before carving and serving.  It is assembled just before baking.    ASSEMBLING.  Place the baked pastry case on a baking and serving platter or a buttered baking sheet and spread half of the mushroom mixture in the bottom of the case.  Remove trussing strings and set the beef in the case, covering the meat with the remaining mushrooms.  Paint sides of case with egg glaze (1 egg beaten with 1/2 teaspoon water), lay pastry topping over meat allowing edges to fall down about 1 inch on sides of case; press pastry onto sides of case.  Paint pastry topping with glaze, affix decorations, and paint again with glaze.  Make cross-hatch markings over glaze with a knife, to give texture to the glaze when baked.  Make three 1/8 inch vent holes centered about 3 inches apart in top of pastry and inseret paper of foil funnels for exsaping steam.  Plunge a meat thermometer though central hole and center of meat.    BAKING.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in middle level of a pre-heated 425-degree oven or until pastry has started to brown.  Then lower thermostat to 375 degrees and bake 20 to 25 minutes more, or to a meat thermometer reading of 137 degrees for rare beef.  Let rest at a temperature of not more than 120 degrees for at least 20 minutes before serving, so juices will retreat back into meat tissues before carving.  (To serve, carve as though cutting a sausage in 11/2-inch slices.  Pastry will crumble slightly as you carve the beef; a very sharp serrated knife will minimize this.)  SAUCE SUGGESTIONS  Sauce Madere,  Simmer marinade ingredients and mushroom juices with 2 cups beef bouillon and 1 tablespoon tomato paste for 1 hour; when reduced to 2 cups, strain, degrease, season, and thicken with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch beaten with 1/4 cup of Madeira.   SAUCE PERIGUEUX.  Simmer 1 or 2 minced canned truffles and their juice for a moment in the sauce madere.  SAUCE COLBERT.  Just before serving, beat 1 cup of sauce bearnaise gradually into 2 cups of Sauce madere.   VEGETABLE AND WINE SUGGESTIONS  Accompany Beef Wellington with braised lettuce, endive, or celery and broiled tomatoes, or a vegetable salad, and an excellent red Bordeaux-Medoc or Graves.   

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I Have Called it Close a Few Time

I have been close to death a few times.  Once, on a date, a mickey was put in my drink.  I ended up in the hospital for two weeks.  The doctors told me when I was discharged there was a huge amount of barbituates in my system.  Another close call, while sitting on a park bench, a man sat next to me, chatted a couple minutes, then  told  me that before I get up and  leave, that he wanted my purse and everything in it, and that he had a knife.  I do not wish those experiences on anyone.  I learned from those experiences that I am vain and lucky to be alive.  God bless you.

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White Grapes

White Grapes.

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White Grapes

      I remember as a child going for a walk with my mother and I came across a cluster of white grapes.  I picked one and it was the most delicious grape I had ever tasted.  Now, years later, as I was gardening, there are grape plants that have been there for years, and today I found a grape on an old grape plant.  My mind started wandering and dreaming of Summer days of  long ago.  What it must have been like when this land was all acres of vineyard.  The homestead of the original owners of property in this area, The Bushnells, is still nearby.  During the 1700’s and 1800’s did this family sit on their porch on a Summer’s day and enjoy the fruits of their labor?  Much of the land the Bushnells owned is now lots with homes, but I will try to preserve the vines of grape plants still remaining, so, one day, they will again grow those wonderful white grapes I enjoyed when I was a child.

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January Memories

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January is the time of year I enjoy going to places like the Jewett City Flea Market, taking my time and browsing through the boxes of the old all-occasion cards, from the 1950’s and 1960’s, booths and booths  memorabilia and antiques, looking for that special find that means something special to me, maybe look at the old linens, handkerchiefs, that have that special look and feel that offers to me a memory in my mind of something I enjoy having in my life, to purchase and bring home with me.  A little antique store in Taftville, CT, Johnny Kielbasa’s has an array of collectibles to look at.  One, that caught my eye, was a Currier & Ives print, that reminds me of my Aunt Lillian’s and my Grandma’s home when I was a child.  Currier & Ives seemed to be able to capture that feeling I had as a child visiting in Franklin, CT at Christmas time and in the Winter and where I grew up in Occum.  My mother had a Currier & Ives calendar when I was a little girl, and I would look up close at the picture of the winter scene in January, a new year, and study how he captured the feelings and colors, of my winter scene in my eyes as I stepped outside my front yard on a cold Winter’s day.  The colors at dusk in the winter sunset, the the contrast of the white snow, and dark branches of the bark on the trees with the soft shades of the sunset in the background  the light hitting the object of a colonial home or bank of snow, with soft golden, lavender, tones with hues of soft pink, deep green pine  trees  foreground,  setting forth a sense of forbidding calm in the outdoor winter scene.  Currier & Ives captured to me that feeling I had as a child when I looked about outdoors at the winter scene before me.  In January, I visit my favorite shops in this New England area to purchase such an item as a Currier & Ives print.

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