I have a confession to make. Yes, I need to reveal this awkward, little secret, because anybody who’s read both Fitzgerald and Philippa knows deception is a quick ticket to major trouble.
Remember how I said Book Club’s been together almost 30 years? And how every month the hostess picks a book for us to read and review? Well… the truth is I don’t always read the book. In fact, I USUALLY don’t read the book.
Not that our choices aren’t great. In 30 years, we’ve read the usual suspects from classics to current bestsellers and Oprah picks. We’ve read Tuesdays with Morrie at 192 short pages and Lonesome Dove at 843 long ones. We’ve discussed complicated works (Middlesex, Beloved and my personal favorite, Angle of Repose) and others long tossed in the trash. From these books, I’ve learned that all rich men are looking for a wife and a good man is hard to find. And if I still had them, my sales receipts from Bookstop, WaldenBooks, Borders and Amazon Kindle would record the state of the book-selling business for the last half century.
No, that’s not the problem. The truth is life –kids, parents, jobs, our own health- gets in the way of reading as much as I’d like. Ahh, well.
But here’s another dark secret, as long as I’m spilling the book club beans: The best part of our monthly get-togethers is the eating and visiting. We may not read every page of the the book every month, but this I guarantee: We’ll have a fabulous dinner, with at least three different riveting conversations bubbling up in the room at once. I want to talk to everybody at once!
And even better, we’ve developed this unwritten rule: if you’re a guest, you don’t clean up. So once a year, I have to spend the day shopping, cooking and cleaning. Every other month, though, I enjoy a fabulous meal, sitting around visiting with my friends, AND THEN JUST GET TO GO HOME! No clearing the table or dish washing. Just straight home. What could be more perfect?
So Pt. Townsend was Book Club, but 4 times better than normal, because we had a long weekend of our usual activities- food, good conversation, many bottles of the local grape- plus the bonus of a a few field trips:
On Saturday night, we cooked and discussed Sally’s book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, an autobiography (and local-interest pick with mixed reviews from our crowd) by Cheryl Strayed. As usual, we spent a while discussing the book, but even more time catching up on everyone’s lives.
We began at the dinner table, but ended the evening with our legs curled up beneath us on Sally’s sofa, eating the most delicious berry tart:
It wasn’t homemade, but was so good, piled high with all the fresh berries of the Pacific Northwest. It inspired Lizzy and me to recreate the pie with traditional French recipes when I got home.
So let’s all vow to spread the word among our book club friends: 1) Don’t feel guilty. You don’t HAVE to read the book every month and 2) It’s a truth universally acknowledged that all real cooks welcome a break from clean-up duty.
Here’s the fresh berry tart recipe. Yes, it’s lot’s of work, but I don’t think food gets much better than this–simple fresh ingredients in season, rich butter, lots of eggs and milk, cooked at home and enjoyed by friends and family:
- One [url href=”http://keestothekitchen.com/julia-childs-pie-crust-pate-brisee-sucree/” target=”_blank” title=”Julia Child’s Pie Crust (Páte Brisée Sucrée)”]pastry shell[/url].
- 1 quart fresh berries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and/or blueberries
- 1 cup red currant or other non-seed fruit jelly
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons kirsch or cognac (We used Finn River Blueberry Wine with Apple Brandy)
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups chilled [i][url href=”http://keestothekitchen.com/creme-patissiere/” title=”Crème Pâtissière”]crème pâtissière[/url][/i] mixed with 2 tablespoons kirsch, cognac or Finn River Blueberry Wine
- Roll out the pastry dough to fit into a pastry shell.(It’s best if the dough lops over the side of the shell a bit, unless you want to do it the time-consuming Julia Child way*.)Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool.
- While crust is cooling, boil the jelly, sugar and liqueur in a small saucepan until it’s thickened and slightly sticky when dripped from a spoon. Paint the interior of the shell with a thin coat of the glaze and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Spread 1/2-3/4 inch layer of [i]crème pâtissière[/i] onto the bottom of the shell.
- Arrange the berries over the cream, putting the largest berries in the center with the stem side down.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line crust with foil; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake crust until sides of crust are set, about 18 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Pierce bottom of crust all over with fork. Continue to bake until bottom is set and pale golden, about 14 minutes longer. Remove from oven and cool in pan on rack.