Monday Musings: On childhood, book movies and gelato.

Happy Monday to you. I’m back with more random, wacky things on my mind.purple_flowers

Finally (finally!), spring weather seems to be breaking through. This weekend down south was only slightly cool but gloriously clear and sunny, which does loads for my mental and physical health. Don’t mind me while I go roll in the warm grass like Oliver does, reveling in spring. I just wish we didn’t go straight from freezing to sweating this year.

I finished reading Divergent, by Veronica Roth, this weekend. Have you had the pleasure? It’s great. Really creative and suspenseful, and I highly recommend it. It’s of the same genre and post-apocalyptic undertones as the Hunger Games series. And therein, I guess, lies the scary part. These books are for young adults — meaning pre-teens and teenagers, right?. Books about killing and war and sex, even. Hey, when I was 15 I was reading questionable things too. But more like romance smut from the vaults of Danielle Steele and Judith McNaught. Not dark, violent books about evil people who want to take over the world. I’m just sayin’.

Speaking of books, it’s starting to bother me when a popular book that everyone’s read becomes a movie. Think Gone Girl or Fifty Shades of Grey. It seems a waste to recreate a story that everyone already knows. To me, it destroys the magic, replacing all of the imaginative visions I created with Hollywood’s interpretation. And it becomes so much more about who’s going to be cast than about the words or the work. I prefer when an obscure book becomes a movie — think Perks of Being a Wallflower and Silver Linings Playbook. Then I can read the book to fill in details. But I suppose my definitions of “popular” or “obscure” are relative.

Mad Men season 6 premiered last night. I’ll tell you how it’s gone for me by the time you’re reading this. I watched it live, but also recorded on my DVR. I will spend all day today reading through the TV writers’ and fellow viewers’ analyses. Then I will watch the whole thing again tonight or later this week with fresh eyes. Because it’s visual literature, remember? I know, obsessed.

Have you tried Talenti gelato? You can probably find it in your supermarket. All I have to say is this. Salted Caramel gelato with chocolate-caramel truffles mixed in. I have no other words.

Have a good week, all.

Reinventing an heirloom recipe.

I am related to an amazing array of women who can cook. And I do mean cook. I associate every one of them with a special recipe that has defined my childhood and holiday occasions since, whether it’s my mom’s cold oven pound cake, Taffy’s mashed potatoes and mac and cheese, Mimi’s okra soup or Grandmama’s cornmeal fritters. My Aunt Dell is not allowed to attend family functions unless she brings her collard greens. Well, I’m exaggerating … only sort of. That food is just a part of our loving and sharing with each other.

Most of these family recipes are well documented, or at least those who have perfected them are still around to share their tips. But one family heirloom recipe has eluded us as of late. My grandfather’s sister, Aunt Ida, was famous for her caramel cake, which she brought regularly to family events. Regularly enough at least that it made an impression on my young taste buds. Aunt Ida passed away more than 10 years ago, and we’re just now discovering that no one has her recipe. Egads!

Caramel cakes are very southern, if not very Easterly. But I had a craving to attempt one a la Aunt Ida’s for Easter Sunday dinner. I Googled recipes all week, which resulted in a concoction of cobbled together cake and icing instructions. Then I updated them to reflect the tastes of the 2010s — a dash of sea salt makes it a salted caramel icing. Keep reading »