Women and Their Losses

me about to kiss you -3.5.2011

He Has Forgotten

He puts his head to her stomach

her fifty-four year old stomach

and thinks,

“She carried three children here.”

While en route to hospital

she miscarried.

The fourth,

a girl,

he has forgotten.

*****                                               *****                                               *****

For Julie

I look for you

in the forests

the lakes

all along the shore

My spirit aches

for just one glimpse

on my easel now

but you are no longer here

How to Make a Jamaican Christmas Cake

Eliot Porter. Blue-throated Hummingbird, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona, May 1959. Dye transfer print. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of David H. McAlpin. © 1990 Amon Carter Museum of American Art

All done! Now that the Christmas cakes have been baked, it’s time to start another batch of fruits for next year’s cakes. These fruits, soaked in white rum and port wine, consist of equal parts currants and raisins, and to a lesser degree, diced prunes. The suggested ratio is 1:1:1/4 of raisins, currants and prunes.

Douse the fruits in Jamaican overproof white rum and a good port wine. Put enough rum and wine to saturate the fruits and seal in an airtight glass jar. Keep in a dark area, away from sunlight.

A quicker method is to infuse the fruits in alcohol and warm in a covered pot over a very low heat a day or so before baking your cakes. I let my fruits soak for a year because that reinforces the tradition of baking these cakes at Christmas time. If they’re not soaking, I’m probably not baking.

The recipe below makes approximately 4 pounds of cake. I usually make 4 cakes: 2 six-inch and 2 approximately 3-4 inch cakes in round cake tins.

1/2 lb. butter (softened at room temperature)
1/2 lb. dark brown sugar
2 tsps. vanilla
1 tsp. of almond flavouring
2 tsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp. lime or orange rind
6 medium eggs
4 cups mixed fruits (raisins, currants, prunes, citron, cherries, dates)
6 ozs. plain bread crumbs
6 ozs. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. ground allspice
1 cup white rum (I prefer Wray & Nephew, Jamaican white overproof rum)
1 pt. port wine/brandy

photo (9)
Jamaican 151 overproof white rum, from J Wray & Nephew Rum

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  1. Prepare tins by lining the bottom of each tin with 2 circular sheets of brown paper (brown wrapping paper is good) cut to the size of the pan. Next, line the entire pan with parchment paper, placing it over the brown paper circles at the bottom of the pan.
  2. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Mix browning, vanilla and almond flavors, lime juice and rind.
  4. Add eggs, beating in one at a time, until completely blended into mixture.
  5. Mix in breadcrumbs, flour, baking powder, salt and Jamaican all-spice (or other all-spice).
  6. Add alternately with rum and port wine.
  7. Add drunken fruits and add cherries (remove cherries from juice) and mix in thoroughly.
  8. Pour into prepared baking tins 3/4 full.
  9. Cover and bake, approximately [1 hour].

Baking time varies according to the size of the container. If you use 9-inch round containers, you probably need about one-and-a-half hours for baking. The thicker the cake, the more baking time is needed. You know your cake is done if you stick a fork or toothpick in the middle and it comes away with a slightly moist, not extremely wet mixture.

You can moisten your cake with more port wine after it has cooled. Enjoy!

In honor of the season, I’ve included two wonderful short stories about Christmas, one of which is centered around the ritual of baking Christmas cakes:

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

This is a very special, true story, about a young boy (Truman himself) who is about seven years old and his older cousin who is, as he puts it, “sixty-something.” You can read it here: http://faculty.weber.edu/jyoung/English%206710/A%20Christmas%20Memory.pdf and watch the old black and white, original film here (the updated, color film is not as good as this): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0vjTfVyZco


Six to Eight Black Men by David Sedaris

The zaniest, craziest story I’ve ever heard about Christmas has got to be David Sedaris’, Six to Eight Black Men. It is the story of Christmas in Holland and it involves Santa Claus and you guessed it, six to eight black men.

Read it here: http://eamelje.net/texts/Sedaris_Six%20to%20Eight%20Black%20Men.pdf

and listen to Sedaris read it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UCUHTDrca4s

A very Merry Christmas to you!

Another Christmas

on walden pond

Two things are certain

You get into the homestretch,

head for Christmas,

and undoubtedly

there will be fighting

in the Middle East

and Apple,

Apple will launch

yet another product.

But I am no longer

keeping track.

I’m Late! I’m Late!

Mini Ghirl, up at Russian Ridge

Day Hikes

Mini Ghirl doesn’t handle right: She needs new tires. We’ve done twenty-one thousand miles in twenty months, mostly up and down the Northern California mountains and coastal areas.

From East Bay to PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, i.e.), to Santa Cruz (and places in between), to Yosemite (Aah, Yosemite, I’m coming back to you soon), to Mount Diablo in Clayton and Mount Tam in Marin (Don’t get jealous of Yosemite, Mount Tam! I’m going to check out one of your pancake breakfasts next spring and your play in the woods next summer), to Point Reyes Seashore, to San Rafael. It’s no wonder my poor little birdie has worn out her threads!

Then there were trips up and down Alpine and Page Mill Road, Skyline Boulevard and Highway 17, into lots and lots of lovely Open Spaces (mostly the MROSD’s). That’s a whole lot of miles and plenty more to go!

Skyline Ridge (looking towards La Honda)

Thanks to my friends over at Petrol Blog, I’ve learned about the Michelin Super Saver+ tyre. But why can’t I find it here in the United States? Michelin is an American company, isn’t it? And we here in the Bay Area try to be environmentally (i) friendly, (ii) conservative, and (iii) aware. All the better, when you save money by reducing gas (petrol) consumption.

So Michelin! Why the lower level/standard energy savers in America??? I want my American resident Mini Ghirl to have what her European cousins have: super saver, energy saver tires. Do something about it, Micheline Man!!! I’m late! I’m late! My Mini wants only the same things you offer to Europe — the best energy saver tires/tyres that Michelin makes. And just so you know, mountains and coasts up Mendicino way and beyond, and as far afield as Oregon and Washington states are calling meeeee! (There is the Sylvia Beach Hotel on the Oregon Coast, for example, just waiting, waiting for me and Mini Ghirl!!)

Oh, the places I have been

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