Thursday, April 7, 2011

Easter excitement...

Haven't heard from everyone yet, but we'll have at least 6 children and two grandchildren for Easter...I am so happy---I love those little guys so much...I can't wait to see Nannet hunt for eggs. I love Easter so much, and to have all the chillun will be indescribable...Bunny has been collecting stuff...I love the Resurrection and all the celebration that surrounds it, Mass and peeps, sacred and profane...I can't wait for Jesus of Nazareth, The Robe, Quo Vadis and Ben Hur...Thank you so much, Lord.

Some good news:

Dennis seems to be feeling so much better since he started on the cycler machine for his PD. He only does one exchange in the middle of the day now, and when he wakes up in the morning he seems so much fresher and happier! It's really wonderful. If anyone is interested and has questions about PD, holler. We'll be happy to tell you as much as we know.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Old Blue"---traditional ballad---Goodbye, my fine friend.

I had an old dog and his name was Blue
Betcha five dollah he’s a good dog, too
Go on, Blue, you good dog you.
Old Blue died and he died so hard
He shook the ground in my back yard
Dug his grave with a silver spade
Lowered him down with a golden chain
And every link I called his name
I said "go on Blue, you good dog you"
I’m gonna tell you so you’ll know:
Old Blue’s gone where the good dogs go.
If I get to Heaven, one thing I’ll do
Is pick up my rifle and holler for Blue
Go on, Blue, you good dog you!
Coyotes waitin’ for me and you.
Go on, Blue—I’m comin’, too!

In Loving Memory of
Scipio Africanus Womack
Spring 1997-March 7,2011

Well done, Good and Faithful Servant.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Awash in a grey sea of unfamiliarity and uncertainty...

It was important to me that Dennis and I be respected, and even, I think, beloved at this point in our lives...I'm not a lovable person, and I suppose I will just have to accept that, regardless of how much it hurts---and I wonder why it does, so much? But I can't accept that for my husband, to whom my children owe not only filial respect, but special honor because he has made so many sacrifices. (I want to note at this point that while I'm speaking in general from an effort to maintain at least a modicum of civility, it is important to note that the problem is not necessarily systemic within our family and in no case whatever is CROCKETT an offender. How's that? Is that okay? Are we all clear on that?)

It's not important, really, except that it contributes to and makes more desolate the sea of uncertainty in which we are now drifting. I am okay with being in pain. I mean that in all sincerity. They biggest downside is that, well, I can't do the tasks I should be doing. My small home is so cluttered. My Christmas decorations aren't even put up yet---they are taken down---just not put up. Some people wonder why I don't have a bigger house. It's because I spent the money on other things. Most of my kids could probably tell you what those things are. Dennis feels badly, even after starting his PD...he's quite depressed and frankly has given up doing even the most obvious things around the house...I don't think anyone but me has taken a dish to the kitchen for 6 months...Seguin is very sick---has had lupus since she was quite young and I think maybe that's why parts of her brain don't work while others are over-developed...Anyway, she's doing well to drive all the way to Dallas every day and get to school, where she's on her feet cooking. No, she can't have her own apartment---she does not need to be alone for long periods of time---but thank you so much for asking.

When Mother was dying, my aunts and uncles kept urging me to put her in a nursing home where they "would take really good care of her all the time!" Yeah--nursing homes are famous for that. In truth, they were scared to death that I might ask them to Mother-sit sometime. You should have heard the bullshit they were spouting at the funeral about how she supported them all for 10 years and they owed everything to her!

I am not afraid, I'm just so sad.

I wish I'd known my Daddy's parents better. And I wish I had had the presence of mind to nurture my Mother's mother, regardless of her "unfortunate disposition". She walked on her ankle bone, her feet were so twisted and crippled...she was too proud to sit in a chair...I thought I would try to be "not proud" and that that would make a difference, but I think not...Didn't want the kids to have to put up with the same things Dennis and I did when we were first married...ha ha...But Crockett, I think, does laugh with me when I try to laugh at myself, and I like to see him laugh.

I can rarely leave this house. I don't mind. I want people to feel welcome. I'm so sorry that not everyone can see past our limitations. I'm grieved that some of them will never be comfortable here. This thirty acres is my children's home. It has been a continuing source of sorrow for me that they've never loved it. Except Stuart. Stuart loves it and treats it as her own. Thank you, Stuart. And Thank you, Rachel, for my little tree...You planted it so well that it is still alive.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Late Night Quickie Post

This past week has been physically discouraging. I did something I rarely do: I got jealous of someone else's ability to do things...Just to get up in the morning and feel good and look forward to an adventure...I didn't feel bitter or anything, just more...envious than I like to feel...I really want to accept and embrace who I am and be completely grateful to God for letting me suffer---I sure wouldn't do it voluntarily, but He is giving me the help I need to strive for holiness. But I haven't felt very holy this week.

I'm spending the next few weeks finishing the Baptismal gown for Nolan. I can't believe he's almost here! I wonder if he'll look like Crockett?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's Confederate Heroes' Day in Texas

...and Robert E. Lee's birthday.

The Sword of Robert Lee
by Fr. Abram J. Ryan

Forth from its Scabbard, pure and bright,
Flashed the sword of Lee!
Far in the front of the deadly fight,
High o'er the brave in the cause of Right,
Its stainless sheen, like a beacon light,
Led us to Victory!

Out of its Scabbard, where, full long,
It slumbered peacefully,
Roused from its rest by the battle's song,
Shielding the feeble, smiting the strong,
Guarding the right, avenging the wrong,
Gleamed the sword of Lee!

Forth from its scabbard, high in air
Beneath Virginia's sky -
And they who saw it gleaming there,
And knew who bore it, knelt to swear
That where the sword led they would dare
To follow - and to die!

Out of it's scabbard! Never hand
Waved sword from stain as free,
Nor purer sword led braver band,
Nor braver bled for a brighter land,
Nor brighter land had a cause so grand,
Nor cause a chief like Lee!

Forth from its scabbard! How we prayed
That sword might victor be;
And when our triumph was delayed,
And many a heart grew sore afraid,
We still hoped on while gleamed the blade
Of noble Robert Lee!

Forth from its scabbard all in vain
Bright flashed the sword of Lee:
'Tis shrouded now in its sheath again,
It sleeps the sleep of our noble slain,
Defeated, yet without a stain,
Proudly and peacefully!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Just for fun, I went online to buy the DVD "Babette's Feast" for several occasion, just thinking about the movie and how great it is, and how much I loved it...WELL! Won't be doing THAT! For whatever bizarre reason---probably because it is an exquisite and uplifting film---Babette's Feast is out of production and going for around $90! I could get some VHS's at a decent price, but don't know who has the player...Oh, dear. I hope they bring it back...Also, Dennis wants "Alfred the Great" with David Hemmings...can't find it, though...

Things I Think About...

I've been reading too much Dickens lately and am so struck by the agony experienced by so many during the mid 19th Century---a peculiar agony...
I keep coming back to this wonderful essay by Sheldon Vanauken, which encompasses so many of my favorite topics. Enjoy it, if you have a minute.

The title of this paper may be perplexing, especially "Old Western Man."Is it cowboys and gunslingers of the Old West? Or perhaps Red Indians? Let me, then, say at once that Socrates and Shakespeare and Jane Austen are Old Western Man-and by my reckoning, General Lee. But not Mr. and Mrs. Bill Clinton. In due course there will be further clarification, as well as an answer to the question of what C.S. Lewis has to do with the Old South, which he knew almost nothing about.

Almost everyone knows something about C.S. Lewis as a writer of extremely readable children's books (about the land of Narnia that can be entered through the back of an old wardrobe) and as a witty and brilliant defender of orthodox Christianity. Lewis has also been called the Apostle of the Skeptics. Those who have read his little book, The Great Divorce or his Space Trilogy know something of his faith as well as his brilliant imagination, while his Experiment in Criticism suggests Lewis the profound scholar. And the devastating little book The Abolition of Man has a direct bearing on my present topic. It is C.S. Lewis as prophet: a grim warning of where we may be heading and the role of our schools in taking us there. Lewis was an Oxford don. He first came to Oxford as an undergraduate-his education interrupted by service in the First World War. He had, before he came up to Oxford, read more widely and deeply than most of us do in a lifetime. At Oxford he first read (studied) what is called "Greats," which is, first, classical literature in Greek and Latin, and then the rigorous study of philosophy from the ancients to the moderns-with a severe examination in each. He then read English literature and was examined in that. A "FIRST" in those examinations at Oxford has been likened to a Phi Beta Kappa key -- and Lewis won three FIRSTS. No other word fits this achievement but awesome. When I was at Oxford in the '50s, I was privileged to know him, and we came to be friends as those who have read by book A Severe Mercy will know. After I went down from the University, we corresponded and met from time to time. A Professorship at Oxford (there are no assistant or associate professors) is a very distinguished honor indeed, for there is but one professor of each subject. Despite deep friendships among the dons, Lewis also had bitter enemies-because I believe, of hostility to his outspoken Christian faith. Oxford never gave him that honor-a professorship but Cambridge did; and so Lewis left Magdalen College, Oxford, for, as it happened Magdalene, Cambridge.

To my abiding regret, I was not in England and could not be present when he delivered his inaugural address in a packed hall. But that lecture in 1954 which is not widely known defines Old Western Man. It is a look at history by a great literary scholar. History, some think, is a bore; but one may reflect on the truth that the opposite of historical awareness is -- amnesia. The title of Lewis's address is De Descriptione Temporum -- a look at Time, the very stuff of history: time and its divisions. Lewis was a splendid speaker-lucid, witty, brilliant, and, above all, powerful. He could hold an audience spellbound, as he did this one: Cambridge dons and undergraduates, as well as a considerable contingent from Oxford crowding a large lecture hall. The chair that Cambridge had created for him was Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature, and Lewis pointed out that the title indicted the decline of the traditional antithesis between the two periods. We have all, he went on, been educated to believe that there are two great divides in Western history, two chasms that cut across it: the Fall of Rome along with the Christianizing of Europe is the first; and the second is the Renaissance. Not so, says Lewis. Neither one is the Great Divide; there is a greater one. But before considering that, let us look at the two traditional ones, beginning with the lesser one, the Renaissance.

The Renaissance, first of all, despised the Medieval, just as every new age despises that one preceding. The early-twentieth century scorned the Victorian Age its architecture, its prudishness, its indoor plants were held up in ridicule. So the Renaissance saw the Middle Ages as a time of darkness. Unable to see the architectural miracle of Chartres Cathedral, they labeled it Gothic, that is, barbaric, because it lacked Roman columns. They were blind to the power of Aquinas or Dante. An older historian spoke of Copernicus as "the first light in the darkness," and a turn-of-the-last century student wrote that Thomas Wyatt was one of the first men "who scrambled ashore out of the great, dark, surging sea of the Middle Ages." No one would write such things now. And yet the Renaissance was a new age --a significant shift in direction., For the wise men of classical times, there was a desire to see things as they are and to conform the soul to that reality. The medievals enlarged things as they included Christ's Revelation of God but still sought to conform to all of reality. But the Renaissance began the effort through the twin studies of science and magic (the high noon of magic was not Medieval but Renaissance) to conform reality to man. The Fall of Rome -- that immense Empire stretching from Syria to London-along with the spread of Christianity-has far greater claims to be the Great Divide.

And yet Latin, a living, developing language, remained the language of the educated and the language of the universal Church. Men read Virgil (oddly enough, it was the Renaissance in its fascination with the really dead, classical Latin that killed the living Latin.) Still, Lewis says, the claim of the Fall of Rome with the enormous shift from Paganism to Christianity to be the Great Divide would have to be allowed if he did not know of a far greater Divide. To take first that enormous and seemingly irrevocable shift from Paganism to Christianity, we have seen a greater-the de-Christianizing of Western society.

"Dechristianization," says John Paul II, "weighs heavily upon entire peoples and communities once rich in faith and Christian life. . ." It is still incomplete, of course, just as there were lingering pockets of Paganism in the disintegrating Roman world. But one often hears today of "post-Christian." And we've all heard references to our returning to paganism. That, at least, is nonsense. We are not about to see a President struggling to slit the throat of a milk-white bull in front of the Capitol as an offering to the gods or grave Senators spilling libations on the floor of their chamber. To say we are returning to Paganism from Christianity is rather like saying that a married woman recovers her virginity by divorce. Paganism like Christianity was a devout belief in divinity-something beyond and above man. Thus, the shift from Paganism to God Incarnate, great as it was, was a lesser shift than this: from God Incarnate to Man himself. This alone is vast enough to indicate a greater Great Divide than the Fall of Rome. And there is more, much more. But before considering other aspects of this Greatest Divide, we should locate it in time. Lewis puts it at about the time of Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott at the end of the eighteenth century and a little way into the nineteenth. And those who lived before the Great Divide are those he calls "Old Western Man." But, like the long-drawn-out Fall of Rome, this later, Greater Divide is gradual. Old Western Man continued in unaffected areas. Lewis himself is, he says, an Old Western Man. And some who consider this may be Old Western Man. As we look further at the Great Divide, the reader will perhaps decide about himself. Since science is one of the things that is changing the world, it might be thought that the Great Divide ought to be earlier with the general acceptance among the educated of the thought of Descartes and of scientists like Copernicus. But the effects of such ideas were delayed. Science, in Lewis's words, was "like a lion cub whose gambols delighted its master in private [and which] has not yet tasted man's blood. . . Science was not the business of Man because Man had not yet become the business of Science." But when Watts makes his steam engine, and Darwin begins to monkey with Man's ancestry -- and Freud not so far ahead -- the lion will be out of his cage. It is when the many are affected, not just the few intellectuals, that the Great Divide occurs. Somewhere between us and Jane Austen's Persuasion in 1816 runs the chasm between Old Western Man and New Western Man --- the Great Divide. Old Western Man feared and worshiped his gods, accepted axiomatically what Lewis in The Abolition of Man calls the Tao or Natural Law, and, if Christian, believed in the Revelation of God Incarnate. Almost a definition of Old Western Man. New Western Man-well I shan't attempt to define him, but as we consider the post-Divide developments, perhaps he will appear. This much, though, is I think certain: Seneca and Dr. Johnson, though separated by 18 centuries, have more in common that Dr. Johnson and Freud, less than a century later.

Let us consider what the Great Divide actually divides in terms of the six (and only six) aspects of any Society: political, economic, religious, social, intellectual, aesthetic. (The initial letters make the word PERSIA)

Politically, what we used to call "rulers" we now call "leaders." In the past the aim of rulers was to keep the people quiet, getting on with their lives; now it seems to be whipping up feeling-appeals, drives, campaigns. A vast computerized bureaucracy penetrates our lives and fortunes as no government of the past ever did. Where once we asked rulers for justice and incorruptibility, we now want magnetism or charisma. And a shadow in the future, if ever it comes (which God forbid!), may be government by scientists and psychologists-adjusting us to like it.

Economically, above all the coming of the machine. Where once we wanted government to defend us from enemies, foreign and domestic, and we paid taxes for those purposes, now we expect everything from government; jobs, relief from poverty, health care. Government is spending trillions it doesn't have. And money without its intrinsic value, not gold.

Socially -- well, I hardly need to mention the word. The family in decay -- that rock-hard institution of Old Western Man. Marriage itself breaking down: multimarriages or, so to speak, serial polygamy. Or no marriage at all. Social morality is all but dead. And for good or ill --since Lewis's lecture -- a change that would be almost unbelievable to Old Western Man, a change as great as any in all history: feminism. If feminism (unisexism) is here to stay, it will be overwhelmingly the greatest social change of all time, equal to the coming of the machine. Overwhelming change and very possibly overwhelming error, too. Socially, there is no question that it is the Great Divide.

Religiously, no question either. The deChristianizing.

Intellectually, one of the greatest changes is the onset of ideology -- everything else subordinate as a world force. Killing in the name of ideology. We have touched on the lion --science -- getting out of his cage, and on Darwin, and Watts' steam engine. The machine. TV and the computer. The machine permeates our lives. Here again the change is so enormous as to leave no doubt about the Great Divide. Not only does it alter our very lives; it alters our language. For instance, the word new. When it comes to cars or TVS, the new is usually better, but not in other areas-the "new morality" is very likely worse. Yet we're taught to salivate at new. What was once admired as permanence is now called stagnation. And primitive, which in Dr. Johnson's dictionary suggested "pure" or "formal," now suggests the obsolete or crude. If we slipped through a time-fault into the eighteenth century, our plain English and their plain English might have very different connotations. Needless to say, feminism is also altering the English language for the worse; they would insist that Lewis say Old Western Man "or Woman."

Aesthetically, the last of the six aspects, is marked by change as great as the others. Aesthetically, our brave new world is almost unrecognizably different. In the visual arts, no previous era has ever produced work so shatteringly and bewilderingly different and obscure as that of the Cubists, Dadaists, Surrealists, and Picasso. And in the art that Lewis loved best, poetry and literature, the change is as drastic. It is simply untrue to say that all poetry was when new was as difficult as ours. Alexandrian verse was difficult because it required learning; but if you got the learning, it was perfectly intelligible. John Donne's dark conceits had one meaning which he could have told you. There was never anything like The Wasteland. Six learned men in poetry, discussed T.S. Eliot's "A Cooking Egg" for an hour, and no two of them agreed on its meaning. And the poems-or as I call them, prosems by "prosets" who have followed Eliot-there seems no link at all with the great tradition of poetry. Apart from different languages a reader of Homer would understand Beowulf and Catullus and Spenser would understand each other, or Shakespeare and Virgil.

It is, I think unarguable that we have been looking at The Great Divide in the history of the West, which is really the history of the whole world. It is strange, the smallest continent, Europe, has been the most dynamic ever since the Greeks, all the world wanting what the West has. Almost unimaginable change.

Now, the reader has C.S. Lewis's 1954 argument for The Great Divide in De Descriptione Temporum with a few updatings of mine, such as the drastic change that is feminism, which he was spared. The argument is for me totally convincing. He concluded the lecture by saying that he is a representative of Old Western Man and reads their texts as a native. But Old Western Man, he says, is not going to be around much longer, and thus, he may be of value as a specimen, if not otherwise. After all, he says with a smile, if a dinosaur dragged its slow length into the lecture hall, would we not look back even as we fled? So that's what the creature looked like! He was done. Thunderous applause. And people went about the university for weeks saying "I'm a dino - - are you?" To say we are returning to Paganism from Christianity is false. Paganism was a devout belief in divinity--something beyond and above man. Thus, the shift from Paganism to God Incarnate, great as it was, was a lesser shift than this: from God Incarnate to Man himself"

OLD WESTERN MAN AND THE OLD SOUTH What C.S. Lewis has given us is nothing less than a radically new way of looking at the past that supplants or, at least, supplements all other ways. The reader, mindful of my title, may be prepared for me to see the Old South as Old Western Man. And so I do. But General Lee and the War Between the States were in the second half of the nineteenth century, 50 years after Jane Austen: the machine-the Industrial Revolution -- already darkening the skies. Nevertheless, I do maintain the Confederacy was Old Western Man. We need, I think, to see the South-and the War-in larger terms relating to all of Western civilization.

Lewis, quite rightly, puts the Great Divide in the very early nineteenth century; it was then that England, which led the way in the age of steam, began to be dominated by the machine, yet, of course, large pockets of England and Scotland remained unaffected, not to mention Europe and America, though it was not long before Germany and New England began to industrialize. France was a special case; it had been torn by the fury of the Revolution, followed by Napoleon and defeat. Unlike the U.S. War of Independence, the French Revolution was the child of the intellectual's so-called Enlightenment (religiously, the Endarkenment), which prepared the way for the Great Divide; and it seems to me that the people of France were, in a way, the first to cross, or be driven across, the Great Divide. And there, too, was resistance, in particular the heroic and doomed last stand of the Vendee where the people took arms under their nobles and priests. In France, the 'Vendee was a last stand of Old Western Man.

The worldwide condemnation of slavery began with the English Evangelicals under Wilberforce in the early nineteenth century, spreading to New England -- the Abolitionists -- but not to the South. Indeed, it has often been said that the South, at least up to the War of Secession, had not yet entered the nineteenth century. If indeed the Great Divide, as Lewis says, is just after the time of Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott, it is suggestive that, while the North had turned to the mid-century novelist, Charles Dickens, the South still loved Sir Walter Scott. The long steps toward "modernity" in England and the North and elsewhere hardly affected the deeply agrarian South. But by 1860 the north was well on its way to industrialization -- "the dark Satanic mills," as Blake called them. And the South was still naming towns and streets for Scott's characters and places -- Ivanhoe, for instance, or Midlothian, both in Virginia.

There is little question in my mind but that the War Between the States was a revolution. A Northern revolution: big business destroying the Southern landed gentry. Andrew Lytle (in From Eden to Babylon) says that "before his overthrow, the country gentleman was the most powerful single influence in early American society." And he says further that "the fall of the Confederacy removed the last great check to the imperialism of Big Business." There is here more than a slight suggestion that New Western Man was destroying Old Western Man. (As the French Revolution, the Vendee).

It is plain from what C.S. Lewis said about the deChristianizing of Europe, as well as the French Revolution attempting to destroy the Church, that what follows the Great Divide is anti-Christian. Two years ago Mel Bradford (may he rest in peace) explained why Southern clergymen from Catholic to Baptists were strongly in favor of secession: Not to protect slavery but to protect Christianity by separating from the North, which in their judgement was becoming godless. A comparison of the leaders on both sides is suggestive; and so is a comparison of the South today with the society of the victors today-New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, including the corridors of power. Can we say the Southern clergymen of the 1860's were mistaken? The South remained, and perhaps still remains, a part of Christendom, while Europe and the North moved toward post-Christian man.

I wonder sometimes if the real hate of the most powerful and influential men of the North toward the South, both in arms and vanquished, wasn't hate for both the agrarian and the religious values of the South, including the faith in the Risen Christ?

General R.E. Lee is the symbol and the actuality of the South. Oxford taught that he was the greatest general since Alexander the Great because he did so much with so little and because he won the total devotion of his men. But Lee is far more than a brilliant and audacious general. In his simplicity and grandeur he is the best of the Old South-and he is almost incomprehensible to modern sensibility. Like George Washington, he is seen as a "marble man" by moderns, who have no trouble understanding Lincoln or Sherman-both rather modern themselves. But General Lee, never giving way to hate, never blaming anyone else, the simplicity, the strange words that we have lost: words like duty and honor. But an Old Roman would understand them. Lee, I think -- and Stonewall and J.E.B. Stuart -- are Old Western Man.

The poet, Stephen Vincent Benet, in his splendid and insightful John Brown's Body, after glowing descriptions of General Lee and his officers, turns to Lee's army. Let me quote just a half-a-dozen lines.
Army of Northern Virginia, fabulous army,
Strange army of ragged individualists,
The hunters, the riders, the walkers, the savage pastorals,
The unmachined, the men come out of the ground,..
The lazy scorners, the rebels against the wheels,
The rebels against the steel combustion chambers.
Against machines, against the Age of Steam

The unmachined, the deeply religious, ready to follow General Lee to hell and back-and, because of General Lee, they almost won. These men and their great commander are Old Western Man. As a nation, his last stand.
When Lee came at last to Appomattox and the short-lived Confederacy went down, not just to defeat but to non-existence, an Oxford don (like virtually all the Oxford and Cambridge dons, deeply pro-Southern), wrote lines that no one today would write -- a drastically different point of view: "No nation rose so white and fair,/ None fell so pure of crime" (Philip Worsley). I close with a question. As Richard Weaver says so powerfully, the Southern tradition is at bay. Does it still survive?

Monday, January 17, 2011

St. Francis Assisi, pray for us...

Scipio has become very anxious and clingy, pushing against me and pawing at me constantly. Seems very much like my mother after her mini-strokes, so, don't know if maybe that's his problem. Gave him valium...seems to help a little...he will be fourteen this year...Benny, good little soul, is devoting much time and attention to him...

A Birthday Feast for General Robert E. Lee

January 19, Wednesday, is General Robert E. Lee’s birthday. I’m giving y’all these recipes today so that you’ll have time to go to the store, and otherwise get your act together.

I got this cake recipe from someone on the internet years ago, and I have shamefully forgotten who she was, but I did manage to save almost all of her text and have included as much as possible:

Robert E. Lee Cake
FOR THE LEMON SPONGE CAKE: 8 egg yolks -- beaten 8 egg whites -- stiffly beaten
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest -- grated
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups White Lily Flour
salt to taste
4 egg yolks -- beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest -- grated
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 pinch salt
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated coconut
2 tablespoons sugar
1 oz softened cream cheese

Make separately and then combine a lemon sponge cake, lemon curd, and coconut cream. First let's talk about making Lemon sponge cake for the first ingredient. You want to beat eight egg yolks until they are as light as a Virginia dawn. Add 2 cups of sugar in slow Southern style whilst beating the yolks into a thick mess. You then beat in 2 tsp.of grated lemon zest and 2 tbs. of lemon juice. Sift 2 cups of flour and salt together per taste. Afterwards, you sprinkle the flour over the egg yolks and fold lightly until smooth as a Georgia accent. You then beat the egg whites until stiff as Southern resistance to Yankee aggression and fold in nicely. Divide the lovely (tasty--I know) batter between 2 buttered and floured cake pans. Bake in an oven preheated to 325 degrees F. for 25 minutes. Check to see that the layers are golden brown and lightly pull away from the sides. Remove to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before turning out.

Now we're ready to make the lemon curd. Beat 4 egg yolks with 3/4 c. of sugar, 1 Ttb. grated lemon zest 1/3 cup lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Using a double boiler for that purpose, place the ingredients over simmering water and stir frequently until thickened. Remove from heat and then add 6 tb. butter a bit at a time. You are then ready to split the sponge cake into layers and stack the curd in between the layers. You then spread the top with coconut cream, letting it drip deliciously down the sides. Here's how to make some coconut cream.

Having refrigerated the lemon-orange curd and the cake, you can wash your double boiler to make use of it again. Stir in 1 c. heavy cream, 1/4 c. grated coconut, 1 tb. plus 2 tsp. sugar, and salt together in the double boiler's top and heat over simmering water for 20 minutes. Cool cream over ice water---you want it really cold. Try infusing the cream the day before, and refrigerating overnight. Whip the cream, and when it begins to thicken, add the cream cheese. This will stabilize the cream. Continue to beat until you have soft peaks You can then drip the coconut cream over the cake. This recipe will feed 12 polite eaters at a Marse Robert dinner party.

General Lee’s favorite meal was smothered chicken. We like the recipe for Country Captain found in the lovely old cookbook, “Charleston Receipts”. . We have this wonderful dish with fresh hot biscuits, rice, turnip greens, black-eyed peas, and fig preserves. After readings of Father Ryan's "Sword of Lee", and Donald Davidson's "Lee in the Mountains", and a short narrative of his career, accompanied by stirring music of the time, serve the General's favourite dessert with good coffee. [unless we buy unroasted beans, we always use Community Coffee, every day. They’re Southern.] Then toast the Sword of Virginia with good Bourbon and end the evening with Southron songs, and toasts.

Country Captain (from “Charleston Receipts)
This will feed a dozen: I usually fix half:

1 bunch parsely (chopped)
4 green peppers (chopped)
2 large onions (chopped)
1 (No. 2 ½ ) can tomatoes
1 teaspoon mace
2 teaspoons curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic (chopped)
2 fryers cut up
Paprika and flour
1 cup currants
Cooked white rice
½ pound blanched almonds

Fry parsley, peppers and onions in oil slowly for 15 minutes. Put mixture in roaster and add tomatoes, spices, salt and pepper. Simmer 15 minutes, then add garlic. Dredge Chicken in flour, salt, pepper and paprika. Fry till brown and lay in the sauce and cook at 275 F in covered roaster for 1.5 to 2 hours. Add currants ½ hour before serving. Arrange rice on platter, pour sauce over and the place chicken on top. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese As It Should Be

Mac and Cheese is comfort food and filler for empty tummies. When smart chefs get hold of the idea that they are supposed to make it somehow sophisticated, they fail miserably and ruin the whole dish.
I love stinky cheese. I am a mad defender of stinky cheese. But this is not the place for it. This is the place, and possibly the only place, where Velveeta is a necessity---in no way expendable or replaceable.

Making good Macaroni and cheese is the easiest thing in the world. There are just two rules, number one, of course, being Velveeta. That cannot change. The second rule involves pasta shape and is something more flexible. I recommend jumbo, if you can find it, or large elbow macaroni. Penne or shells will do in a pinch. Avoid anything smaller or more delicate. You may use anything from 8 ounces to one pound, and of course your finished dish will serve more or fewer, more or less lavishly, depending on your decision. I used 12 when the children were all home---I use 8 now… I still serve it with broccoli, and a roll. When my father-in-law was waning, we could always get him to eat my macaroni and cheese in great quantities, even when he wouldn’t eat anything else.

You’ll need a pound of Velveeta.

You’ll need the equivalent of a stick of butter. I used margarine when I had to and it worked fine. Really, really cheap margarine worked just fine.

You may use whole, skim, or canned milk---you’ll need 4 cups. When I use canned, I just use one regular sized can of milk and enough water to make up a quart. This is probably the cheapest way to do it.

Oh, yes! ½ cup all-purpose white flour.

So here’s how:

Cook the macaroni, al dente.

In a large pot, melt the 1 stick “butter” on medium heat and mix in ½ cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt and about ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Stir with a whisk until it is well blended and cooked for just a minute---it’ll taste better.

Pour in milk and whisk well. Continue whisking (most of the time) so that no lumps develop in your white sauce until it thickens. Add velveeta, either grated or just sliced thin, and let it melt and cook, stirring constantly (it will sure scorch fast!). When the cheese is melted, stir in the macaroni and pour the whole thing into a pyrex or metal casserole and bake at 350 about 20 minutes until it’s bubbly and starting to brown a bit. Or, if you are very hungry, skip the baking altogether. Sometimes kids can’t wait. Serve with a veggie. On the off chance that you have leftovers, just refrigerate and reheat in the microwave or oven. OR, mix in one can Wolf Brand chile and serve with cornbread---GREAT leftovers.

Love, Syler

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cheap, Good Food...(recipes)

When my kids were little, they didn’t all like their vegetables, but they all loved them a couple of weeks later when they became part of “that kickass soup”.

I’m posting this today because I know times are hard and money’s tight. My soup is pretty much free. I’m posting both ingredients and instructions, so pay attention.

The unchangeable ingredients are: beef, onions, potatoes, carrots and one can tomato soup.

The soup is pretty much free because it is all leftovers. That’s the catch. You have to get used to freezing every leftover you can.
If a kid leaves part of his hamburger, wash off the leftover meat and stick it in a baggy in the freezer. If you have a slice of dried up roast, ditto. Look for soup bones on for cheap. Every smidgeon of beef you can get you hands on is immediately frozen. Same thing with onions. Raw onions are frequently leftover when preparing or consuming food. Bag em and freeze em.

Potatoes are a bit different, since the ideal situation would be to put in raw potatoes, peeled or not, but you will find that any form of leftover potato will do as well, including mashed or creamed potatoes. Just save them in the freezer. I almost always have a couple of stray carrots in the “crisper”, but the same applies to carrots as the rest. Leftovers are perfect.

Now, possible additions include green beans, English peas and corn. I eschew cabbage type vegs because the flavor is too strong. As with all the other ingredients, the thing to look for is leftover or perhaps superfluous vegetables. (Somebody might give you five pounds of greenbeans, for instance.)

Assembling the soup is extremely simple: tear open the bags and deposit everything frozen in a big pot with one can of tomato soup and enough water to cover. Add about 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper then cook it on low all day, stirring every hour or so. When evening comes, serve the hot, flavorful goodness to your family with a pan of cornbread:

1 ½ cup cornmeal
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
¼ cup bacon grease
Mix bacon grease into dry ingredients
1 beaten egg
About 1 ½ cup milk---enough to make a pancake-like batter

Pour into hot 12-inch iron skillet greased with bacon grease

Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Y'all hoard your leftovers and try this. I'll try to remember to publish some more cheap recipes.

Apropos of nothing, but very important to me, my husband is on peritoneal dialysis and is feeling so much better.