Friday, October 30, 2015

A Celestial Day

My idea of the world's most wonderful music is pretty mutable. Generally my favorites are something by Bach or Mozart.  But at other times it is whatever I am currently listening to, or what we are working on at choir. Today it is Duruflé’s Requiem. Every year we sing a Requiem Mass on November 2, All Souls’ Day, and most often it has been Mozart. However, some years, we sing another Requiem, and this year it is Duruflé's exquisite composition

Mozart’s Requiem is all about the our ultimate victory over the terrors of death, and our eventual triumphal march across the Great Divide into Heaven. Duruflé, on the other hand, seems to have accepted death, and realizes that it can be peaceful and even lovely. His Mass setting is more about Heaven itself. Dies Irae, the most terrifying part of the Mozart’s Requiem is not even there. Duruflé is all about eternal bliss.  The musical themes are based on the Gregorian chants for the Requiem Mass, but the chants are imbued with a new life and quiet magnificence unimaginable until you hear it. Listening to it is like being in a cloud of celestial sound.

All are invited to participate in the Mass for All Soul's Day and to hear this wonderful music at St. James Cathedral on the Feast of All Souls, November 2 at 7:30.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Non-Birthday Day

Rebecca insists that birthday presents may not ever be given in advance of actual birthdays – or at least, not opened – nor may any celebrations be held.  She is quite firm about this, and while I don’t totally buy into it, her opinions usually wear off onto me to some extent.  So, when Samos wanted to have a celebratory lunch and  bring me my birthday present a week prior to my actual birthday, I said that he must wait.  But, alas, there was no other convenient day, so I said we could have a non-celebratory lunch,  and he could bring it, but I would not open it yet.  This too wouldn’t do, because he needed to see my delighted expression when I opened it.  In this, he was not disappointed.  I was thrilled.  Really, really thrilled.  A few weeks previously, for some reason, we had been talking about Pinetop Smith’s Boogie Woogie. 

I mentioned that I had played it in high school, and was supposed to play it for a piano recital.  At nearly the last minute, I told my teacher that I refused to play it, because it was beyond my capabilities, and I knew that, under the stupendous pressure of these nerve wracking ordeals, I would fail, humiliating myself and my family.  It was a truly horrifying thought, as anyone who has been forced to endure the agony of piano recitals can testify.  The same thing had happened the previous year when I was supposed to play The Doll Dance by Nacio Herb Brown.  In both instances, the teachers gave me an easy no-fail piece to learn quickly, thus sparing both me and my family a major trauma.  I also told Samos that my mother, who was the absolute antithesis of a hoarder, especially with her family’s possessions, had, when I went off to college, gotten rid of all my piano music,  even the ones she liked to hear me play.

Why you might ask, did I select such odd choices for my music lessons?  Well, as those who know me now might expect, I was an odd girl. My father’s secretary had given me a box of old 78’s, with some classical fare, but mostly music from the 20’s and 30’s – lots of fox trots, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Gershwin. I loved them!  And Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra playing Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie was one of my favorites.   Now, after a huge piano playing hiatus, I wanted to revisit the fun music of my youth.  But, thanks to my mother’s neatnik clutterless propensities, I couldn’t.  So what a delightful surprise it was to find this fabuloso gift!!!!

It was not a tremendous surprise to find that the piece was still beyond me – and by a long shot – but I plan to struggle through.  When I showed it to my friend Carolyn, she sat down and played it right off.  Sigh! Why was I born so ungifted?????

The Party Kitty pin - a little gift from Michelle

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Cooking (and other fun things) Day

Periodically, Ana and I have a day of almost total laziness, watching mystery shows and knitting along to them.  Our current fave is Phryne Fisher, but, sad to say, we had exhausted her and watched all the episodes.  The same with Lewis, whom we also enjoy immensely. We have had to watch thousand year old Midsomer Murders and Inspector Morse – not that I object in the least to that.  But good news!  There is a new season of Phryne, just ready for us, and we are full of plans to have a fun day of indolence with our flapper heroine. 
We do rouse ourselves a bit, in order to fix a fun meal, usually one that our families would not appreciate as much as we will.  Just prior to Ana’s last visit, the New York Times cooking section was all on about eggplant and tomato dishes.  “Does Ana like eggplant?” I asked Becca. “She sure does!” Becca said.  Eggplant is something that many folks have opinions about. So I consulted Ana, and she sent several recipes for us to consider.  We decided to use them as a starting point, and then let our culinary imaginations take over.  But best of all, Ana brought some beautiful tomatoes, largesse from her bountiful garden. 
We watched an episode of something, and the, took a break to cook.  While Ana was fiddling with the garlic, I was measuring and preparing the tomatoes.  The recipe called for a pound.  “That’s sixteen ounces,” Ana told me.  “Of course I know that!” I huffily responded.  When I had the tomatoes measured out, I said, “This really doesn’t look like enough tomatoes.  What do you think?”  Well, Ana thought, correctly, that I had only gotten out eight ounces, so of course it wasn’t enough.  Embarrassed, I wondered what I could have been thinking.  I guess I wasn’t thinking at all. 

The resultant risotto was exquisite!  Maybe the best I have ever eaten.  Here is our recipe so you can try it too!

Tomato Eggplant Risotto

1 largish eggplant
Olive oil
One large onion
One head garlic (that’s right – one head. Ana and I feel that there can never be too much garlic!)
One pound small tomatoes – cherry or similar
1 ½ cup Arborio rice
3 cups vegetable broth
½ cup suitable wine
Salt, pepper
½ cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup freshly ground Parmesan
Shaved Parmesan  or Asiago cheese

Heat the oven to 450°  Cut the eggplant in half, and make slits in the cut side, being careful not to cut through to the skin.  Coat the eggplant halves in olive oil, and place face down on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until it starts to look wrinkled and slightly collapsing.  Remove it from the oven and chop it up. 

Meanwhile, chop the onions and peel and chop the garlic.  Cut the tomatoes in half and chiffonade the basil leaves.  In your pressure cooker, sauté the onion in olive oil until it looks translucent.  Add the garlic and sauté a minute more.  Add the rice and stir until each rice grain is coated with oil. Stir in the eggplant.  Add the wine and broth.  Check for seasoning, adding the pepper and salt if needed.  Bring to pressure and cook for 5 minutes.  When you are ready to eat, add the grated Parmesan, the tomatoes, and the basil leaves, reserving a few for garnish.  Serve each plate topped with a bit of shaved Asaigo cheese and a bit of basil.  Delicious!