Miss Pym and a Friend

Miss Pym and a Friend

Monday, August 15, 2016

In Memory of my Grandmother

On this Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, I celebrate the life of my Grandmother, Marie F., who would have been 113 years old today. If there were ever an excellent woman, she was it.  I am named Ellen Marie for her, and for my paternal grandmother.  They were friends as little girls and studied sewing together.  They grew up to be seamstresses.

My grandmother dressed the brown haired doll, top left, but I made her pinafore.

My YiaYia Marie was kind to everyone; she went to school till about the 6th grade, but her own children finished college and became professionals.  She had six children, and five lived to adulthood. When she was a little girl, her father died.  She, her sister, and her mother all wore black. Later, even when her youngest son died at only 30 years old, she didn't want any of us to wear black.

Marie met my grandfather via letters; they corresponded, and he came from the States to marry her in Paris, where he bought her a complete trousseau.  He had left Greece as a child, and in 1927, he couldn't go back, so they met in Paris.  Their best friend was best man.  He later became the Mayor of Kalamata, and the Communist guerillas hanged him during the Greek Civil War.

She was often ill, but never complained.  Later in life, she suffered a broken him and knee, and was in excruciating pain, but never let on to anyone.  She loved poetry, and used to cut out poems from the newspaper with her pinking shears.  She made little books of the poems by fastening them together with big safety pins.  She loved dolls, but never had any as a child because she always had to work.

Later, my aunt and uncles would bring her many dolls from all over the world.  Two of those dolls  started my own collection.

In central Illinois, she and my grandfather ran a restaurant, along with his brothers.  During the depression, men who walked the highways for work and food would stop by the house asking for a handout .  She would make them egg sandwiches, and ask if they wanted mustard.

She hated any kind of nudity; if I left a naked doll out at night, it had an exquisitely sewn dress on by the next morning.  She used to cut pictures out of National Geographic, even when my mother was in college, if the photos were to racy for her.  She also made one of my uncles paint clothes on figures on the Greek vases.

She  never passed any church, Greek Orthodox or not, without crossing herself.  She was a fantastic cook and baker.  Her specialties included pies, cherry nut cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and corn au gratin. She could crochet and quilt, and often didn't need a pattern. She could also crochet pictures.  She liked giving her doilies as Christmas presents to her friends; these she laid on red and green tissue, packed in white boxes.

Her mother in law was her best friend, and after my great grandmother died, she would sit on the porch all night, rocking and crocheting because she was lonely.

She was the diplomat and peacekeeper among her three sisters in law, and I've never heard her say a bad word about anyone.  She seldom lost her temper, either.

She and my grandfather took care of me the first four years of my life, until they moved cross country.  She taught me Greek and made aprons for me so I could help her to bake.  She made dolls and doll clothes, wrote me letters with dollar bills in them, and slipped me small trinkets from her own collection.

I miss her every day; she left us too soon one cold November, at only 78.  If indeed there is a heaven, and there is a test for those  worthy to enter,  she has passed with flying colors and then some.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Moussaka Recipe For the Gentlewomen of No Fond Return of Love and A Few Green Leaves!

Moussaka; Sort of a Greek Lasagna!

1 egg plant
1 large red pepper, or squash, green pepper, etc as desired
3 medium Idaho potatoes; other work, too, but you may need more of them
1 lb lean ground beef [85%] is good, or crumbled boca burger, ground chicken, lamb, or turkey
Chopped onion or scallions, even garlic, to taste and as desired
Oregano, basil, rosemary, fresh or dried
cooking spray or olive oil
1 can tomato soup, about 8 oz, or tomato sauce, V8, or crushed tomatoes

Cheese for melting, shredded, Romano grated, mdzithra grated, etc.
butter, about 1/c melted
about 3/4 c milk
3 beaten eggs
Spray bottom of a large glass cooking pan, or other pan, or wipe with olive oil. Preheat oven to $375-400 degrees.  In other countries, check centigrade or metric system conversions.

Brown meat in pan with about 1 TBSP olive oil and onion.  If you use boca burger, just heat it lightly, maybe with melted butter.  Add tomato soup with 1/4 can water, or the sauces.  Stir, and you can add the spices now, too. Fresh mint is also good to add.

Take baking or cooking pan, and layer sliced potatoes and peppers on the bottom.  Alternate with sliced eggplant.  You can cut the eggplant earlier, sprinkle with salt, and wrap with paper towels to dry it out, but we've never done that at home.  Just slice it thin.

When meat is done, drain if necessary.  Spoon a layer over potatoes, peppers, and egg plants.  Add spices and about 1 TBSP salt and pepper.  You can add more later when it is cooked to taste.

Top meet with another layer of the vegetables and potatoes, and keep going till you are done with them and the meat.

Meanwhile, make a rue, with flower, and melted butter.  Take off the heat to whisk or stir it.  Slowly add the milk, and dashes of salt and pepper.  Stir smooth.  You may have to vary the amount of milk.  Then, whisk in the eggs.  This makes the crema or bechamel sauce.

Pour over the meat and vegetable mixture.

Sprinkle with cheeses.  Bake for about 55 mins.  Then, add slices of munster, cheddar, American, or provolone on top, bake five more minutes.  Make sure the juices are drunk up, or "dry."  Moussaka freezes well, and may be kept in the fridge and reheated, about 4 days.

If unsure of something, check basic recipes for behcamel sauce and moussaka in The American Women's Cook book, any Greek cook book, or recipes on the web.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

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