10 May, 2020

"Happy Mother's Day . . . "

Greetings and Salutations,

(I usually repost this missive on Mother's Day - it was originally posted on Mother's Day 2009.  My Mother passed away several years ago - but, her impact on my life continues to this day.)

My upbringing was kinda strange, to say the very least.  My father was in the military and I spent the first 11 years of my life traveling around the world.  Being the son of a Southern born, military father had its challenges, but I have a huge respect for my Dad - and for the manners we were expected to display at all times.  I still remember, at a very young age, the first time I answered the phone saying, "Good morning.  Wood residence, Scot speaking," and seeing my Father smile with pride.  

But, this post is about my Mom.  A Southerner as well, she is a gracious, fierce woman originally from Alabama.  If my memories of my Dad are about discipline and manners, I remember my Mother for teaching me how to entertain.

My early life, either over-seas or here in the states, involved more cocktail and dinner parties than you can imagine.  I can remember my Mother carefully planning each menu - and almost every Saturday dinner party would involve a Thursday night 'dry-run' when she'd test any new, challenging recipes so that the 'real' party could run smoothly (I still do this . . . lol).  Even from a young age, we were expected to sit down to dinner with the adults and hold our own in the conversation.   Candlelight, sterling silver, delicious meal, three couples - and two children - discussing politics and current events.  It was magical.

But there was more than just hostessing skills in my Mom's bag of tricks.  I firmly believe that there are several genetic qualities I possess from my mother's side of the family.  We all have tiny wrists.  We all have strong muscular jaw lines.  And good lord, we ALL love to shop.  Mother and I still can go on a 3-day antiquing tour through southern Mississippi and Alabama and never show a moment of exhaustion. 

A few years ago, I was having lunch with Mom and my first cousin Ruth.  Ruth was the oldest of my first cousins, and being six years older than me, she always seemed to be fantastically glamorous.  She is, in fact, an amazing woman as well - I think the 'gracious, fierce' thing may be genetic too.  We were talking about the summer that Ruth spent living with us in Los Angeles in the early 70's.  Ruth whispered to me, "And your Mother had that red sofa!  I never knew anyone with a red sofa back at home.  I thought it was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen!"

I clearly remember that red sofa.  But, it was part of my 'normal' childhood home, so I never thought it was anything interesting or unusual.  Apparently - my Mother was a gracious, fierce designer as well.  Too often, these qualities are only seen in retrospect.  I see now that she showed me that there was no need to follow any trend.  No need to be true to some 'expected norm.'  Truly, I think she taught me to embrace being an individual.  And to test run any new dishes before serving them to guests.

Happy Mother's Day.


03 May, 2020

"Let's Cook . . . "


Most people I know seem to fall into two categories.  they either love to cook - or they love to bake.  I fall into the latter group.  Baking bread.  Making pies.  For me it's the perfect balance of art and science.  It's the perfect way to pass a quiet Sunday afternoon here in San Francisco - let's try something with a nice jolly attitude - Pomegranate Scones.

Here's what you'll need:

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of baking powder
6 tablespoons of chilled butter
1 lemon
1/3 cups of pomegranate seeds
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup of half and half

for garnish:
1 tablespoon of half and half
2 tablespoon of sugar

preheat oven to 400 degrees.

And away we go . . .

Combine all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, and baking power) in a large bowl.

Use a pastry cutter to incorporate the chilled butter.

Combine the beaten egg with the half and half - and add to the dry mixture.
Stir just until moistened.

Add the juice of one lemon.

Add 1/3 cup of pomegranate seeds to mixture and stir lightly.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and kneed 12 to 15 strokes.
(when you first turn the dough out, it will still be slightly separated.
after kneeding, the dough should begin to form into a ball)

Divide the dough into two equal pieces.

Pat, or lightly roll, each section into a small disc about a 1/2 inch in thickness.
Cut the dough into six pieces.

After placing on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper - garnish each scone by
brushing with half and half and adding a light sprinkling of sugar.

My kitchen tends to run fairly warm whilst I'm cooking - so I usually place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to re-chill the butter before baking.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes.

And there you have it.  Warm.  Yummy.  And practically bursting with flavours.
As options for the pomegranate seeds, I've used dried cranberries.  Or chopped walnuts.  Even miniature chocolate chips.  

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