Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In Memoriam

Mary Sylvia, 1914-2008
Richard Andrew, 1940-2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In the 1340s

There is so much political history of interest in medieval Florence: the famous Guelph and Ghibelline feud, with exiles and triumphant returns, and the subsequent division within the Guelph party. There was war with Lucca, with Pisa, with Milan, with the Papal States. The city was ruled by despots Charles of Valois and Walter of Brienne.

Famine, plague, flood, and fire struck in turn.

New city walls were being built, and new churches, new palaces, and new piazzas.

Charles Eliot Norton studies Sienna, Pisa, and Florence in contrast. "The new cathedral in an Italian city was the witness of civic as well as religious devotion, of pride and of patriotism consecrated by piety. It was also the sign of the favor of Heaven in the bestowal of the prosperity of which it gave evidence."1

This is one of my favorites from 1340 because the baby is lifting his arms up to his mother so that she will hold him, just like Louis does with me.

Gene Brucker describes the period in his book entitled Renaissance Florence. "The guild regime established in 1282 initiated one major project after another: the reconstruction of the old Badia and the third circle of walls in 1294, the cathedral in 1296, the palace of the Signoria in 1299. Work on the cathedral and walls progresses very slowly in the early fourteenth century, but the tempo of construction quickened in teh 1330s when the walls were finally completed. The foundations of the cathedral campanile and the Loggia of Orsanmichele were laid down in 1334 and 1137; the reconstructing of the Ponte Vecchio began immediately after its collapse furing the 1333 flood and was finished twelve years later. Meanwhile, the great basilicas of the mendicant orders, S. Maria Novella and S. Croce, were being completed, subsidized by the contributions of pious Florentines and also by occasional grants from the communal treasury."2

The documents from the 1330s of the Misericordia confraternity from the 1330s mainly discuss election of officers and the administrative structure of the confraternity, indications that the organization was at a stage where it was busy focusing internally, on operations, so that in the 1340s they could focus outward.

1. Norton, Charles Eliot. Historical Studies of Church Building in the Middle Ages: Venice, Siena, Florence. pp. 21-22

2. Brucker, Gene. Renaissance Florence.p. 25

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


When everything is in danger of being reached by two-year-old fingers, scarce and functional become more and more attractive.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pear Tarte

One of our favorites, inspired by Georganne Brennan's Tarte Tatin in Potager.

3 pears, peeled and sliced
2 cups of red wine
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
2 T butter
another 1/2 cup sugar

Poach the pears in the wine, first 1/2 cup of sugar and nutmeg for a couple of hours. While they are soaking, butter a pie plate with 1 tablespoon of the butter, and sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar onto the buttered plate.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Remove the pears from the wine with a slotted spoon and arrange in a pretty pattern on the plate on top of the butter and sugar. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and dab remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over the top.

Cover plate with a pie crust (pre-made, or your favorite pate brisee), folding the edges back in towards the center. Cut a couple of small slits in the middle for the steam to escape.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until pie crust is golden and syrup is thick and ruby-colored.

Flip immediately onto a large plate after removing pie from the oven, and let cool a bit before serving.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A December Rose

We have one rose in our backyard.

Blooming in the middle of December.
Ignoring the cold weather.
Paying attention only to the sunshine of things.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Last Time I Saw Toledo

The last time I saw Toledo was in 1996.

Perhaps my favorite place is Santa Maria la Blanca.

Or maybe it's the Cathedral.

Or maybe Cristo de la Luz.

Or maybe walking the city streets.

Or maybe everything.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Feast of the Immaculada

A tuna is a group of university students that sings traditional songs. Each section of the university (Law, Medicine, History, Architecture) has its own group. On the night of December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the tunas meet in the plaza of the Virgen de los Reyes, between Seville's cathedral and alcazar, to sing and make offerings in praise of the Virgin Mary.

Afterward, the groups stroll through the old quarter, singing, stopping often for tapas and beer, and flirting with girls.

Don't miss the tambourine guy's antics at the end.

By the way, tuna in Spanish is atún.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I'll Take a Case of That


Look for this in your neighborhood specialty wine shop.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chili and Corn Bread

2 T corn oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lb ground beef
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 can black beans, rinsed, drained
1/4 cup Grandma's chili powder
1T freshly ground black pepper
1 T instant espresso powder
1 T ground cumin

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add ground beef to brown. Add tomatoes and beans and bring to a simmer. Mix in espresso powder, 1/4 cup chili powder, and cumin, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.

Serve with your favorite cornbread and Honeyed Butter.

For honeyed butter, mix 3T softened butter with 1 T honey until smooth. Spread on corn bread.

This is my entry for the latest Royal Foodie Joust. Check it out!