Monday, December 29, 2003

Johnson On Writing

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.

—Samuel Johnson

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Chocolate Mousse Pie

My mother, after years of diligent research, came up with what I think is not only the easiest Chocolate Mousse Pie recipe, it's the best. It is, however, incredibly rich, so you'll likely want to serve rather slender pieces. It's especially lovely if you garnish it with whipped cream, slivered almonds, and or fresh berries.

Baked and cooled pastry (shortbread, chocolate or plain)
1 12 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate morsels (like Ghirardelli)
2 1/2 c. cream, divided into 2 cups and 1/2 cup
1 t. vanilla
1 T. Rum, Bourbon, Grand Marnier, or Cointrieau, or Peach Schnapps or Raspberry Liquor (double or triple this according to taste)


  1. Beat 2 cups cream till soft peaks form. Place in refrigerator to keep cool while you do the following:
  2. Microwave chocolate and 1/2 cup cream about 1 1/2 minutes till melted, stirring twice.
  3. Add liquor and vanilla, mix well.
  4. Cool about 5 minutes. The chocolate needs to soft enough to blend.
  5. Fold whipped cream into chocolate.
  6. Pour into shell. Chill at least 2 hours.
  7. Garnish with whipped cream and/or sliced almonds or grated chocolate.
  8. Dip a warm knife in hot water before slicing.

Lena R. Spangenberg

Pie Pastry

This is the pastry recipe my mother used when I was growing up, and still uses today, as do I. When I was very small I would stand on a chair in the kitchen and watch while she rolled the pastry out and formed the pie shell. She usually gave me a small piece to make a pie or tart of my own with.

She always made it with margarine, but I suspect before I was born, it was made with butter.

It makes enough for two single crusts, or one double with a bit left over for the freezer.

2 cups flour
2/3 cup margarine (1 stick plus 3 Tablespoons)
1 teaspoon salt
4-6 tablespoons cold water

Cut margarine into the flour and salt mixture until thoroughly mixed.
Add water until moist enough to make a soft dough.

Chill before rolling out.
Lena Spangenberg

Pecan Pie

This is another of my mother's recipes, one that I suspect she was making before I was born. It's one of my father's favorites, next to her "Clemson Peach Pie" (a recipe that I can only successfully make 1 out of 3 times). We usually had Pecan Pie at Christmas and Thanksgiving. It's a very Southern recipe, you don't see much call for Pecans in Yankee cooking. My mother always sorts out the Pecans, reserving the best looking Pecan halves to place in an elaborate pattern.

1 Cup sugar
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vinegar
3/4 cup Karo syrup (clear syrup)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Cup plus of pecans
pastry shell


  1. Cream sugar and butter.
  2. Beat in eggs, syrup, vanilla, salt and vinegar.
  3. Mix well, and add nuts.
  4. Pour into 8 inch pie shell.
  5. Bake at 350 F. for 55-60 minutes or until center is "set: when the pie is gently shaken.

Lena R. Spangenberg

90 Minute Dinner Rolls

This recipe, which came from an advertisement for Fleichman's Yeast, officially makes a dozen rolls. small image of rolls Rather than double it to make more, it works better to make separate batches. If you cook the rolls until they're almost done, then take them out, cool them and freeze them, they can be cooked ahead and you can take out one or two (or more) as you need them. I don't bother with the pan of water in the oven; I just cover the rolls and let them rise in a draft-free but warm area until they look big (they should at least double in size). Just let them sit for an hour or two. I also tend to make 8 balls instead of 12 for dinner rolls, and four for hamburger/sandwiches/cinnamon buns, which one can make by adding cinnamon and raisins to the dough as you knead.

2 to 2 1/2 cups unsifted flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package Active Dry Yeast
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons margarine


  1. Mix 3/4 cup flour, sugar, salt and undissolved yeast.
  2. Heat milk, water and margarine to 120 F. – 130 F.
  3. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of mixer.
  4. Add 1/4 cup flour. Beat at high speed 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in just enough additional flour to make soft dough.
  6. On floured board knead 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape into balls. Place in greased 8-inch round pan.
  8. Pour a 1-inch depth of boiling water into large pan on bottom rack of cold oven.
  9. Set rolls on rack above water. Cover. Close oven door; let rise 30 minutes.
  10. Uncover rolls; remove pan of water.
  11. Turn oven to 375 F. Bake 20–25 minutes or until done. Remove from pan to cool. Serve warm.


Friday, August 8, 2003

The Written Word

The written word
Should be as clean as a bone,
Clear as light,
Firm as a stone.
Two words are not
As good as one.

Anonymous; early

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Western Wind

Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
The small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms,
and I in my bed again!

Anonymous. British Library MS. Royal Appendix 58. Early 16th century.


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be digested.

Francis Bacon "Of Studies" (1561–626).

Squid Tenure

The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the ocean searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain any it eats it. It's rather like getting tenure.

Michael Scriven

On Commonplace Books and Blogs

The commonplace, as Richard Lanham tells us:

was a general argument, observation, or description a speaker could memorize for use on any number of possible occasions. So an American statesman who knows he will be asked to speak extempore on the Fourth of July might commit to memory reflections on the bravery of the Founding Fathers, tags from the Declaration of Independence, praise of famous American victories, etc. A few scattered traditional loci death is common to all; time flies; the contemplative vs. the active life; the soldier's career vs. the scholar's; praise of a place as paradisiacal; the uses of the past; a short, celebrated life vs. a long, obscure one.

(Lanham, Richard. Handlist of Rhetorical Terms (University of California Press: Berkeley, 1994).

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a commonplace book as "a personal journal in which quotable passages, literary excerpts, and comments are written."

I've written about the striking similarities between weblogs or blogs and the traditional commonplace book elsewhere. This blog is an experiement in using a blog as my commonplace book, instead of the various notebooks, files, scraps of paper and HyperCard stacks I've used in the past.