Friday, March 27, 2009

Ask Clarissa

I don’t have but a minute or two. The coffee shop is hopping tonight. The manager has brought in live music and everyone’s loose and lively ‘cause we’re all back from spring break and no one’s going crazy with overload yet.

I finished the book Abigail gave me to read. As I Lay Dying. My first by William Faulkner. It’s a strange book. I am not used to fifteen different people telling me a story. Fifteen dysfunctional people. I really can’t see what Abigail sees in it, unless she likes spending time with people who make her sad life look normal.

Lauren, who’s read the book, thinks Abigail probably relates to it because the characters spend their sorry time in the pages struggling to bury their dead mother. Lauren had to remind me Abigail lost her mother when she was just a kid and then had to live with a grumpy father for the next fifty years. Yeah, well, that sucks, but what did Abigail really expect me to get out of a book like this? My mother isn’t dead. She and I went shopping together for swimsuits a couple weeks ago.

I’m not saying the guy isn’t a great writer. He writes really good depressing stuff. Abigail will want to chat about it this weekend. She’ll end up thinking I have no patience for anything more complex than once-upon-a-time crap. I so can appreciate something a little deeper than Dr. Seuss. But she’s right. I don’t have the patience for slow motion. If I am going to go deep I want to jump off the cliff at full speed, not hack my way down a mine shaft with a Barbie-size pick ax.

Oh, and hey, btw, I had a pretty good time hanging out with Lauren and Raul and Cole last week in Palo Alto. Get this. I think Cole is falling for me. Well, not really. But kind of. We'll just have to see. He kept looking at me.

Lauren has been instructed by her father to take the relationship slow with Raul. Like, don’t rush into anything, baby girl. I can read that man like a book. He’s desperately afraid of losing her to another man.

And here Lauren’s spent the better part of her life thinking her dad wishes she was a boy. . .

Monday, March 16, 2009

Love, Lauren

I was still feeling a little bummed you had to stay in Palo Alto for spring break but then Meghan (she’s the literary agent my dad found) decided we need to go to New York and meet with the two publishers who are most interested in Mercy’s diary. Dad wants to come with us and I am actually glad he does. As much as I want to see Mercy’s diary in print – and most days I still do – I am not enjoying the process very much. It’s very . . . impersonal. I don’t know how else to describe it. The diary is suddenly all about the money. How much it is worth. How much we should accept as an advance for it. How much it will bring in to the publishing house that takes it.

Meghan says I don’t need to worry about any of that, that’s why I have her. But it’s not that I am worried about the money. I’m not. I am worried about what the money does to the diary. To me. To Mercy’s memory. Abigail told me the money and the diary are two separate things. The diary is what it is and it won’t change. The money is about the paper and the ink and the bookstores and the trucks that will carry the crates of books. Mercy’s memory won’t be in the truck, she says. I told her I didn’t quite agree. Abigail said the transcription I have made is impeccable. But it is not in Mercy’s ink, contains none of the smudges of tears or travail or time, none of the human touch that a handwritten diary offers. And because I have rewritten the diary in the language of today, the transcription is more my interpretation of Mercy’s memory, than her actual legacy.

Perhaps she is right. What do you think?

I still plan to come see you this weekend. The life of medical student is not truly his or her own but you can’t spend every minute studying. Clarissa and I will drive up on Friday after her shift. She’s only working until noon so we should be there well before dark. Until then, enjoy the intricacies of pharmacokinetics.


Monday, March 9, 2009

In the Kitchen with Esperanza

So Abigail tells me she's been dreaming of Crepes Suzette. She used to make them with her mother and the memory is no doubt as as sweet as the crepes.

I will be honest with you. I am partial to tortillas. How could I not be? Tortillas will always win out over crepes of any kind. But Abigail doesn't ask for very many things from the kitchen. If she wants Crepes Suzette, I can oblige. But I am making them with tortillas.

Here's my version. You can call them Crepes Esperanza:

  • 3/4 stick of softened butter
  • 1/4 cup sugarorange zest
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Melted butter for brushing
  • 2 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling
  • Thin, orange half-circles for garnish
  • 6 soft and warm flour tortillas
Cream together the butter, sugar, and orange peel until uniform. Spread over the surface of the tortilla and fold into fourths – the tortilla should look like a triangle. Lay on an oven-proof pan and brush tops with melted butter. They can overlap a little. Sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and place under your broiler for about two to three minutes. The sugar will crystallize. Remove from oven and lay the thin orange slices across the tops to complete the look. If you are brave, sprinkle the hot tortilla wedges with some Grand Marnier mixed with brandy, maybe ½ cup altogether, and light with a long handled lighter. Mind your hair and sleeves.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Abigail on the Classics

When I was a young girl, before cancer stole my mother away from me, she’d send Marcella home early on nights when my father was out of town and we’d make dinner for just the two of us. Marcella was Esperanza’s mother and an exceptional cook, but this was when I was quite young - many years before Esperanza was born, and before Marcella was even married.

My mother wasn’t terribly adept in the kitchen. I didn’t know it then, but she was a much better hostess and philanthropist than chef. She wasn’t a chef at all, actually. I didn’t realize until much later she could barely make toast without burning it.

Once we made Crepes Suzette, only because I had heard them mentioned in a book and I liked the name. We picked the oranges for the sauce from our own tree in our backyard.

Did you know the first Crepes Suzette were the result of a mistake made by a fourteen year-old assistant waiter 1895 at the Maitre at the Monte Carlo's Café de Paris? He was making a dessert for the Prince of Wales when the cordial on the crepes caught fire. The flames crisped the sauce but the Prince was waiting, so the waiter, whose name was Henri Carpentier, served them anyway. It is said the Prince like the crepes so much when he was done eating them with his fork, he used his spoon to get to the last of the sauce.

They were named at that moment after one of the ladies sitting at the Prince’s table, Suzette. Henri is quoted as saying that the dish could turn a cannibal into a civilized gentleman, it is that exquisite.

And all from a little mistake caused by a novice in a kitchen.

My mother thought that was such a fun story. Our Crepes Suzette were dreadful, gargoyle-looking things. Crepes are difficult to make beautiful, especially for someone as unskilled and unlucky in the kitchen as my mother was. But I didn’t care. They tasted like a mistake somehow made beautiful.

To this day, I can’t eat them without thinking of my mother. And the mess we made in the kitchen that night. And how dilapidated they looked.

And how enchanting they tasted.

I shall have to tell Esperanza it’s time to have them again. I think my girls would like them . . .