Rude Awakening & Just Desserts

While I was in the midst of dreaming this morning, DH lost our cat. He yanked me from a sound sleep to go help him find her. Still foggy-eyed, I tripped over the pasture wire fence and slipped on the stone fence in my flip flops, the first shoes I found. Warning: do NOT go ambling around the country half-asleep in flip flops, you will fall, or nearly so! That was my rude awakening. I am NOT a fireman. I don’t like going from sleep to panic while having to be competent in about 10 seconds. Wake me suddenly and the PTSD kicks in: I’m clumsy & emotionally fragile. When I really wake up, I’m fine, but it sure isn’t fun in the meantime.

We found the cat, who’s old and partly lame. She’d be a wonderful lunch for a hawk, the bobcat my husband saw last week, or a fisher cat (weasel).

Just desserts? Well, that was the topic I’d planned to blog about. My favorite, easiest, classy dessert is ricotta cheese in a wine goblet, with some Kaluha (or a flavored syrup if that’s more appropriate) sprinkled with chocolate curls, a raspberry and a mint leaf. Takes longer to write down pretty much than it takes to construct it. Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Easy, yummy, not too expensive and people do NOT know what the ricotta is, but like the faintly cheesecakey taste.

I’ve poured vanilla syrup over plain ricotta and mixed a little into the cheese too. Pretty much whatever fruit is in season can be used as a garnish. Can be made sugarless and fancified enough for almost any occasion.

Aside from premium fruit in season ( I have no idea where I’d get such a thing around here?) this is the easiest “company” dessert I know.  The farmer’s markets, etc. here sell nice produce, but not the level I’d want if I was just giving fruit & cheese to company as a fancy dinner’s dessert. We do fine with supermarket or farmers’ market fruit, but my standards are exceedingly high: I grew up with Jurgensen’s and Preble’s.

Jurgensen’s was the small exclusive fancy foods chain in Los Angeles when I was a kid. Mr Jurgensen was an acquaintance of my Dad’s. Accordingly, when Dad sent gift baskets, etc. they were really spectacular.

Preble’s was another grocer, in Pasadena?, that sold pantry goods: dried fruit, etc. in wholesale quantitities. First place I ever saw candied citron in anything other than the tiny cubes sold for fruit cake. [I love candied citron and always have.] I’ll never forget the first time I saw this BARREL full of slabs of the stuff for sale. I liked Jurgensen’s and Mr. Jurgensen, but the memory of Preble’s has this spicy,  magic aura about it. Foods I didn’t know what they were, in quantities I could barely imagine. All sorts of spices, things pickled and sugared and dried  — the stuff of legends, or at least a week or two of happy browsing, taking home and sampling, if only it still existed and I lived near enough to indulge!

For some reason, making the ricotta dessert always invokes memories of shopping at Jurgensen’s and Preble’s.

Dad loved to eat, and eat well, so food was a common topic of conversation: which cafes had decent pie, who made good soup or meatloaf etc. were important to him. Of course, the physicist he was couldn’t talk to his small daughter about work, and he frankly wasn’t more than superficially interested in what I’d done with my day. [Although my Dad would talk to anyone, he was a lot more of a snob about who he listened to, and I wasn’t educated or quick enough to be interesting for much of the time.] But he loved sharing his “special” places & foods with me and so we went to Preble’s and Jurgensen’s  when he had time and the exchequer allowed.

I think the smell of that citron and then the HUGE piece I got to munch on as I left is one of my favorite food memories. It was something I’d never managed to have enough of before — and then I did!

What’s your favorite food memory?

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