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Yogi Bear.

Warning: Jenny… Do not read this blog.

I have to take a brief pause today from our cooking marathon to brag. No, Gracie did not volunteer at a homeless shelter on Christmas. She was too busy reading Chelsea Handler’s latest novel. No, David did not win the Nobel Peace Prize. He was too busy screaming. No, my weekend caregiver did not learn how to do my makeup. She was busy still trying to learn how to make toast. No, I did not find a cure for ALS. I was too busy watching Vanderpump Rules. I wanted to brag about someone else today.

I received a ton of emails last night from readers asking me about my friend. Now, in life, you have friends and then you have friends. You know what I’m talking about. There are the friends who accept your invitation to a dinner party and then there are friends who accept your invitation to meet you in the recovery room after surgery.… Elective or nonelective :-). My friend, who you guys have asked about, is both. She is the girl that shows up during the sunshine and the thunderstorm. I am talking about my friend Yolanda. But we never really call her Yolanda. No, we mostly call her Yo, Yo-Yo or Yogi Bear. You might know her as one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Now, you know my obsession with reality TV… The Housewives in particular. When Yogi told me that she was going to be on the Housewives of Beverly Hills, I shamefully was so fucking stoked. Shameful because it’s rude to be a voyeur in the lives of others. Fucking stoked because I love being a voyeur in the lives of others. Interestingly though, since Yolanda has been on the show for the past three seasons, I think we’ve discussed it maybe two times. We have other stuff to talk about…


What other stuff do we have to talk about? It turns out that Yogi and I are both sick. Very very sick. I have ALS and Yogi has Lyme disease. The first friend I called when I was diagnosed with ALS was Yolanda. I called my other best friend Jenny after because I was too scared to call her. I knew my news would kill her. But, I knew that Yolanda would be strong… Strong for me. That’s who Yolanda is. Strong. Dutch strong. Of all the experiences that Yolanda and I have been through for the past 12 years, they were just training wheels for what was to come. People close to Yolanda have a saying… We say, “What Would Yolanda Do?” Yolanda always has the answers whether it be about boyfriends, husbands, health, decorating, children… Everything. She just always does everything right. I was like a spaz running around Santa Barbara and Yolanda was the rock. Yolanda and I had coffee Monday through Friday for four years straight at Starbucks in Santa Barbara after we dropped off our children at elementary school. Then we would have our favorite lunch together (goat cheese salad). Then, sometimes we would have dinner together at her house with all the children (chicken and pesto pasta). We spent hours every day solving the world’s problems… Well, mostly Yolanda solving the world’s problems… I was busy smoking cigarettes. We have been thick as thieves ever since.

Yolanda is like the big sister. She’s more mature, you want all of her clothes, she makes better decisions, you don’t always agree with her, she’s there for every holiday, she will defend your honor, she knows what’s best for you and in a crisis… She is there. Just like a sister. When I had my diaphragm pacing surgery, I was in the recovery room near dead with a collapsed lung and Yolanda comes running through the door to be by my side. The next thing she did was open her purse, took out her makeup bag and did my makeup. She wasn’t going to let me die ugly. That’s what you call a friend.


After I got sick, Yolanda and I would talk all the time and she would always ask how I was. I would tell her everything. I’m sad, I’m scared, I’m frustrated, I’m getting weaker, I can’t move my legs, I just took four oxycodone, I just fell on the bathroom floor and smashed my face, etc.… I told her the truth. When I would ask how she was she would always say, “I’m great.” But, as the months rolled by I could tell a change in her voice. I would still ask her how she was and she would still say that she was great. She never complained about anything in her life because she knew that whatever she told me was nothing compared to what I was going through… Until… Until she got sick. I didn’t even know that Yolanda was sick because she never told me. Yogi sat in bed month after month staring at the ceiling while Lyme disease was ravishing her brain. I had no idea because she didn’t tell me. She didn’t want to burden me. But now that I know she is sick and I am okay with it, it’s all we ever talk about. We decided we are going to get through this together. We talk about juicing, the value of tumeric, how hard it is to find kale in Paris, stem cells, blood brain barriers, mitochondrial supplements, flaxseed, hyperbaric chambers, oxygen therapy and anything else regarding our diseases. After that, we talk about our children. After that, we talk about our Davids. After that, we laugh. We always laugh and say, “WTF. How can we go from two healthy Santa Barbara girls, raising our children, loving our Davids, excited for the future to two Santa Barbara girls sick as dogs unable to get out of bed. As usual, Yolanda has all the answers. She knows that it is her mission and responsibility to find a cure for Lyme disease. All of you Lyme sufferers are lucky to have her on your team because she will not stop until she finds a cure. It never once crossed my mind to find a cure for ALS. I am only now realizing from all of you that maybe, just maybe, I could help other people with or without ALS through my blog by inspiring all of you to live the day with eyes wide open and to the fullest. Yolanda knew the purpose of her disease from the get-go.

I am saving all the good stuff about Yogi for my book but I thought I would tell you the most important part. You know how in your worst nightmares the thought crosses your mind of who would take care of your child if you passed away. You know you’ve all thought of it. For me, it is a reality. I actually really had to think… Who will take care of Gracie? Who will take care of Gracie like their own child? Who will nurture Gracie? Who will guide Gracie? Who will steer Gracie straight if she gets out of line? Who will make sure that Gracie will have a successful life and make the right choices? Who will hug her? Who will be the shoulder that Gracie cries on? Who will continue to raise Gracie with ethics and morals? Who will tell Gracie how much I loved her? Who will tell Gracie how wonderful her mother was? Who will replace me? That person is Yogi. This is not an easy question to ask of someone. Yolanda did not hesitate and said that she would of course take care of my Gracie as her own. I believe her. So, knowing how much I love Gracie and knowing how judgmental I am, now you can see the kind of respect I have for Yolanda. This is the person I chose to take care my daughter with all of the love that I would. So you see, even though I have ALS, I am lucky because I have Yogi.

I received a bunch of emails last night from blog readers asking me about Yolanda because of last night’s episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. If you haven’t seen it, check it out ASAP because you will see the reality of reality television. My Yogi Bear.


*Something you don’t know about me? Yolanda and my other best friend, Jenny, are both my best friends but they are not exactly in love with each other. I think they actually hate each other. I think it’s funny. So, out of fairness, tomorrow’s blog will be all about my Jenny. You are in for a treat. After that, we will learn how to master carrot cake.

Life’s lesson N°3: Lasagna and the Loud Family

Okay, a day has passed and I’ve calm down a little bit. I had to watch 14 episodes of The Real Housewives of Atlanta to do it but it worked. I have now forgotten all about fat fuck. Thank you to everyone for all of your comments and support. You guys are awesome. I feel like we defeated the high school bully picking on the autistic kid. Thanks guys.

Let’s get back to the top 15 dishes you need to master before the age of 30… Oh, by the way, the website that originated this idea about the dishes to master was Domaine Home.

Today, we need to talk about lasagna…

Everyone has an opinion about lasagna. They always think their lasagna is best. I like all types of lasagna… Mostly mine. Just kidding. I like vegetarian lasagna, extra cheesy lasagna, lasagna with a Bolognese sauce, lasagna with a Béchamel sauce…. Hell, I even like a Mexican lasagna.

Let’s start with some secrets from the experts:

It turns out that no bake lasagna noodles are not bad at all! Who knew?
Use a pork sausage (a mixture of sweet and spicy) instead of ground beef.
Use fresh grated buffalo mozzarella. Mix in Comté cheese as well.
Use mushroom powder.
Add a carrot for sweetness.
Salt each layer.
Make sure your ricotta is dry… Use cheesecloth.
Speaking of ricotta… Add Parmesan, egg and basil to your ricotta in a food processor for extra flavor.

After you master the basics, you can get creative and add your own touch to your lasagna. Here are a few recipes to get you started…

 Lidia Matticchio Bastianich's Italian-American Lasagna. Recipe HERE.
Mario Batali's 100-layer Lasagna. Recipe HERE
Vikalinka Rustic Three Cheese Lasagna. Recipe HERE.

Voilà. Lasagna mastered.

*Something you don’t know about me? Yep, still hiding out at my husband’s family’s house. I have left my room exactly once. But, for some reason my room is where all the people are.… Gracie, David, David’s brother, David’s mother, my caregiver, my niece Thea and my nephew Sam. I just thought I would also point out that 4 of the 9 people staying at this house over the holidays are on antibiotics. Just what I need with my weakened immune system. So, here I am in the guest room, and all I can think of is, “How can I redecorate this room?” This room looks exactly the way it did 47 years ago when David’s family moved in. There are two types of families. Families who decorate and families who don’t. David’s family belongs to the latter. My grievances with this house are well documented… Just ask Yolanda and Diandra. The first time I came to this house I called them crying and they nearly sent out a search and rescue team to get me. It’s not that David’s parent’s house isn’t nice… Because it is. It’s just that in 45 years no one saw the importance of a little decorating. Unlike my family, I guess David’s family saw more importance in raising well-balanced children in a non-dysfunctional family than decorating the entire house every other week. Unlike David’s family, my family saw more importance in monogramming bedding than keeping a family intact. My goal is to do both… Decorate and have a family with David and Gracie without divorce, suicide, infidelity, moral issues and a web of lies. So far so good. By the way, these are not issues that David’s family has ever had to worry about. David’s family is solid. My family is not. However, David’s family cannot decorate worth shit. My family can decorate worth shit. It never occurred to David’s family to decorate. Polar opposite families.
Do you remember when I told you that David is super loud? I used to think it was because he had a hearing problem but now I have discovered that it is a “charming” family trait. David’s family does not “speak” to one another. They “yell” at each other. Even when they’re saying something nice, it’s a “yell.” It is enough to drive someone mad. I keep thinking something catastrophic is happening in the other room but, nope, they are just “yell talking.” David popped his head in our guest room at his parent's house yesterday and asked if he could do anything for me. My answer was, “Yes, you can stop yelling, re-wallpaper the bedroom, re-tile the bathroom, install a copper bathtub from Waterworks and bring me a Darjeeling tea.” He didn’t think that was so funny. He knew what he was getting into when he married me so I don’t have much sympathy. Stay tuned…

Dear Fat Fuck,

Jesus! I knew that when I started this blog that I could not assume everyone would love it. I knew I would have some haters. But here’s the thing, that’s okay, because I can take it. Trust me, I deal with much bigger problems than a few people who “dislike my blog.”

I started writing this blog with the intention of mostly talking about interior decorating but it has evolved into more than that. You may think that I am completely forthcoming with all that I talk about with this blog but I am not, at least not all at once. I tried to keep this blog light and lighthearted even if we talk about some deep subjects. However, there is so much that you don’t know. I intend to be an open book because that’s how I live my life. I do not have secrets and I tell everybody everything. It is not my intention to be Debbie Downer or exude a “woe is me attitude.” That is not who I am. I wake up happy and try to see the joy and beauty in every day. Of course, there is extreme ugliness with my disease that I spare you from. Why would you want to hear all of that? However, I will not spare anyone from it when I write my book. You can either choose to read it or not. But, today is different… Today is going to be ugly. I’m going to tell you some things that will make your jaw drop, I am going to call one person in particular a fat fuck about 400 times, and the unfortunate part of my disease will be exposed a little bit. If you want to quit reading, be my guest, because today I am going to be a total b*tch. However, I will be truthful. Tomorrow’s blog will go back to normal and we will talk about spaghetti carbonara and lasagna but today… Not so much.

I was reading a wonderful blog last night called The Gardener’s Cottage. It’s a really great blog and y’all should check it out. The author of the blog wrote a really sweet blog posting about me and I was going to the comments section so I could write something back to her and thank her for all of her kind words. I started to read all of the other comments that people had written about me… Really thoughtful, loving, supportive, endearing comments… Until there were about 10 comments from readers who basically hated me. Here’s the good news… I don’t care. Here’s the bad news… I do care.

Apparently, some of these readers (and the rudest one posted anonymously, of course) are miffed about my donation page on my blog. Let me give you a few examples of some of their grievances with my donation page…

The first one…(Posted on The Gardener’s Cottage blog)
  1. AnonymousDecember 12, 2014 at 2:18 AM
I read Ellie's blog (or, about 80% of it) based your recommendation. Unfortunately, my reaction was not the same as yours. I did appreciate and love her writings that were more vulnerable -- about ALS, her daughter, etc. It's a service to write about diseases like this, because there is no better resource for others who suffer with ALS and those who support them. That's where my affection for the author ended. I found her painfully snobby and snooty. I can't imagine hanging out with her if I were from a lower economic class or a "lesser" culture, lest I cause her offense. And perhaps worst of all, I was so put off by the "donations" link and page. The donation website practically begged for money and gave the impression that she couldn't afford her expensive medical treatments. The world is full of people who can't afford ANY medical treatment and who die in a shack in Liberia (or some other poor country) of Ebola or ALS or something else. And the world is full of people who get minimal medical care in countries like America that don't guarantee healthcare for all. Yet this author asks for "donations while she:
- buys Napoleon's wallpaper at the auction of the century
- writes about her troves of high-end luxury clothing
- writes about her antique furniture that could cost more than a car
- routinely eats at some of the most expensive restaurants in the world
- lives in a country with mostly free medical care
- has more comprehensive medical care and attendants than the other few people I know struggling with ALS in the US.

Swear to God, this is the exact comment I read about myself tonight. So, I am not of the school of thought to ignore things and they will eventually go away. No, no, no, I like to charge full steam ahead and open this can of worms and confront these misconceptions. And then, I like to get really dirty and vindictive and call the person a fat fuck. But, back to my point. I think it’s important to open this dialogue… And discuss it. So here we go… Yes, I do have a donation page. If this reader knew anything about ALS then she or he would know that ALS is the most expensive disease on earth.. I was not lucky enough to get a disease that has a slight fighting chance of survival. No, you fat fuck, I was unlucky enough to get a disease that has rendered me completely useless and unable to do one single solitary thing for myself with no cure, no hope, and an 80% chance that I will die this year. No one has ever survived ALS. So, seeing as though your comprehension is at a fourth grade level, let me break it down some more for you.

I cannot breathe on my own so I need a 24 hour breathing machine: $1200 per month.
My diaphragm pacing surgery cost almost $110,000.
My emergency feeding tube surgery in Paris was €5000.
My feeding tube formula costs $300 for 24 packets plus $200 to ship via FedEx to France.
My ALS medicine, Rilutek, costs $1200 per month.
My motorized wheelchair cost $20,000.
My regular wheelchair cost $1400.
My caregivers cost $5000 per month. Sometimes more.
I have a specialized computer and a specialized voice recognition software, it ain’t cheap.
Massage therapy, vitamin drips, hyperbaric chambers, infrared saunas, acupuncture, vitamin supplements and physical therapy ain’t cheap either.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of my ALS related expenses. It is a struggle every day to pay for everything on top of just living normally. I just happen to write my blog about all the good stuff in my life… Not all of the bad stuff… So maybe that’s where you got confused, you fat fuck.

Now, let me explain a few more things to you Madame Anonymous… You ever so lovingly called me “snobby and snooty.” However, just because I like an 18th-century French gilt mirror, that does not automatically make me a snob. It means I have really good taste and you don’t. Such is life, don’t sweat it so much. You need to be you and let me be me. By the way, your insecurities are shining through.

Let’s discuss your statement about “having Ebola and other people who die of ALS from lack of medical care.” First of all, I would love to have Ebola… It’s treatable. ALS is not. Secondly, you don’t die of ALS from a lack of medical care. You die from ALS because there is no cure, regardless of how much medical care you have. I could have all the expensive medical care in the world and it isn’t going to save me from ALS.

Regarding my Napoleon wallpaper… First of all it was not the “auction of the century.” I’m pretty sure there was a Francis Bacon auction that was slightly more lucrative, you fat fuck. Secondly, the starting bid for the wallpaper was €150. The final bid was €1000. That is not a jaw dropping, record-breaking sale. You have obviously confused my enthusiasm. My enthusiasm was directed at the historical component of the wallpaper, not the price. And by the way, it was my Christmas present for what is most likely my last Christmas. I also wanted to pass down something meaningful to my daughter.

Let me address your other sweet compliments… I do not have “troves of high-end clothing” as you suggested. I happen to only purchase clothing that has quality… Not quantity. Again, just because I have good taste does not make me a bad person. My cashmere sweaters have a message for you… Go fuck yourself.

You ever so lovingly said that I “routinely eat at some of the most expensive restaurants in the world.” I am laughing at this because I wish I could go out to dinner “routinely.” However, you fat fuck, I only go out to dinner for the very most special occasions. Obviously unbeknownst to you, people with ALS have an extremely hard time swallowing. So, for me, going to a restaurant is basically for ambience alone. I can only take a few bites of food or otherwise I will choke and die, you fat fuck. I am mostly fed through a tube in my stomach. Do you regret what you said now? You should. I am laughing because I am envisioning you sitting at your desk writing these horrible comments to a stranger as you are most likely cramming Dunkin’ Donuts down your classless throat. However, let me state for the record that I love Dunkin’ Donuts.

Next up… Health insurance. You mentioned that “the world is full of people who get minimal healthcare in America and healthcare is sometimes not guaranteed at all.” Well guess what, I am one of those people. My insurance was canceled and after I tried to reapply I was refused healthcare because of my little “pre-existing condition called ALS.” I have only started receiving French healthcare last month as it has taken us 1½ years to get through all the French bureaucracy, not that it is any of your business.

A few other comments suggested that I had no class for having a donation page. Well, let me tell you something… I have more class in my paralyzed little pinky finger than you do in your entire body, you fat fuck. You know why I have class? Because I have never once mentioned on my blog that no one, and I mean no one in my family has ever helped me financially with my ALS expenses. Not my mother, not my father, not my sister, not my aunt Anne or my cousin Julie. These were the people closest to me and these were the people who completely abandoned me. My husband David has paid for every single expense for my ALS. I have a few friends who have helped and for that I am thankful but the bulk of the weight is on my husband. I cannot work, I cannot earn an income and every day I cost more and more. On top of all of this, I have a daughter to support. Just because I have led (past tense) a privileged lifestyle compared to yours does not mean that my current situation is a walk in the park.

I do not live a lavish lifestyle. I just happen to have excellent taste. I have the same four walls that you do, I just choose to make mine pretty. And by the way, no, we would never be friends, as you say, because I would never be friends with someone who writes misinformed rude comments anonymously on someone’s blog.

Here’s a few things you don’t know about me, you fat fuck… I am always for the underdog. I give more than I take. I say a pray every single night for those less fortunate than me. I have spent every last nickel that I have on Gracie’s education. Before I got sick, I always worked at my jobs proudly. Some of my friends are rich, some are super rich, some are middle-class and some are broke. I like them all equally. I choose my friends based on their character not their pocketbooks. My friends come in all shapes, colors, sizes, socioeconomic classes, cultures, religions and backgrounds and I feel honored to be loved by them all. I am the furthest thing from a snob. My idea of the perfect day is taking the subway to the flea market, finding a bargain, eating a Moroccan sausage, smoking a cigarette and laughing hysterically with all my friends. It physically hurts my heart that I cannot respond to all of the kind emails that I get. I am constantly worried and tell my husband that I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by my inability to write letters to each one of my readers who write me kind emails offering prayers. My friends know this about me and will defend my character ferociously. I go “without” every day… I just don’t complain about it. Yes, I said in my blog that my husband brings me a present every day. That present is most likely a jelly donut. You are very confused as to what I value in life and have obviously mistaken who I am. I value Gracie and David,  my friends, my pets and way down on the totem pole yes, I value my beautiful antique furniture. You know why? Because I spent years studying the history of furniture and yes, the Louvre and I see the importance of antiquities, you fat fuck. A donation page was set up for me, not by me, and I have never asked you for a donation. Trust me, if I didn’t have ALS I would be wallpapering my dining room in Zuber, instead of paying strangers to take care of me. I do not choose to live in Paris. My husband works here. If I had my choice I would be in a cottage by the sea tending to my roses and ignoring fat fucks like you.

So, Madame Anonymous, next time you want to judge someone like you judged me today… Here’s a little advice. First of all, state your real name and don’t hide behind “anonymous.” If I have enough courage to write this blog as honestly as I do, I expect the same transparency from you, you fat fuck. Secondly, before you judge someone, do a little research so you are at least somewhat intelligent about your topic. Lastly, walk a day in my shoes. I dare you, you fat fuck. Live a day not able to hug your daughter, live a day wondering if it is your last, live a day unable to move one inch below your neck, live a day having to have someone carry you to the bathroom, live a day with panic attacks so bad that you think you’re having a heart attack and have to be medicated, live a day having to gasp for every breath, live a day with nurses having to give you a bath, live a day without your dignity, live a day without your independence, live a day wondering why you got the worst disease on earth. Until then, you fat fuck, I suggest you try to find the good in your own life, live every day with joy and laughter, find some peace and solace, be kind to others and refrain from writing poisonous words to strangers, you fat fuck. Love, Ellie

Life’s Lesson N° 2: Hollandaise Sauce Can Smell Fear.

When I was growing up in Springfield, Missouri, until the sixth grade, I could tell our family was a bit “different.” Different because we had “weird” things in our refrigerator like capers. Yes, to have capers in your refrigerator in the 70s in middle America deemed you weird. Years later, when I was in high school in Los Angeles, one of my best friends was the chef, Giada DeLaurentiis (we are not friends anymore due to the fact that I made out with her brother). Anyway, I knew Giada and I were going to be good friends because her family was “culinary weird” like my family. Case in point: One day we were sitting on the lawn of our high school having lunch. Most everyone brought their lunches from home. Giada opens her lunch sack and casually starts to eat an orange. A weird orange. All of the girls screamed, “Oh my God, Giada, what is that!” Giada looks at all of us and says, “A blood orange, you fools.” Just as my capers were weird in the 70s, her blood orange in the 80s was just as weird. I definitely knew we were destined to be friends.

So, the same with Hollandaise sauce. This sauce is as normal in my household as chicken fried steak with gravy. However, I know that not everyone knows what it is...But you should. The most common use of Hollandaise sauce is for Eggs Benedict. Yes, the yellow sauce. It is also traditionally used on asparagus, leeks and poached fish.

Hollandaise sauce has been documented since the 1500s in a Dutch cookbook and is thought to have been brought to France by the Huguenots. The basic components of a Hollandaise sauce are an emulsion of egg yolks and liquid butter seasoned with lemon juice, salt, white pepper or cayenne. The consistency is smooth, creamy, opaque and buttery.

What I find interesting about the Hollandaise sauce is that it is one of the five French haute cuisine mother sauces. It is the building block of other sauces…
Sauce Bearnaise is a variation of Hollandaise sauce replacing the lemon juice with a strained vinegar and adding shallots, fresh chevril, fresh tarragon and crushed peppercorns.
Sauce Café de Paris is béarnaise with curry powder added.
Sauce Paloise is a version of béarnaise with mint substituted for tarragon.
Sauce au Vin Blanc (for fish) is produced by adding a reduction of white wine and fish stock to hollandaise.
Sauce Bavaroise is hollandaise with added cream, horseradish, and thyme.
Sauce Crème Fleurette is hollandaise with crème fraîche added.
Sauce Dijon, also known as Sauce Moutarde or Sauce Girondine, is hollandaise with Dijon mustard.
Sauce Mousseline, also known as Sauce Chantilly, is produced by folding whipped cream into hollandaise.

See! Isn’t that totally interesting! By the way, Robert Farrar Capon suggested that Hollandaise sauce “is no less a marvel than the Gothic arch, the computer chip or a Bach Fugue.” I have to agree except for that part about Bach Fugue because I have no idea what that is.

Hollandaise sauce is not complicated… It just requires some finesse. Like they say, “It’s all in the wrist.”

Let’s take a look at some secrets of Hollandaise sauce from the experts…
Mind the temperature! Too much heat and the eggs will curdle. Too little heat and an emulsion will not form.
Use a bain marie. If you don’t know what that is click HERE.
Use clarified butter.
Use kosher salt.
Only use a metal whisk. Keep raising the whisk to incorporate air into the eggs for a fluffy emulsion.
The Barefoot Contessa uses a blender for her hollandaise sauce so if the Barefoot Contessa does it, so shall I.

Okay now for the recipes…
 Hollandaise Sauce by SaltedTV. Video and Recipe HERE.
Hollandaise Sauce by Julia Child. Video HERE

Hollandaise Sauce by the Barefoot Contessa. Video HERE.

Voilà! Hollandaise sauce. Mastered.

*Something you don’t know about me? We are still in the French Alps and yes, I am still hiding from my husband’s family. I was forced to go to the dining room today for lunch. Gracie was forced to go as well. Usually I can get away with, “I need to stay in bed because I have ALS” but that wasn’t working today. Gracie also said that if she had to go to the dining room, well then, so did I. So off we went. Gracie eats only 2% of anything served to her at David’s family’s house. She’s not exactly a fan of foie gras, frog legs, stinky cheese, strange cuts of beef, or foreign vegetables. Gracie likes American food and by American I mean burritos. Exactly 3 nights ago, Christmas evening, Gracie threw a hissy fit because we did not have my mother’s turkey for Christmas dinner. She said it was all that she wanted and all that she asked for in life and I did not deliver. Seeing as I had just overcome a respiratory illness that nearly killed me, I was not up for teaching my caregivers how to make turkey so I decided that we were going to have smoked salmon on blinis with capers, shallots, crème fraîche and a squeeze of lemon for Christmas dinner even though I know it’s basically an hors d’oeuvre. In my respiratory illness delirium, I forgot that Gracie doesn’t eat any of that so poor little Gracie had to order Domino’s pizza for Christmas dinner. Swear to God. She will never forgive me. So, today’s lunch with David’s family… It was announced that we would be having turkey. Turkey! That is exactly what Gracie wanted! Thank you God, there’s turkey for Gracie! I could see that Gracie was getting rather excited that she would be getting her Christmas turkey. David’s brother brought out the platter of sliced turkey and set it down on the table. I saw all the blood drain from Gracie’s face. Yes, it was turkey but on top of that delicious turkey was something else. I knew Gracie was too shy and too polite to ask, “What the fuck is on top of that turkey?” I was too shocked to ask, “What the fuck is on top of that turkey?” David has lived with Gracie and I long enough to know that there was a slight problem. Not a problem for him but definitely a problem for Gracie. I understand enough French to know that David asked what was on top of the turkey. I only heard one word, “agneau.” That’s lamb. As Gracie described it, “Hot pink raw baby lamb.” I thought Gracie was going to faint. She politely told everyone at the table that she was a vegetarian. Liar, Gracie, you just ate a Burger King whopper yesterday in the car. Somehow weird French horsemeat from Burger King doesn’t bother her but raw hot pink lamb on top of turkey does. I’ve been laughing for five hours. She is currently at Subway sandwich shop with David. By the way, if I hear one more time, “this is how we do it in France” I am going to burn this house down. Stay tuned…

Life's Most Important Lessons... Duh!

I recently came across an enlightening article/blog posting that I wanted to share with all of you… And expand a bit. The story is about the top 15 culinary dishes that one should master by the age of 30. I immediately forwarded it to my daughter, Gracie, in a slight panic. Having a limited number of days on this earth, there are so many things I want to share with Gracie. When I first got sick, I started writing letters to Gracie. Well, they were more like bossy instructions and rules. How do you cram a lifetime of advice into a few short years for your child? With ALS, one can perish within a year, three years, five years. I didn’t know which one I had. I didn’t know which dice I rolled. I started cranking out these letters to Gracie. When I was diagnosed with ALS Gracie had just finished the 10th grade of high school… she was 15 years old. So my first letters to her were how to avoid peer pressure, focus on her studies, look forward towards college, get her drivers license, and get a part-time job. Surprisingly, we got through high school unscathed. The summer before she started college, I literally would not shut up with my advice. Gracie was on her way to Paris to live on her own for the first time. I was not going to be able to help her physically because at this point I was totally paralyzed. All I had was my big fat mouth. Do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that, pack this, pack that. I thought she was going to run away from home because I was so obnoxious. Finally, Gracie said to me, “Mommy, I got this.” I finally realized that my fears were just my fears and not Gracie’s fears. She was confident and ready to tackle this new chapter of her life. She was now 18 years old and had been in the school of Ellie her entire life.
As the months rolled by Gracie was living in her own apartment in Paris, going to college full-time, had a part-time job, a successful relationship with a cute French boy, learning French and surprisingly to me, had not burned down her apartment. Yes, this was a huge concern to me. Why? Because I was not there to watch over her as she lit a candle, turned on her heater, turned on her stove, turned on her hair straightener, or lit incense. I would wake up in the middle of the night racked with fear thinking, “Did I teach Gracie not to put a metal object in her toaster?” She looked at me and said, “Mommy, I told you, I got this.”
And then more months rolled by and a horrible horrible thought crossed my mind. I started to think, “Oh my God, did I fail my daughter in the most important aspect of her life? Was I so selfish that I didn’t stop and take the time to step-by-step show my daughter what life is all about? How will we ever make up for lost time? Oh my God, she needs to drop out of college and focus on this one skill alone.” Yes, of course I’m talking about cooking! I freaking panicked. Does Gracie know how to make French toast? Does Gracie know how to make chicken piccata, spaghetti and meatballs, bearnaise sauce, veal Marsala, a fucking omelette!?? Of course Gracie has eaten all of these dishes but did I actually show her how to make them? Of course Gracie has seen me cook her entire life but did I actually show her step-by-step? Oh my God, I don’t think I did. Of course Gracie has been in the kitchen with my mother watching my mother make Beef Bourguignon, salmon with dill sauce, meringue, Eggs Benedict, pot roast, peach cobbler, salad Nicoise, roasted chicken and every other recipe under the sun but did my mother actually show her how to do it all? Jesus Christ, what the fuck is wrong with us? How is Gracie going to survive in this world without knowing all of this? How is she going to get a husband? How is she going to cook for her children? How is she going to have a successful dinner party?
I called Gracie one afternoon and said, “I’ve been thinking… I think you need to drop out of the American University of Paris and enroll at the Cordon Bleu cooking school.” I was dead serious. Dead serious. She refused. She said she already knew how to cook. Really Gracie? Where did you learn how to cook? It certainly wasn’t from your selfish mother or grandmother, that’s for sure. We were too busy making sure our beef bourguignon was perfect, we were too busy making sure our sole meunière was perfect, we were too busy making sure our pies set, and obviously we were too busy to actually show you any of it. I have failed as your mother! Gracie looked at me and screamed, “Mommy, I know how to do it all because I watched you! I went to the grocery store with you for the past 18 years. I went to every Friday farmers market with you for the past 18 years. I know how to choose vegetables, fruit and meat. I have listened to you talk about recipes with grandma for the past 18 years. I know how to use a knife properly. I know how to preheat an oven. I have watched 4 billion cooking shows with you. I listen to you talk on the telephone about your new Gourmet magazine or a new cookbook. I watched grandma! I learned through osmosis so relax because I got this.” I cannot tell you what a relief it was to hear that. I took a deep sigh and said, “Hallelujah thanks be to Allah.” Just kidding, I said thank you to Jesus.
Then I started to quiz her… “Okay Grace, how do you make a roux, how do you poach an egg, how do you pound veal, how do you bread chicken, how do you make royal icing, how do you temper chocolate?? Guess what? My kid knew all the answers! She also said, “And guess what mommy? I also know how to read so if I want to make something I can open a cookbook and read a recipe.” Okay smarty-pants.
So, when I came across this blog article today about the top 15 culinary dishes that you should master by the age of 30, I knew I wasn’t alone in my craziness. Other people knew the importance of cooking. These were important things to know… To get you through life. To have a successful life. Don’t laugh because you know I’m right. I have this friend who shall remain nameless (Jenny) and I am convinced that the reason she is still single is because she doesn’t cook. How archaic of me? No, it’s the truth. Cooking brings the family together, cooking makes a house a home, cooking soothes the soul. They don’t call it comfort food for nothing.
So, the top 15 culinary dishes you should master before the age of 30… I decided to go dish by dish until we thoroughly exhaust each one of them. The best ingredients for each, the best preparation, secret tips from experts, and different recipes for each. How fun! I’ll do all the research and you guys sit back and enjoy and we can learn together. And unbeknownst to Gracie, starting the new year, every week we are going to spend our Wednesdays mastering each one of these. God, I’m such a good mother.
Okay, first dish to master… Beef Bourguignon.
Let’s start with the spelling…b-o-u-r-g-u-i-g-n-o-n.
Beef Bourguignon originated as a French dish in the Burgundy region of France. The basic ingredients are always beef, beef broth, red wine, herbs, onions and mushrooms. However, over time, recipes have advanced and new ingredients are added. The dish originally was a peasant dish and the red wine was used to tenderize the meat. Nothing warms a winter day better than a piping hot bowl of beef bourguignon, a fresh baguette slathered with butter and a glass of red wine. But this dish will not come easily… You have to work at this one. This one takes a little practice and patience. If you want something fast, go to Taco Bell.
The best way to start your beef bourguignon is with the ingredients… The best ingredients. Don’t just run to your grocery store and collect all of the ingredients. Think this out and shop wisely. Let’s start with the beef. I have consulted all of the experts and they have recommended blade roast, chuck, beef rump roast or beef cheek. The secret is to get beef with plenty of marbling. It’s best to get your beef from the butcher.
For the wine, the experts vary with their suggestions. Julia Child suggests a Beaujolais. Chantal LeRoux of Food & Wine suggests a Pinot Noir. Tradition calls for a Burgundy.
For the vegetables, go organic. The carrots should be crisp, fresh, long and lean. The mushrooms should be either white or cremini button mushrooms. I have seen Porcini and shiitake mushrooms used as well. The onions need to be pearl onions. The herbs should be fresh. Homemade broth is best. If you have to buy it commercially, make sure it is organic and low-sodium. For the rest of the ingredients, referred to your specific recipe.
Okay, now for some beef bourguignon secrets.…
Always pat dry the beef before you brown it.
Marinate the beef overnight in the red wine. Reduce the red wine first.
Sauté pork belly or pancetta and add towards the end of cooking.
Render the bacon fat and then use the grease to brown the cubes of meat.
Use an entire bottle of wine.
Use already peeled pearl onions.
Okay, now for some beef bourguignon recipes…

Not that I am unfaithful or disloyal to Julia Child, but my favorite recipe for beef bourguignon is The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garner, recipe. One time, years ago, David was super mad at me for something that was obviously not my fault but I felt like I needed to “smooth out the bumps” so I thought the best thing to do was to make homemade Boeuf Bourguignon for my French husband. Good news, it worked and somehow I also got a ring out of it. So now we call it The Barefoot Contessa’s Good Luck Beef Bourguignon. I think the secret to its success is the slice of French bread. You’ll see…

 The Barefoot Contessa Boeuf Bourguignon. Recipe HERE. Video HERE.

Next up, the classic… Julia Child. This recipe is from her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and it is a “must master” recipe. Read the recipe about 400 times and then watch the video 400 times and then prepare yourself to be patient with this recipe.

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. Recipe HERE. Video HERE.

The next recipes are definitely recipes to check out to master Beef Bourguignon! Good luck!

 Rachel Khoo of The Little Paris Kitchen. Video HERE.


Boeuf Bourguignon from Sunday Suppers. Recipe HERE.
Boeuf Bourguignon from Anthony Bourdain. Video HERE.

Boeuf Bourguignon with Williams-Sonoma. Video HERE.

Boeuf Bourguignon from Thomas Keller. Recipe HERE.

What are your secrets to mastering Beef Bourguignon?

* Something you don’t know about me? I am currently in the French Alps at my husband’s family’s house hiding out in the guest room. The rest of the family is enjoying a big fat French dinner. Gracie is hiding out with me. Why, you ask? Summer of 2013, David’s family hated me and I’m not sure if they still do so I think it’s safer if I separated myself a bit. Safer for the whole family. David said he was going to have to drink an entire bottle of alcohol to get through this week with me and his family. This ought to be fun. Stay tuned…

Merry Almost Christmas.

It’s almost here! Just another day! This is my second Christmas in Paris. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand… Paris for Christmas is beautiful, subtle, elegant, refined and demure. I appreciate all of this. The decorations warm your heart and make you feel like you are living in a previous era. In Paris, no one runs around like a crazy person last-minute gift buying. Everyone is walking calmly with a bag or two in their hands… Most likely on their way to a café for a vin chaud. There is definitely a quality versus quantity school of thought here. One black high-quality cashmere sweater from Eric Bompard versus three cotton sweaters from The Gap. One bottle of Le Labo Rose perfume versus a giant basket of body products from Bed Bath & Beyond. A succulent Christmas goose versus a giant Honeybaked Ham. An afternoon Christmas walk through the Jardin des Tuileries versus a Christmas afternoon movie theater outing to see the latest blockbuster… Most likely violent. There is a calmness to Christmas in Paris and I like that… Sort of.

In full disclosure, I have to admit, I miss Christmas in America. There, I said it. I do. I miss all of it. I miss people getting trampled at Walmart on Black Friday. I miss maxing out credit cards. I miss a two hour line to sit on Santa’s lap. I miss those creepy Salvation Army Christmas volunteers dancing for donations in front of Bloomingdale’s New York. I miss the New York City Christmas windows. I miss those Christmas freaks who put Christmas wreaths on the front of their cars. I miss colored lights. I miss corny Christmas music. I miss Christmas at my mom’s house with the entire family.. I miss a Christmas Beef Wellington with mashed potatoes. I miss the opulence, the decadence, the hustle and bustle, the Christmas rage, snow days at school, Gracie’s Christmas pageants, regular American Christmas music at church like O Come All Ye Faithful and Silent Night, the old-school snowman in your front yard, the good cheer, the Nesbitt’s over-the-top Christmas party, Hickory Farm salami and cheese baskets, Barnes & Noble Christmas books, American Christmas movies, American wrapping paper and especially American Christmas trees.

If I got my wish for Christmas my dream would be…to go back to Aspen for Christmas. This is where my best memories are. I have been going there since the 70s. I even lived there full-time when Gracie was little. There is nothing like Christmas in Aspen. Snow, skiing, cashmere sweaters, ski lodge sipping hot toddies, afternoon après-ski at Little Nell’s, early dinner at Mezzaluna, late sushi dinner at Matsuhisa, drinks and American hamburgers at the Jerome, shopping at Amen Wardy, hot chocolate at the cart, ogling at the Ralph Lauren windows, breakfast muffins at the Paradise bakery, stocking stuffers at the pharmacy. Driving down Valley in an old school Wagoneer to Walmart, salami sandwiches at the Butcher’s Block, my brother, sister and I skiing all day at Buttermilk and having funnel cakes in the afternoon. And who could forget Boogies! Live bears walking in the streets of Aspen. Skiing old-school Ajax, watching Seal perform at the Belly Up, sledding, horse drawn carriage rides, midnight hot tub runs, dancing until dawn at the Caribou club with Susan, Yolanda, Taren, Ursula, Diandra, Todd and Paige. Oh what fun we had! The good news is that Gracie has all of the same memories of Aspen as I do (except maybe all the bars and dancing) and for that I am grateful. The bad news is that David has never been to Aspen so he doesn’t “get it”, not that he would anyway. Maybe that will be my goal for next year… Get back to Aspen.

So, for today’s blog I thought I would go down memory lane…through pictures. I was going to add all of these Christmas photos in my Christmas book but Gracie said that no one wants to see our family photos. So, if other people’s family photos bore you… Skip the rest of this blog. Here we go…





Merry Christmas!