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Anne of Green Gables: The Culinary Triumphs and Trials of a Titian-Haired Spitfire

30 Oct

Out of nostalgia, I started re-reading one of my favorite childhood books with one of my favorite heroines: L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I had lucked upon the reruns of the PBS miniseries earlier in the year while I was in culinary school. After watching Anne of Green Gables again, I was instantly smitten and had to Netflix Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel.  To this day, I can’t hear the words “Anne of Green Gables” without picturing the stunning, spirited and poised Canadian actress Megan Follows who played the series’ namesake. She truly embodied that role and somehow made “that Anne girl’s” maudlin speeches equal parts heartfelt and humorous. And when she broke that slate over the ever-dashing Jonathan Crombie’s (Gilbert Blythe’s) head, it was magic. I’ll show you CARROTS!!!

Of course, I can never forget the genius supporting performances of Colleen Dewhurst and Richard Farnswsorth. I’m 34 years old, and it still brings a tear to my eye when Matthew succumbs to a bad heart in the middle of a cow pasture and, gasping his last breath,  tells  Anne that he “is so proud of his little girl.” (Matthew’s demise in the novel is much less (melo)dramatic, but nevertheless deeply touching given its roots in financial woes.)

While reading AGG this time around, it occurred to me that a large part of Anne’s education and “civilization” in Prince Edward Island (the P.E.I.) revolved around learning the domestic arts of entertaining and cooking.

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Rain or Shine: The Boston Local Food Festival Delivers Both the Goods and the Good

2 Oct

This Saturday, the threatening rain couldn’t keep me away from the Boston Local Food Festival. A glowering sky and morning showers gave way and while the sun only broke through in brief patches, the morning chill did dissipate.

I hopped on the Red Line and got off at South Station, and then promptly proceeded to the Children’s Museum, site of the Food Festival. From afar, I glimpsed a white sea of dots–the vendor and demonstration tents–but it wasn’t until I entered the festival grounds that I realized the (impressive) magnitude of the event.

One Wing of Saturday’s Boston Local Food Festival (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

The Food Festival, in its second year, is one of the SBN Local Food Committee’s seven initiatives aimed at growing the local and regional food system.  Upwards of one hundred vendors were offering samples and selling their products; local chefs and butchers gave culinary demonstrations; nonprofit organizations disseminated materials and information; local bands serenaded.

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I’m Shipping Up to Boston

1 Oct

Okay, so let’s dispense with the elephant in the room. Obviously a good chunk of time has passed since I last posted on Tortefeaster. Apologies to my two loyal readers (LOL). Before you start judging me, it is not as bad as it looks. After finishing up very intense sophomore level pastry labs (including the particularly taxing specialty cakes that was a brutal–rather than beautiful–struggle) this May, I moved back home from Charlotte and almost immediately began my internship with the Dining Editor of Northern Virginia Magazine.

Anniversary Cake I Made as Part of My Specialty Cake Lab (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

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Minis, Memoirs, King Cake and Kinship: What I’m Reading

7 Mar

The good news is…I’m back! The bad news is that this is going to be a posting sans photographs. I am hoping in any event that you like me more for my brains than my beauty, LOL, since my photography sometimes leaves much to be desired. It has been some time since my last post (at least it feels that way), but not because of a dearth of ideas on my part. The last couple of weeks were awash in practicals and projects, papers and recipe testing, and then I spent 7 days reunited with my husband on vacation in a Saint Lucian paradise. Now I’m back in Charlotte, about to begin the last term of my pastry arts program. It is 39 degrees–sometimes reality is a cold wind after all. And of course, I am always ready to write….

I had some different threads of thought floating around today as I sat down to write, but I soon realized (happily) that all my ideas  relate cooking and baking to my other favorite hobby…reading.

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Cheerwine: North Carolina’s Answer to New England’s Moxie

11 Jan

Diet Cheerwine

I first glimpsed it when I was in the baking aisle searching for unsweetened chocolate and pastry flour. I am not a regular soda drinker, so I am generally oblivious to what I see on the soda shelves–the strident colors immediately making me turn my head. But this was different. Something I’d never encountered. A liter bottle of a soft drink called Cheerwine. I made a mental note to myself to remember this name…

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Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain

26 Dec

MacArthur’s Park is melting in the darkAll the sweet, green icing flowing down.Someone left the cake out in the rain.I don’t think that I can take it.’Cause it took so long to make it.And I’ll never have that recipe again, oh no! –MacArthur Park (lyrics by Jimmy Webb)

I know that when Richard Harris recorded the song MacArthur Park, he was singing metaphorically about the end of a relationship, not about baking a cake. Back in the 1970s, when people owned record players (and even 8-track tapes) , my parents used to play the Irish actor’s recording of the song humorist Dave Barry deemed the Worst Ever Written. It was always a puzzle for me trying to figure out why anyone would be so upset about a cake with green icing. Who eats a cake with green icing anyway? Maybe Jimmy Webb’s metaphor was ill-chosen, but the lyrics resonate on a literal level with anyone who has ever spent time baking only to discover that his/her end product is not what he/she had envisioned.And let’s be honest, that’s everybody who has ever baked, from novice up through the professional ranks.

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Waiting for Kugelhopf

22 Dec

The first time I made kugelhopf, it was like reenacting a scene from Little Shop of Horrors. I mixed everything, kneaded, let it rise the first time, and then placed the dough in my makeshift kugelhopf mold ( a 12-cup bundt pan). I thought I was doing well and had some time to spare for the second rise since the first took so long. So I went out, did an errand, and when I came back…“Suddenly Seymour!!!” This is what confronted me:

It was Audrey II alright. Begging me to feed it. Continue reading