MADEMOISELLE . . . COCO CHANEL AND THE PULSE OF HISTORY

 

 

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In 1955 I discovered Vogue Magazine.   An elegant, exotic, exciting and completely new world spilled from the pages.

The one shoe store in our small town sold shoes in two colours – black and brown.  White shoes for nurses.  Clothing came in three styles – practical, matronly and Eaton’s catalog. I was young.  I wanted more.    I devoured Vogue.  I discovered Coco Chanel.

 

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My clothing budget was meager.

I raided Woolworth’s Five and Dime  for strands of pearls.

I bought men’s tortoise shell frames for my eye glasses

 

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I sewed white collars and cuffs onto my dark suits and black dresses.

And insanely and extravagantly  I spent a weeks salary on a bottle of Chanel No 5 perfume.

All because of Coco Chanel!

 

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MADEMOISELLE    COCO CHANEL  and the pulse of history  by Rhonda K. Garelick is a riveting biography of one of the most fascinating woman of the 20th century.

If you admire Chanel.  Love fashion.  Adore Paris – then dive into this book for interesting new information about this woman who created a global icon – CHANEL NO 5.

 

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This book is an intriguing  glimpse into the life of Chanel – warts and all.  If you find the tales of  Chanel reinventing herself repetitious – ignore them!   If the amount of words overwhelm you – skip a few pages.  If you feel the photographs are too small – be clever and Goggle image of some of the men in her life.  You’ll be rewarded with dozens of photographs  of Boy Capel, Igo Stravinsky, Grand Duke Dmitri, Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster and poet Pierre Reverdy.

 

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Chanel transformed forever the way we dress.   The little black dresses, flat shoes, elaborate costume jewelry, cardigan sweaters, jersey knits.    She took women out of strait jacket corsets and put them into everything from evening dresses and her classic boucle suits to “boyfriend’s” clothes, fisherman’s sweaters and sailor pants. Today you see these fashions on  women of every age and every background.

 

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I continue my ongoing and long love affair with all things Chanel.   Because of Chanel I fell in love with Paris and all things French.  In my garden  Camellias are blooming.   White Camellias  – Coco Chanel’s favorite flower.

 

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SUMMER IN A DISH … ZUCCHINI AND SWISS CHARD GRATIN

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All through the long and glorious summer the garden  rewarded us with glorious vegetables.  I  walk from the kitchen across a long stretch of grass and into the garden.  It is another world  –  this world of vegetables going quietly about their business of growing.   Italian basil, Thai basil and parsley encircle the garden.  No matter where I am in the garden I brush against these fragrant herbs as I harvest vegetables.  My basket is filled with prickly zucchini and brilliant coloured rainbow Swiss chard.  They will be the starring ingredients of the most delicious, refined and positively addictive vegetable gratin.

Zucchini and Swiss chard gratin  takes the ubiquitous zucchini and the humble Swiss chard to new heights.  Seasoned with onion, paprika and garlic.    Enriched with Parmesan cheese, eggs and tart sour cream .  Topped with buttery bread crumbs and fresh parsley this gratin is paradise in a dish.   Served as  a  main course or as a side dish with  roast chicken  or pork it is summer perfection on a plate.

The very best of summer – ZUCCHINI AND SWISS CHARD GRATIN

THE MAGIC VEGETABLE … ZUCCHINI FRITTERS WITH FETA

I have a magic  zucchini factory in the garden.   One minute beautiful yellow flowers, then POOF, elegant slender zucchini.    One must lift the safe-guarding prickly leaves to be sure to find every zucchini.  Then you gather intoxicating handfuls of mint, dill and parsley.  It is these herbs that make this particular recipe for zucchini fritters so delicious.  Toss in some cubed feta cheese and you are away to the races.

Put small dollops of your zucchini mixture into the saute pan.  They are perfect for appetizers.  Serve them with a simple little dipping sauce of mayonnaise sparked with Sriracha sauce and thinned with a little white wine vinegar.

Or use a large amount of the mixtures for generous sized fritters perfect for a meal.    Garnish with a smattering of Greek yogurt and a sprinkling lemon zest and a little sea salt.  Add a simple tossed salad and you have the ultimate summer meal.

This taste of summer awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

DECADENT DATE SQUARES . . . aka MATRIMONIAL SQUARES

I will never forget the first time I tasted date squares.  I was still in public school.    My best friend’s Mom was an excellent cook and baker.   One day after-school she served us a treat that  had me over the moon.  A sweet square that looked a little crumbly around the edges .  One bite and I was swooning over a rich, buttery, caramel enhanced oat crumb with an intensely exotic filling of dark, sweet dates.  She called these magical morsels matrimonial squares.   Even the name was wonderful.  Matrimonial squares.  Were these a special creation for weddings?  Or did they bring about marriage?

Date squares (matrimonial squares) were my first introduction to baking squares.  None of my cookbooks had a section for “squares”.    My cookbooks were published in the thirties and early forties and were all that was available.    I had started baking around l945.  I asked for the recipe and these many years later I  am still baking Mrs. Rybka’s Matrimonial Squares.

This old fashion square is a treat any time of day.  Date Squares are perfect with morning coffee (think of all those healthy rolled oats).  A sublime dessert lavished with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  They are calling you name from MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

CHICKEN LIVER PATE WITH FRESH HERBS . . . easy to make and costs next to nothing

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You know when Edith Piaf is singing in your kitchen something wonderful will be cooking on the stove.   But first you must wander into the garden and snip a basket of fresh herbs … some sage, a little marjoram and a few branches of thyme. These fragrant herbs are the stars of this chicken liver paté that is dead simple to whip up, costs next to nothing and is very, very French.

HERBED CHICKEN LIVER PATÉ is best served a day or two after you’ve made it.   You can transfer the puréed  paté into two  1 cup crocks or 4 small ramekins.  You can also freeze the recipe, which makes it just about the most perfect “appy” to have on hand.

This recipe has you simmering the chicken liver in melted butter just until it turns pink. Then everything is turned out into a food processor and puréed until silky smooth. It really is easy as one-two-three. Serve it with lots of crusty bread or crackers.

Bring your basket of herbs into MRS. BUTTERFINGERS kitchen and whip up this elegant chicken liver paté.

EXOTIC ASIAN PORK RIBS . . . ROXY’S BISTRO STYLE

There’s always a back story to opening a restaurant.  Some one thing or person who influenced you.  Andy Chan was such a person.

When my husband and I were courting our favorite restaurant was not a white tablecloth, fine dining restaurant.  It was  a takeout Chinese hole-in-the-wall.   The menu featured the usual dried ribs, chicken balls and stir-fries.  But there was a second private menu.  Exquisite food prepared for a different clientele.  Late night mah-jong players.    Andy Chan was the brilliant chef.  His dishes were sublimely exotic.

We hung out in Andy’s kitchen, sitting on what Andy called  Chinese Chesterfield’s (rice bags).  This amazing man shared his recipes and  his knowledge with us.  He related  how  he started out sweeping floors and scrubbing pots in restaurants in Hong Kong.    How secretive their chefs would  be.  Striking him if they thought he was watching how they cooked.    He  persevered and acquired great knowledge.     Andy emigrated to Canada and Regina.      He did well, and eventually moved his Chinese take-out restaurant to a new location on Hill Avenue, in Regina, Saskatchewan.  He called it PEARL RIVER.

More than forty years ago our restaurant,  ROXY’S BISTRO,  served French cuisine with a decided Asian flavour.  Today they call it fusion.  We called it “Andy’ style”.   WHERE TO EAT IN CANADA listed ROXY’S BISTRO as one of the top one hundred restaurants in Canada.    We will be forever grateful to Andy Chan for his dishes like “fish in the  sink”  and  “fish cooked three times”,  and for filling our courtship days with the flavours of ginger, star anise, sesame oil and exotic vegetables.

This is not a complicated recipe.  The secret to irresistible, tender and succulent  ribs is  braising the ribs first  and then the slow, low temperature cooking in the oven.  You can use any type of pork ribs  when you make  ASIAN PORK RIBS .