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.
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
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
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…
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…
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
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)
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Mind the temperature!
Too much heat and the eggs will curdle. Too little heat and an emulsion will
notform. 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,
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…
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
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 skillalone.” 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
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.
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…
MY LITTLE BROTHER, MATT IN MISSOURI
ME IN ASPEN
MY SISTER, MOTHER, ME AND MY BROTHER IN ASPEN
MY SISTER AND ME IN ASPEN
MY SISTER AND ME RECEIVING OUR FIRST PAIR OF CALVIN KLEIN JEANS FOR CHRISTMAS IN ASPEN
OUR HOUSE IN ASPEN IN THE 80'S
SLEDDING IN ASPEN
MY BROTHER, ME AND MY SISTER IN ASPEN
MY PARENTS IN ASPEN
MY BROTHER AND HIS DOGS IN ASPEN
YOLANDA AND ME AT THE NESBITT'S CHRISTMAS PARTY IN SANTA BARBARA
CHRISTMAS IN NEW YORK AT MY APARTMENT
YOLANDA AND ME CHRISTMAS EVE AT MY PARENT'S HOUSE SANTA BARBARA
GRACIE AND ME AT MY PARENT'S HOUSE SANTA BARBARA
GRACIE AND SANTA IN MONTECITO
MY GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE IN THE SNOW, MISSOURI
MY GRANDMOTHER AT OUR HOUSE IN MALIBU FOR CHRISTMAS
MY SWEET LITTLE BROTHER AT OUR HOUSE IN MISSOURI WITH OUR DOG
MY GRANDMOTHER'S CHRISTMAS TREE IN MISSOURI
OUR CHRISTMAS TREE IN NEW YORK APARTMENT
GRACIE, IMARA AND HUDSON AT DIANDRA'S HOUSE FOR CHRISTMAS.
(NOTE THE FABULOUS CONSOLE, VASE AND LAMPS)
DIANDRA AT THE PLAZA HOTEL IN NEW YORK FOR CHRISTMAS COCKTAILS
ME, URSULA AND DAVID AT URSULA'S CHRISTMAS PARTY
LITTLE GIGI, YOLANDA, LITTLE BELLA AND LITTLE GRACIE CHRISTMAS EVE AT MY PARENT'S HOUSE
CHRISTMAS IN PARIS 2013
CHRISTMAS AT MY PARENT'S HOUSE
CHRISTMAS AT MY PARENT'S HOUSE
CHRISTMAS AT MY PARENT'S HOUSE SANTA BARBARA
CHRISTMAS AT MY PARENT'S HOUSE SANTA BARBARA
CHRISTMAS AT MY PARENT'S HOUSE SANTA BARBARA
DAVID FOSTER, YOLANDA, LITTLE GIGI, LITTLE ANWAR AND BRUCE JOHNSON