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Bend down, put your head between your legs….

C111 A bomb drills in NY-2
Bomb Drill in NY elementary school

I lived this. Many readers will not have. The instruction was ridiculous, designed to lull children into thinking they would be protected if they followed a simple instruction: Duck and Cover.

Our teachers knew better, and among themselves edited the directive to reflect the truth, but tried not to say it in front of us. Later, of course, we all recalled hearing it, and laughed. What else could we do?

I was in high school during the Vietnam War protests, as well the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. A nuclear holocaust felt unlikely, but the sight of so many young men sacrificing their lives, coming home maimed or in body bags triggered a new slogan, this time to the President: “Hey, hey, L.B.J, how many kids did you kill today?”  It seemed no matter which side you were on, you were pained. Most of us knew someone who had been impacted by the conflict. Those of us who supported the protests felt each loss as surely as those who didn’t. It could have been our brother, or cousin, or classmate, or neighbor. Someone we loved. The fear was always present.

As seniors approaching graduation, there was talk of a prom. Theme? Date? Really? The student council put a vote to the graduating class, a necessary move since there were roughly 1,300 of us.  It was supposed to be our big party. But no one was in the mood to celebrate. We voted against it.

There was nothing special or noble about our decision. Far from it. Rather, it was made because we were gripped by a powerful and invasive malaise, a thickening of the atmosphere. Most of us wanted to preserve the energies we had for studying, taking our exams, and preparing ourselves for the next steps in our lives.

I think, if I’d been old enough to understand the depth of the threat, beyond its initial destruction, during those early air raid drills, I would have succumbed to a similar malaise, felt the air growing dense. But I knew nothing about cold war, missiles, or men with colossal egos and a desire to dominate. I trusted that sanity would prevail.

And thankfully, it did.

But now I hear the alarm rising through the school again, the echoes of my teachers, long gone, telling us to file into the hall and crouch near each other, bury our faces in our knees….

And I remember their forced, bitter smiles.

©2017 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

Nostalgia Bread

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This probably should have been a Mother’s Day post, but my head was off on Mother’s Day, drifting to other days and dreaming of date-nut bread sandwiches and comfort.

We went on a lot of outings, my mother and I—to the theater, ballet, opera, museums, and shopping. We dressed up for every excursion, even to shop, choosing stylish dresses, or skirts and blouses, then later, smart pantsuits—and, of course, sturdy walking shoes.

I don’t know how my mother managed it, as she worked full time. But it seemed we were always going somewhere together when I was growing up.  And when we did, we had favorite places to lunch or simply recharge.

One of them was Chock Full O’Nuts.

In those years, it seemed as though the restaurants were on every block.

I remember heading indoors out of the cold or heat, lured by the scent of their freshly brewed coffee, and climbing up onto stools to sit at the counter. We’d order drinks, and always date-nut bread and cream cheese sandwiches. They were a blend of sweet and crunchy substances and tangy cream—a perfect comfort food.

A few years ago, I set out to recreate my own version of these treats, adding some personal favorites to the traditional blend of dates and walnuts. The result was both comforting and nourishing, as well as calorie rich and decadent.

Since I’m allergic to cow’s milk, I opted for chèvre instead of cream cheese (you know how much I love goats, right?). But for those who don’t have that restriction, go for the original. There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned shmear….

NOSTALGIA BREAD

Ingredients

1 & 1/2 cups chopped dates

1/2 cup boiling water

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon of honey

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

3 tablespoons molasses

two large or extra large eggs

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 small zucchini, grated

1/3 cup mini dark chocolate chips

1 cup, minus two tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons coconut flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º.  Liberally grease an 8″ x 4″ bread pan with butter.  Pour boiling water over chopped dates. sugar, and honey, and let stand for 15 minutes. Beat in eggs, molasses, oil, and vanilla, then add nuts and grated zucchini.  Sift dry ingredients over the liquid mix, and blend. The batter should be substantial, but not overly thick. If it’s too runny, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it’s right. If it’s too thick, add water or coconut milk until it loosens up.

Bake in prepared pan for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack, then dive in and devour!

 

 

 

 

 

Testing, Testing….

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Cookies by Laura Fortune

I taste everything before I serve it to guests. It’s a necessity since I like to experiment and rarely use a cookbook, except occasionally as a guide to how much of this and how much of that I need to add if I’m concocting a dish or dessert I’ve never tried before. Cooking is chemistry, after all, and I wouldn’t want anything to collapse, or worse, blow up, metaphorically speaking, of course.

I even have my husband taste my creations, to verify they are company-ready. I want my offerings to reflect how much I care about those I’m serving. I’m not a warm and fuzzy person. Nor am I physically demonstrative, overly affectionate. But when it comes to food, I give freely and lavishly. For me, food is as profound and physical an expression of love as a kiss or hug. Food should not only nourish; it should arouse, delight, affirm, and satisfy on the deepest levels. So, I would never offer anyone less than my best. Ever.

The same is true with writing. I can’t say that everything that appears here will be brilliant, but it will have been read and read and read and tested and held and tested again before it is offered. And if it is found lacking after it has been posted, it will be revised, or even removed. Because I would never offer anyone less than my best, ever.

Unfortunately, sometimes, although we plan to finish work in a timely fashion, life interferes and prevents it. We carve out time and then the interruptions come. Little ones, big ones, ones that distract and demand our focus elsewhere.

Life has no respect for creative impulses, creative output.

I’ve been meaning to finish the story of that little bird with sequins on his wings. We all need Whimsy in our lives, especially now. But because life has distracted me, demanded that I focus my attention elsewhere, I can’t give his story the attention it deserves. I could probably hack something out and post it, but it wouldn’t be worth reading—it wouldn’t arouse, delight, affirm, or satisfy. It would be the equivalent of serving you styrofoam.

So, rather than taunt you with unfinished work, morsels that promise a whole meal but leave you empty, I’ve removed Parts I and II.

Whimsy will come back, I promise. Hopefully, sooner than later. And when his story does, it will have been thoroughly taste-tested and approved for consumption.

Because I am so grateful for your interest, your comments, your kindness. Because I would never offer you less than my best.

Ever.

©2017 All Rights Reserved

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