Candy’s Commanding Curve

May 3rd, 2014. Derby Day. Time to pick ‘em using the trusted method that served the Galore women (mother, grandmother, aunt) so well. It’s all in the name.

The day they hit the trifecta, Mom, Grams, and Auntie M. invested their winnings in three identical 14K gold bracelets: a Fort Knox for the wrist. I now have my mom’s; my sister has my grandmother’s, and my cousin has Auntie M’s.

So my annual Derby Day ritual goes like this:

1. Mom’s bracelet, locked and loaded.
2. Enter the zen zone.
3. Scan the names of the horses.
4. Zone in, zone out.
5. Place my bet.

This year, “Candy Boy” coulda’ been a contender, but nah. Way too cute and obvious. Further down the list, there it was. No doubt. Commanding Curve. Says it all.

Went down to St. Marks Place at 5:30-ish to meet Nate (not his real name; just my homage to Damon Runyon’s Nathan Detroit). Put a C-note down on Commanding Curve.

“Pays 50 to 1, Candy,” Nate said. “The longest shot going.”

“Gotta be Commanding Curve,” I said.

Transaction completed, I stopped in at a Korean Deli to pick up a Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts bar, then strolled over to Crif Dogs for its New Yorker hot dog (this gal’s a purist); walked into the secret phone booth on premise and dialed up for entry to pdt (“pleas don’t tell”), best speakeasy in the city,  where I ordered my usual Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (goes great with Ritter’s Dark Whole Hazelnuts bar).

Whipped out my iPad  just before post time; and then they were off. I phoned M. once the place and show horses were announced.

“Holy Crap! Well…it’s Candy’s place!” I said, breathlessly.

” Your place tonight? Thought you were…”

No, no! Place, M. PLACE! Not the win, but I still made 38 to 1.

“Congrats, Galore! Good going! So I take it you bet on Commanding Curve?”

“Mom would’a been proud.”

“Indeed.”

“See ya later tonight.”

“Right. And don’t spend it all in one place.”

I walked over to the bar.

“Still have that Seppeltsfield 1912 Para Centenary Tawny Port locked away? I asked.

My bar guy grinned. “Yup.”

“Sold!” I said.

With my bottle of liquid gold in hand, I left pdt and stopped off for a few more Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts bars, which, I gotta admit, boast some of the most impressive commanding curves out there. Absolutely gorgeous.

Cabbed up to Grand Central and caught the next train to Connecticut. M. picked me up at the station.

“Hope you’re in the mood for some trapezoidal approximation under the curve.” I grinned.

He chuckled.

“Love it when you talk dirty math to me, Galore.”

Slipped the port out of its bag and flashed the Ritter Sport bars.

“You certainly know how to celebrate a win,” he said.

“Good as gold,” I replied, and jangled my bracelet.

 

RS2249-dark-hazel lr

Candy’s and candy’s commanding curves

Seppeltsfield

100 Year Old Tawny Port pairs beautifully with Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts. Light up a Davidoff Nicaragua Toros to experience Candy’s personal trifecta.

 

 

 

 

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Red Eye Candy

Candy Galore here, catching her breath.

Crime caper in California delayed my Valentine’s Day celebration with M. He so looks forward to them. Promised to make it up to him.

Caught the red eye flight and drove to Ridgefield with my copy of John Logan’s two character play RED, about the artist Mark Rothlko. Saw it on Broadway a few years back. Alfred Molina should have won the Tony for his bravura performance as Rothko. Nailed it. Hot stuff.

Plan was to perform a dramatic reading of my favorite moments from this play. I, of course, would act the Rothko part; M. would read Ken, Rothko’s young assistant (for which Eddie Redmayne did win the Tony.)

After downing a bottle of Pol Roger, M. and I channeled our most actor-ly selves. We read with great passion (or it could it have been the champagne speaking). Pretty spectacular.

Rothko and Ken engage in an explosive, rapid fire exchange about what the color red means:

“…the emotion of red at sunrise….heart beat…passion…Red wine. Red roses. Red beets. Lipstick. Tulips. Peppers. Arterial Blood. Rust on the bike on the lawn. Apples. Tomatoes. Dresden firestorm at night. The sun in Rousseau, the flag in Delacroix, the robe in El Greco. A rabbit’s nose. An albino’s eyes. A parakeet. Florentine marble. Atomic flash. Nick yourself shaving, blood on the Barbasol. The ruby slippers. Technicolor. That phone to the Kremlin on the President’s desk. Russian flag. Nazi flag. Chinese flag. Pomegranates. Red light district. Red tape. Rouge. Lava. Lobsters. Scorpions. Stop sign. Sports car. A blush. Viscera. Flame. Dead Fauvists. Traffic lights. Titian hair. Slash your wrists. Blood in the sink. Santa Claus. Satan….” (RED by John Logan, published by Oberon Modern Plays, 2012)

“So M.,” I whispered, “what does ‘red’ mean to you?”

“Ritter Sport Marzipan, Candy,” he said, while opening a second bottle of Pol Roger.

“Ooooh, yeah!” I said. Whatta guy, I thought.

“And you?” he asked.

The booze, the emotions, the energy… all converged at that moment. ” Rum… Raaay…Haze…”

After a brief intermission, my head cleared, and I finished my thought: “Rum, Raisins and Hazelnuts, Sweetie.”

Then we both stared quietly at a print of Barnett Newman’s Vir Heroicus Sublimis (translation: Man, Heroic and Sublime). The original hangs in MOMA. Gaze at it long enough and the canvas begins to vibrate. Really. No  substances required. Although I would recommend a Ritter Sport red foiled bar to heighten the experience.

M.'s passion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Candy's candy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good, good, good, good vibrations.... Bravo, Barnett!

 

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Nostalgia: Of Carousels, a Licorice Tooth, and Panda

The most vivid memories of Gourmet Grande Dame’s youth center on the Coney Island Carousel. Dressed in her Annie Oakley finery (fringed jacket and skirt, cowgirl hat, and a holster), young GGD would insert her right booted foot into the stirrup, hurl her left leg over the wooden horse with the flaring nostrils and wind-swept golden mane, buckle herself in, and then ride off to wild and thrilling adventures (albeit in the solitude of her own 5 year old mind). She’d shoot her toy guns, perform stunts, hang over the side of the horse. jump over imaginary obstacles, meet up with the Lone Ranger, and have an all around rip-roaring, shoot-em-up grand time. Coney Island’s carousel was the one to beat.

Aren’t children’s  imaginations remarkable?

Not too long ago, GGD drove over to Van Saun Park in Paramus to meet some friends for a walk. The meet spot was the Carousel. GGD had not been to the park in over a decade and was unaware that it even had a carousel.  But what a carousel it is! Not just horses and lions and tigers, mind you, but a vast array of all sorts of exotic animals: an ostrich, dragon, gorilla, rooster, billy goat, rhino, hippo… and, lo and behold….

Carousel Exotica

….a panda. GGD squealed. This was fortuitous. Euro American Brands was to become the exclusive importer of Panda Licorice as of 2014, and what does she stumble upon?  It was a blogger’s miracle.

As she headed out from work the next Friday, she took with her a bag of Panda’s Candy Coated Licorice from EAB’s sample room. Saturday morning, Panda bag in hand, she headed over to the Van Saun Carousel (a beauty, by the way! – imported from California), bought herself two tickets (a double ride was in order), and climbed on board the Panda. No longer up to the physical feats of her childhood, she settled into the saddle, tuned her iPod Nano to one of the songs from Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls, tore open her licorice bag and then savored the taste. The candy coating was crisp and clean and fresh, and the licorice, all natural; no artificial anything. (There was not much candy coated licorice to choose from when GGD was a child. She would buy her little box at the Five and Ten, let the candy coating melt in her mouth, and then spit out the vile black thing posing as licorice. It was NOT a premium confection.)

GGD is indeed ecstatic that Panda has joined the family of prestigious EAB brands. Imported from Finland, Panda has an illustrious history. It is simply the best licorice product out there.

But we must now turn our attention to the Loesser lyric* that held GGD’s attention during her carousel ride:

But more I cannot wish you than to wish you find your love
Your own true love this day
With the sheep’s eye and the licorice tooth
And the strong arms to carry you away.

“Sheep’s eye”  refers to shyness; but a great deal of controversy swirls around the implied meaning of “licorice tooth.” GGD prefers “a fondness for sweet things.”

Indeed, GGD’s  life is all the more sweeter with Panda. More she cannot wish you. Let Panda (and your neighborhood carousel) carry you away.

*More I Cannot Wish You is featured on Paul McCartney’s latest CD, Kisses on the Bottom. Happily, a new generation will discover Frank Loesser. Gourmet Grande Dame extends her heartfelt gratitude to Sir Paul.

 

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Fling In The New Year!

Gourmet Grande Dame is an ardent fan of James Joyce. In the 1970′s she read The Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as an undergraduate, and she subsequently wrote her master’s essay on Ulysses. (She does confess to having not made it past page 5 of Finnegan’s Wake.)

Fast-forward some twenty years later. GGD is an ardent fan of Northern Exposure, which ran on CBS from 1990 to 1995. She regards it as the apogee of the medium. The program was original, creative, imaginative, quirky, funny, eclectic, poignant, insightful… all qualities to which GGD aspires. She regards the “fling” scene as one of the finest in the series.

She asks her readers to invest three minutes and 17 seconds to view it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6zmMWfzv38

(The Joyce quote Chris recites is the final sentence from Portrait of the Artist.)

Gourmet Grande Dame was inspired. What better way to welcome in 2014 than with a spectacular Euro-American Brands fling? Here is what will comprise GGD’s very own Candy Cocktail Fling (with a nod of appreciation to her colleague, Candace Galore).

Into a large corrugated case she will place the following:

  • a healthy assortment of Ritter Sport Mini bars and chocolate Cubes;
  • a hefty assortment of Anthon Berg liquor filled chocolate bottles and Chocolate Cocktail bottles;
  • several Panda licorice bars and the contents of two bags of Panda Candy Coated Licorice;
  • the contents of several boxes of Panda/Jelly Bean Planet natural, organic jelly beans;
  • a colorful variety of Cavendish and Harvey hard candies;
  • a few dozen Chupa Chups lollipops
  • 10 1.8 oz. Schluckwerder gold foiled marzipan bars;
  • 6 bags of Bahlsen HIT minis
  • 12 Manner Wafer Pocket Packs
  • 6 gold foiled packets of Jacquot truffles
  • 4 boxes of Schulte Florentine cookies

Gourmet Grande Dame didn’t have to give much thought to the musical accompaniment; Beethoven’s Ode to Joy is perfect. (GGD vetoed Candace’s suggestion of I Want Candy.)

Because a catapult poses some technical and logistical issues, a ladder will suffice; and while wild, rugged landscapes offer the most beautiful settings for flings (and New Jersey offers so many breathtaking locales), Gourmet Grande Dame’s fling will take place from the confines of her own backyard (where clean-up will be easy and environmentally friendly).

GGD will invite her many friends, honoring the strongest with the task of climbing the ladder and flinging the carton with as high an arc as possible once the music begins.

As the wildly colorful sweets take flight against the bright blue of the afternoon sky, Gourmet Grande Dame and her friends will break out into gratifying smiles. Sometimes it is the thing you fling — this one representing the created conscience of Euro-American Brands.

The character in Northern Exposure ends the scene by muttering this final word: “Yeah.”

Gourmet Grande Dame will end her fling by tweaking that thought and sentiment just a wee bit. She will joyously shout out “Yes I said yes!”

Gourmet Grande Dame wishes her readers Bonne Annee et Bonne Sante and herewith conveys Candy Galore’s New Year’s greeting: “Have a rockin’ 2014, Sweeties!” (Candace reports that she has her own “unique fling thing” planned. Confetti launchers will be involved.)

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Metaphysical Candy Redux: Undone by Donne

Gourmet Grande Dame was unable to attend the lecture at the Carlyle Hotel, so I subbed for her; it was one of a series sponsored by Columbia University’s Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute (“ZMBBI”). Got to rub elbows with Nobel winners in neuroscience. Not too shabby.

Won’t burden you with the topic of the evening. Confession:  I downed way too many glasses of cabernet — even for me — to remember.  But it was impressive as all get out. (I think.)

Packed Ritter Sport minis in my bag. Wanted to appear demure while nibbling. Dame insisted that I be on my best behavior.

At the end of the talk, Dr. Thomas Jessel, one of the co-founders of the ZMBBI and winner of the 2013 Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience, gave a closing address. He spoke about the defining characteristics of a scientist: a curious mind, a passion for his subject; and the overwhelming desire/drive to make a contribution. We needn’t be Motimer Zuckermans or Jerome L. Greene Foundations (each of whom donated $200 million.) He assured us that the ZMBBI would be most grateful for whatever amount we gave. His appeal was understated, elegant, and powerful. What gal with a heart and soul wouldn’t whip out her checkbook for the chance to support the contributions of the men and women whose genius and tireless research are expected to find cures for Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and other debilitating and tragic illnesses within the next 10 to 12 years?

I went up to Dr. Jessel (he of the helluva British accent) after the lecture and handed him my check along with my business card.

“The name’s Galore. Candace Galore. Private Investigator for the specialty food trade and award-winning celebrity bloggess. Care for some Ritter Sport?” I offered him a Ritter Sport Yogurt and Praline Mini. “You should have a square of the Yogurt first — tangy — followed by a chaser of the Praline square — sweet. It’s the all time finest chocolate combo ever.”

“Ah, Ritter Sport. Superb,” he said.

“I understand your specialty is synaptic plasticity and its relationship to motor functions,” I said. (Had done a bit of Googling the moment I heard that velvety accent.)

“Yes.”

“Gotta curious thing going on. I seem to lose control of my motor functions  whenever I hear John Donne’s erotic poetry. Any off-hand insight?”

He thought. Quite a bit of time elapsed, but since I happen to get jazzed while watching demigods engage in thought processes,  I stood patiently waiting while we both worked our way through our Ritter Sport Minis.

Finally, he spoke.

License my roving hands and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,
My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.**

SPLAT.

He helped me up off the thickly carpeted floor.

“See?!” I said.

“Hmmmm. Have you consumed Ritter Sport during these recitations?”

“It’s only happened a few times, but yes, coincidentally.”

“Chocolate affects our brains, as does a symphony, a great painting, a poem. The combination of Ritter Sport and John Donne appears to have a more potent effect on you than does just the combination of a Yogurt and Praline mini.”

“Huh.” That was as sophisticated a reply as I could muster.

“Given the industry work you do, you should attend next month’s lecture. Charles Zucker will be presenting his findings on the taste system, how the brain’s receptors, neurons, and circuits respond to sweet, bitter, umami, salty, and sour stimuli.”

“All righty. Here, have some for the road.” Handed him a sleeve of Ritter Sport Minis. “See you next month, then. Ta.”

Note to self: find an audio download of Donne’s sonnets recorded by a British actor; mix with Ritter Sport; add a bottle of cabernet at my own risk.

 

Candy's favorite Ritter Sport Minis Combo. (Warning: Women should not consume while listening to recitations of Donne's poetry.)

_________________________________________________

**Excerpt from John Donne Elegy: To His Mistress on Going to Bed

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Metaphysical Candy: Birds of a Feather…

Hot date with M.  Bought some new duds just for the occasion, a Kate Spade ostrich feather skirt. Take a gander.

Told M. to meet me on the 4th floor foyer of the Museum of Modern Art, top of the escalator.  Gourmet Grande Dame turned me onto Cy Twombly’s Leda and the Swan (ref. her blog post titled “Neuroscience for the Holidays” published 12/19/12) . Now it was my turn to initiate M. Planned on gazing at this towering work of genius for a good 30 minutes or so. Figured sustenance would be in order. Packed a few Ritter Sport White Chocolate with Whole Hazelnut Bars. No other gourmet treat is as perfectly themed to Twombly’s masterpiece as is this variety.

M. was prompt, as usual. First saw me, then  my get-up. The look in his eyes was like a 14 year old happening upon a hidden stash of fireworks. (Gracias, Katie.) I pointed to the painting. He turned to look at it. His jaw dropped. “Wow” he said, in a whisper.

“Yeppers,” I said.

I pulled out the Ritter Sport White Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts bar and snapped it open.  M. threw his head back and laughed. “You sure know how to pick ‘em, Galore.”

“Indeed I do.” I broke off a row and handed it to him. Broke a row off for myself. There’s just something about those roasted whole hazelnuts and crisped rice: texture, crunch, toastiness… all kinds of exciting sensory things going on, happening all at once, against a field of buttery white, like the painting (a square, like Ritter Sport, but measuring 6 feet by 6 feet, give or take an inch here and there). I popped a Ritter Sport square.

“Into birds, are you, Candy?”

“Where would modern aviation be if if weren’t for their inspiration?” I bit off another square. We both stared at the majestic canvas in silence.

“Given your penchant for birds and feathers, I’ve got a sonnet to recite for you,” he said.

“Okay, shoot,” I said. Started on my third Ritter Sport square. M. started on his recitation.

Behold thy handmaid, Lord, whose loos’ning thigh
Admits the feathered glory of thy Dove
In whom worlds, times, pow’rs up and down do move.

[I stopped chewing. A square of Ritter Sport remained immobile in my mouth.]

Who sees the living god, they say, must die.
I feel a dying God, and lying, die (o!)
To make God live. Ah, but Lord, remove
Not yet from me. With me fill’st thou thy love

[Got weak in the knees.]

In truth who living dies eternally,
As thou dying, liv’st. Once to her thou camest.
That coming feels she ever. My poor sense

[Double meltdown happening: Candy and candy. Started drooling involuntarily.]

With Second Coming’s fond, weak hopes thou tamest,
Exacting still the spirit’s strict expense.
Cancel those payments. Let it be thy will
To see me ever spending, unspent still.**

Knees gave way. Down I went.

“Candy! You okay? Come on, I’ll take you to the nearest emergency room,” he said.

“No, no. Went all limp before landing. Nothing hurt.”

“You sure?” he asked.

“Yeah. Hospital not necessary. Nearest hotel room just might be, though. But there’s also a neat little stair well down this corridor and to the right.”

He chuckled, lifted me up, wiped the chocolate drool from my chin.

“Who wrote that?” I asked.

“I did,” he said.

Knees buckled for a second time, but M. caught me before I hit the floor.

“Can I pick ‘em, or what?” I asked.

“Indeed you can,” he whispered.

He bit off a square from his row of the White Whole Hazelnut bar. “As the Mitchell Parish lyric says, let’s go build that stairway to the stars, Candy.”

Gobblin’ down a row of Ritter Sport White before wobblin’ off (needed an energy boost), my heart took wing. [Skirt] feathers were about to fly.

Cy Twombly's Masterpiece

 

Ritter Sport's Masterpiece

** Annunciation 1973 sonnet written by Ira Paul Newman.

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Ready…Aim…Higher

Gourmet Grande Dame attended the annual Women In Communications Conference on October 18-19 in Springfield, IL (home of Abe Lincoln and Bart Simpson) where she had the privilege of meeting Bonnie St. John, this year’s International Matrix Award winner and featured Keynote Speaker.

Left to right: Gourmet Grande Dame, Bonnie St. John, Fran Hopkins (AWC NJ President), and Aliah Davis-McHenry (AWC NJ and National Board Member).

Bonnie had to have her right leg amuptated when she was five. She went on to become a Paralympic medalist in downhill skiing, winning a silver and two bronze medals at the 1984 games in Innsbruck. How did a black kid with one leg from sunny California (i.e., no snow)become a world champion skier? Bonnie told us how much the Matrix Award meant to her because it was about communications. Her family did not have money. Her father abandoned the family when Bonnie was a few months old. Her mother, an English teacher, was an alcoholic plagued with other demons; she would spend hours a day, though, writing down affirmations. Positive thinking rubbed off on her daughter. Bonnie had to raise the funds to attend a skiing school in Vermont, and she was forced to hone her communications skills (writing and speaking) to do so. She raised most, but not all, of the money needed. The skiing school provided the balance by way of scholarship funds.

Bonnie earned her undergraduate degree Magna Cum Laude from Harvard and her Masters in Economics from Oxford, where she was a Rhodes scholar (and a fiercely competitive squash player). She became an award winning salesperson at IBM and went on to work in the Clinton and Bush administrations in the area of economic policy.  She has authored six books and donates her time speaking to children, homeless shelters, and community groups while traveling for corporate clients.  

During one of her Paralympic races, those who preceeded her down the slopes were falling at a difficult icy patch. Bonnie took off and she, too, fell. Because her habituated behavior is to get up after falling (she spent her early life doing nothing but), she got up and finished the race, placing second. Lesson learned: people fall down; winners get up; Gold Medal winners just get up a little faster.

One of her stories resonated deeply for Gourmet Grande Dame. At one of Bonnie’s  pro bono lectures, a woman in the audience was with her son, who had suffered severe, disfiguring burns over his entire body. She asked Bonnie this question: “Will my son have a normal life?” Bonnie was unsure of how to respond and had to take a few seconds before replying: “No,” she said to the mother. “Aim higher.” Normal people are riddled with dysfunctions, she explained. “Aim higher.”

“Aim higher” is a beautiful mantra. Gourmet Grande Dame suspects that this philosophy is the driving force behind so many of the brands she showcases in her blog. Every Ritter Sport bar carries the signature of Alfred Ritter on the foil wrapper, guaranteeing the quality of chocolate that his grandparents began manufaturing in 1932. Bahlsen cookies carry the Egyptian TET symbol of quality, and Werner Michael Bahlsen still oversees his family’s legacy. Manner Wafers feature the cathedral of Vienna, so enshrined in the fabric of that city, as is Manner.  Anthon Berg confections proudly display “By appointment to the Royal Danish Court Since 1884.” By aiming higher these companies have gifted the world with wonderful specialty confections that proudly represent their respective countries’ finest exports the world over. There’s nothing “normal” about these brands or their achievements. 

Gourmet Grande Dame urges her readers to visit Bonnie St. John’s web site to see why she was named one of the five most inspiring women in America by CBS. Nibble on a Ritter Sport bar or a Bahlsen cookie or a Manner Wafer or an Anthon liquor filled Chocolate Cocktail while you do so. You’ll be aiming higher, on many levels.

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Hero Worship: the Best is Always Desirable

Gourmet Grande Dame attended a wonderful lecture at Bonhams on The Allure of Jewelry: The Best is Always Desirable. Janet Zapata, the featured speaker, is an author, decorative arts consultant, and jewelry historian. She wore on her right wrist a stunning, architecturally modernistic Van Cleef and Arpels gold bracelet dating from the 1970′s. Another beauty encircled her left wrist, but GGD couldn’t avert her eyes from the Van Cleef and Arpels number.  Ms. Zapata, a curator at Tiffany’s for a number of years, began her program with a quote from Jean Schlumberger, one of Tiffany’s iconic designers: “I observe nature and find verve.”

When it comes to verve, GGD is herself not in short supply.

Some weeks back, while at a friend’s dinner party, GGD was thunerstruck when the fruit and cheese desert course was brought to the table: among the grape clusters was something GGD had never before seen: a double grape. Yes, she has seen double cherries throughout her life, and she always squeals in delight; but never, until this moment, a double grape. GGD grabbed her iPhone and, while the dinner guests engaged in polite conversation,  GGD engaged in a not so polite photo shoot. Gaze upon this exquisite work of nature:

GGD thanks Sheighla Doyle for serving as hand model

 Talk about nature’s verve!

GGD has had fruit on the brain ever since, so when Ms. Zapata flashed on the screen an image of a bracelet designed by Tiffany’s Donald Clafflin, best known for his whimsical creations, she gasped.

Ms. Zapata did point how this strawberry bracelet might very well shred any garment with which it came into contact. It is crafted of 18 karat gold, platinum, diamonds totaling 9 carats, coral, and enamel. It commanded a price of  $30,000 to $40,000 at auction at Sotheby’s, a bargain compared to Tiffany’s other pieces that fetched $4 to $7 million. GGD reached for her smelling salts.

Strawberries have inspired artists for centuries: they are embroidered on  Desdemona’s handkerchief; they appear in Renaissance paintings of the Virgin Mary; they are the motifs for drop dead gorgeous jewelry from Tiffany’s; all a tribute to nature’s verve.

That evening, GGD experienced a (not surprising) hankering for  strawberries. She opened her cupboard and reached for her jar of Hero Strawberry Spreadable Fruit. Hero, established in 1886 in the quaint village of Lenzburg, has become the gold standard of Gourmet Fruit Spreads around the world. Its founders were committed to preserving fruits as gently and carefully as possible; the original recipe, which draws heavily on Swiss tradition, has remained unchanged for 120 years. Hero fruit spreads are 100% natural: they contain no high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavours, colours, or preservatives, and they are certified Kosher by the Orthodox Union.

As she spooned out chunks of glistening berries from the jar, GGD thought about The Nightingale, a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen.  She is sure her readers know the story, but just in case, here is the briefest plot summary, courtesy of Wikipedia: “an  emperor [of China] prefers the tinkling of a bejeweled mechanical bird to the song of a real nightingale. When the Emperor is near death, the [real] nightingale’s song restores his health.”

Bejeweled representations of nature are magnificent, but the real thing, in it simplicity and wonder, never loses its ability to astonish. Borrowing shamelessly from Janet Zapata’s title, GGD’s tag line for this week’s blog post is: The Allure of Hero’s Nature: the Best is Always Desirable.

It’s all about verve.

 
 

The best is always desirable...

 

 

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Oktoberfest Candy – Isn’t It Romantic?

Sunday, September 29,  2013.

Drove out to M.’s today for our annual Oktoberfest celebration. Ridgefield is spectacular this time of year. Air is cool, wind crisp, sun blindingly bright, grass a deep emerald, and leaves just beginning their autumn metamorphosis. Ooooh. Gets a gal’s blood up.

Rang the bell.

“Galore! What?! Where’s your hamper with the beer and brats? Left them in your car? I’ll carry them in.”

“Nope. I thought we’d get down to fundamentals this year, Toots.” I smiled.

He smiled back, knowing something was up.

“Well, I assume you’ve got something pretty special in that bag of yours.”

“Indeed I do. You gonna invite me in?”

In we went.

“So what’s this year’s theme, Candace? Any Bavarian Bar Maid get-ups in there?”

“Hah! No. No costumes this year, Sweetie. Today we’re gonna mark the two hundred and third anniversary of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen with an appropriate ritual. When they got married on October 12, 1810, they threw one helluva shindig. The entire town of Munich was invited to party on the fields in front of the city gates. The populace was royally fed, horse races were the entertainment of the day, and thus was Oktoberfest born.”

I sank down into his sofa. He sank down next to me.

“So we’re gonna celebrate love and marriage today, Candace?”

“Uhhhh… don’t go there today, M.”

“Actually, I was planning on going there.” His eyes showed the way.

“Well then, you can proceed with impunity after our little celebration.” I reached into my bag and pulled out a Ritter Sport Butter Biscuit Bar.

“Here you have it, M. The perfect marriage: cookie and chocolate; a crisp butter biscuit coated in fine cocoa cream and then enrobed in thick milk chocolate. It now ranks as the third best selling Ritter Sport bar in the U.S. A far better marriage, I think, than the politically expedient one of Ludwig and Therese. She had eight children and he had as many mistresses and more affairs.” 

“Even bad marriages produce good children, Candy.”

“And even better festivals, M!”

“Cynical, Galore?”

“Nope. Ever the eternal romantic. Here.” I snapped open the Ritter Sport Butter Biscuit bar and broke off a line of four squares. “Remember the spaghetti eating scene in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp?”

“Yeah.” He paused. “Think I’ll match your Lady and the Tramp and raise it, Candace.” He picked up his remote, scrolled through his playlist, and hit the play icon.  Ella’s velvet voice filled the room.

I get too hungry for dinner at eight.

“Uh-huh,” I said.

I like the theater but never come late.

I nodded.

I never bother with people I hate.

“Yup.”

That’s why the lady is a tramp.

“Four out of four. Bingo!”

I grabbed the remote, muted the goddess of voice, and, locking eyes with M., recited my favorite Lorenz Hart lyrics from the song:

I like the free, fresh wind in my hair,
Life without care,
I’m broke, it’s oke.

I like the sweet, fresh rain in my face.
Diamonds and lace,
No got – so what?

I put the line of Butter Biscuit in my mouth. “So let’s do this!”

He took the other end in his.

“Happy Anniversary, Ludwig and Therese,” I said. With chocolate and cookie held firmly between my lips, my enunciation was lesss than perfect. No matter. Perfection was at the ready via Ritter Sport.

“Happy Anniversary, Candace.”

(M. and I met on October 1, you see.)

 

A heavenly marriage, courtesy of Ritter Sport

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Sacred Messiness, in a Manner of Speaking

Not even Gourmet Grande Dame is immune to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. A lifetime and a half ago, she was downsized from her job at a Fortune 500 Company (that went belly up a few years later),  just two days before she was to close on a co-op. Given that her financial condition was on the brink of material change, she did not go through with the closing. Instead, she spread a sheet out on her living room floor, piled her worldly goods into it, placed the sack into her car, and drove off to her mother’s house where her divorced sister and three children had taken up residence years earlier.

Three households under one roof. It wasn’t pretty.

GGD moved into the lower level bedroom alongside the den. Her belongings (boas, masks, capes, hat boxes full of millinery and tiaras and fur pieces and feathers, paintings and lithographs,  trinkets and baubles of various shapes, colors, sizes, textures, and materials) were scattered here, there, and everywhere in that lower level bedroom. One needed a GPS sytem to navigate through the room, across the shoe rapids, and onto the bed.

Her 6 year old niece would come down of an evening, stand shyly outside the door — hesitatingly — and wait for an invitation to enter. When GGD would warmly invite her in, Ariel would break out into a grin, tip-toe in, and look around the room, eyes sparkling with awe and and wonder. “It’s like a treasure hunt,” she would say, every time. Ariel would open various boxes and drawers and compartments to discover all sorts of gew gaws that little girls love. She would try on jewelry and hats and scarves, moving from one remarkable find to the next.  There were always fresh discoveries to be made. Where others saw mess and disarray, the 6 year old saw treasure.

Yearnings (Harcourt, 2007), Rabbi Irwin Kula’s book about “Ancient Wisdom for Daily Life,” is subtitled “Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life.” There is a chapter where he describes his epiphany regarding his teenage daughter’s messy room: that it was just “always overflowing… that each thing had a special significance; that perhaps [his] daughter did not want things put away neatly, but left out, exposed as if to say, ‘Here I am.’ ”  He goes on to explain that “Perhaps our messes are the treasure boxes of our souls….open and overflowing, meant to be sifted through over and over again…. The opposite of ‘holy’, he explains, ‘ is ‘empty,’ i.e., ‘not yet filled.’ Holy is ‘life intensity.’ The Biblical command ‘You Shall Be Holy’ is an invitation to live as richly and passionately as possible; that’s as close to meaning as you will get….the messes are the point.” (pgs. 43-45)

Gourmet Grande Dame thought about this when she recently opened a bag of Manner Wafers.  Tumbled pell mell into a foil bag, 14 ounces of delicate, light, and airy cream filled wafers make their way from Vienna across the Atlantic Ocean, into the importer’s warehouse, then on to the distributor’s warehouse, onward still to the retailer, and finally to the consumer’s pantry. That’s some journey. Unlike boxed cookies where each has its own isolated compartment, or stands like a soldier at attention, shoulder to shoulder with its comrades, bag life for a cookie can be messy business (like any relationship that involves close proximity and, therefore, tussling). Bagged wafers are not pristine. For one thing, wafer dust can be plentiful; some wafers lose pieces of their waffle pattern due to jostling;  imperfections abound.

But when one understands and appreciates the concept of “sacred messiness,” Manner bagged wafers become sacredly symbolic. They are exceptionally beautiful and moving precisely because of their “imperfections.”

Ariel is now 23. She is a fastidious young woman, a gifted nurse, a gourmet chef, and a pastry artist par excellence. Everything in her world now has its place and there is a place for everything.  She would not suffer the treasure room of yore. Gourmet Grande Dame often grows wistful, but knows that down the road she will take Ariel’s future 6 year old daughter by the hand and lead her into an overflowing room, watching the wonder register in the child’s eyes.

But this future generation will have an added treat: while exhorting her great niece to explore and uncover the hidden joys and surprises waiting to be discovered,  Grand Auntie Dame will have at the ready a bag of Manner wafers, the only suitable treat. She will show her grand-niece how to blow off the wafer dust, first making a wish; explain how life can be both messy and unbelievably sweet at the same time; and how Manner Wafer Bags are extra special,  filled as they are with special treasures for those willing and able to understand. 

Where the meaning of life can be found....

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