One kid's adventures in gastronomy


The Sours Are Here!

Mama sure loves her some sour cherries. She waits all year for them, and it’s often hit or miss because we’re usually traveling during the 1 or 2 weeks they’re available (around July 4th where we live). One year, she was so desperate for them, she bought them from a farm stand off the turnpike as we went on vacation. Last year, it was so hot that the farmer she usually buys them from told her they practically melted off the trees. Needless to say, they were both very sad about this, as was Papa, who counts Mama’s sour cherry pie among his favorites.

As usual, Mama was in a panic this year. We would once again be traveling, headed to a place with a growing season that’s at least a couple weeks behind ours. (I don’t know what that means, but it seemed to matter to Mama.) Then, Mama spied a sign that read “sour cherries.” It put her into hyperdrive. She saw the sign while taking Papa to the airport in the morning, then she went to work, drove all the way back home to pick me up from daycare and let out the dog, took us back to the orchard to pick the cherries before a thunderstorm hit, washed and froze a few quarts, then packed us up for our trip to visit my grandparents. Apparently sours are that important to her. And they should be to you too!

Life is like a ....

Life is like a ….

I had never been cherry picking before (though I have picked other things), and it just so happened that the particular tree we picked from had split and some of its boughs hung all the way to the ground. They were perfect Jude-height for me to pick from! Mama bit a cherry for me so she could take out the pit, and she warned me that it would be sour like a lemon. And it was! I was expecting it to be sweet like the cherries I just started to enjoy, and even though I like lemons, I wasn’t too crazy about these bright red little gems.

These cherries are just the right height for me to pick.

These cherries are just the right height for me to pick.

But Mama showed me how yummy they can be with a few simple additions. Because we’re looking for easy here, she made a crumble. She explained that if she didn’t use any oats in the topping, we could call it a crisp instead. Are you confused yet? Both a crisp and a crumble are a jumble of fruit that is topped with a loose mixture (called a streusel) of brown sugar, butter, spices, maybe a bit of flour, and sometimes nuts or oats, then baked. A cobbler is the same idea, except with biscuits dropped on top of the fruit in place of the streusel.

Mama likes crisps and crumbles because they’re easy—you really can’t screw them up, she says. And I like them because I can use my hands to make the topping! You can use any kind of fruit and bake it in any size pan—a pie plate, an 8 x 8” dish, or even individual ramekins. And because they’re not neat like a slice of pie, you don’t have to bother with getting the fruit to gel and hold together. The beauty of these desserts is that the fruit is meant to mix with the topping.

Jude on Food: Freeze your cherries before pitting them. Mama found that they splatter a lot less, and the stones pop out much easier!

Mmm, mmm. We made this at my friend Walter’s house. His Mama had some recently picked raspberries that she added to it. Mama didn’t put too much sugar in with the cherries because the streusel was quite sweet, so I was still able to get that bit of pucker mouth when I ate it. And the topping was crispy yet buttery. All in all, it was worth it to turn the oven on on such a hot day!

Love, Jude

Sour Cherry Crumble

About a quart or so of sour cherries, pitted (add a handful of raspberries or blueberries, if you want)
1/3 to 1/2 cup brown sugar (or more, if you really want to sweeten it up)
About 1 cup old-fashioned oats
Whole-wheat or all-purpose flour (optional)
1/2 to 1 tsp spices such as cinnamon or cardamom, if desired
1/2 cup chopped or sliced nuts, if desired (Since cherries and almonds like each other, Mama added a handful of sliced almonds.)
4 to 5 Tbsp butter (you can be like Mama and put in a whole stick if you really want to)

Preheat the oven 375°F. Put the cherries in a bowl and toss with a a couple tablespoons of the brown sugar. (You have to cut some of that sourness!) Toss in a tablespoon or so of flour, if you like, to thicken up your filling, but you certainly don’t have to. Pour the cherries into a pie plate or other baking dish.

Mama says the worst part is pitting the cherries. But once that's done, the rest is easy-peasy.

Mama says the worst part is pitting the cherries. But once that’s done, the rest is easy-peasy.

In a separate bowl, combine the oats, remaining brown sugar, spices (if using), and nuts (if using). Cut the butter into chunks and toss it into the bowl of dry ingredients. Use your fingers to mash it all together, so you get some glops of buttery oatmeal. Evenly sprinkle the mixture on top of the cherries, then bake in the center of the oven for 35 to 45 minutes. The topping should start to brown, and you’ll see the cherries bubbling.

I think the worst part is waiting for it to cool.

I think the worst part is waiting for it to cool.

If you’re allowed, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream when the crumble has had a chance to cool from the oven but is still warm.

I'm crying because I can't get my ice cream to stay on the spoon.

I’m crying because I can’t get my ice cream to stay on the spoon.

Leave a comment

What is it about a grandma’s house? I’ve been to my Grandma Rita’s house only four times, but I can tell you I’m never hungry there. We just eat and eat. (And my GeeGee likes to sneak me food I’m not “supposed” to eat.)

Mama and I just got back from a week with my Grandma and GeeGee. But why didn’t I write about all that good food? Because I can’t type, and Mama is limited in her technological capabilities. (You saw how long it took her to register this domain, didn’t you?) And because our refrigerator at home is still sort of bare, I’ll use the next couple days to share some of Grandma and GeeGee’s goodies.

Like brownies. Can you believe I made brownies?! Grandma makes them a lot quicker than Mama does since most of her ingredients come out of a box. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t get to stir the oil and egg into it. Grandma held the bowl for me, and she told me to stir it really well.

Grandma doesn't like having her picture taken. I hope she doesn't mind her hand in this photo.

Grandma doesn’t like having her picture taken. I hope she doesn’t mind her hand in this photo.

Then she let me help spread the brownie batter into the pan, AND I got to lick the spoon!

I'm a much neater baker at Grandma's house.

I’m a much neater baker at Grandma’s house.

And the bowl.

Yes, that would be chocolate on my nose.

Yes, that would be chocolate on my nose.

Now, I don’t have a photo of me eating the finished product, but I will say that I enjoyed the brownies very much…what little of them Mama allowed me to have. They might not have been as gooey as a from-scratch brownie, but you can’t beat the time it took to make them, or the clean up. (Not that I possess any concept of either.) And it made for a perfect rainy-day activity with my grandma.

Love, Jude

Jude on Food: Who cares if you make something out of box from time to time? As long as you have fun making it, and it tastes good.

1 Comment

Let Them Eat Cookies

Grandma was visiting for Christmas, and Mama thought we would have fun making cookies, so she made a couple batches of dough one afternoon while I napped. Normally, Mama doesn’t like making cutter cookies because, she says, they stick and become distorted when you pick them up, or they roll unevenly and then bake unevenly. But she declared this dough, from The Joy of Cooking, a winner.

Mama cut the dough in half with my new favorite tool, a bench scraper, and she showed me how to lightly flour the table. Then together we rolled the dough with a rolling pin. What a funny tool that is! Mama finished rolling it to the thinness she wanted, saying it was important to move the dough (so that it doesn’t stick to the table) and not roll off the edges (so that you don’t smoosh it). Then we pressed our cookie cutters—a tree, a snowman, and a star—into it. I had to put my whole hand on the cutter and press really hard, then Mama showed me how to give it a little jiggle to be sure it came free when we lifted the cutter. And it worked! I gently poked the dough out of the cutter and onto a parchment paper–lined baking sheet, and we started all over again (when I wasn’t eating the dough, that is).

Waiting for the first batch to bake was easy because we kept making more cookies. But waiting for that last batch to cool before we could decorate them was really difficult! Mama let me play with the leftover dough, so I could practice rolling and patting and cutting. She said we couldn’t use the little bit of dough for cookies anymore because it had been rolled and stretched and floured too many times, and the cookies would be tough. (I don’t really think I would mind. Would you?)

Mama had made a basic icing with powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and lemon zest and juice. She took care of frosting the cookies, but I decorated them with sprinkles and other tiny candies. Mama taped over some of the holes on top of the bottles, but I still managed to get the sprinkles all over—and then I ate them! I figured out that if I pressed my hot little fingers into the errant sprinkles, they’d stick to my hands and I could just eat them right up. You might remember that I don’t often get unbridled access to sugar, but Mama had no control over me, and it was awesome!

The cookies were, of course, yummy. They were crisp on the bottom and softish on top, which Mama and I both like, and the lemony icing cut the sweetness a little bit. My friends certainly liked them, and I didn’t mind sharing.

Love, Jude


But we’re not French

Mama read a book on how French kids sit still at mealtimes and eat whatever’s on their plates. She thought she could implement the same system with me. (What she doesn’t know is that she almost succeeded, but then she started working, and now I eat at a very American daycare with very American kids.) But the point of this blog post isn’t to document Mama’s frustrations with me as I continue to throw food (though I do think she’s pretty funny when she’s annoyed); it’s to tell you about the lovely cake we made! The book talks about children helping out in the kitchen, something I’ve been doing for a long time now. It goes further to share a recipe for yogurt cake, or gâteau au yaourt, which is the first thing many French kids learn to bake.

I can see why. It’s so simple! Of course, there’s yogurt in it, and then almost all the other ingredients are measured with the empty yogurt containers. Mama bought lemon yogurt, which she poured into a large bowl. She spooned sugar into one container, which I dutifully dumped in. I then stirred the sugar and yogurt together, testing as I went along to make sure everything tasted right. Then Mama added a teaspoon of vanilla, a little less than a container of canola oil, and 2 eggs. She let me continue to stir but said I couldn’t taste anymore because of the eggs.

Mama had a lot of trust in me here.

Now that the eggs are in, I had to stop sampling. (Note my yogurt mustache.)

Then she spooned flour into the containers (4 of them, in total) and let me dump them into another bowl. She had to show me how to do it because I started to pour the flour towards me, instead of away from me and into the big bowl! (How was I supposed to know?) Mama added half a tablespoon baking powder and let me stir it all together. I liked using my hands to mix it, and it looked so nice on the countertop… and the chair and the floor and my clothes. After that, she added the flour to the egg bowl and stirred it really well. (She thought this might be a better job for her.)

Jude mixes up the dry stuff

I don’t know why anyone would bother with a spatula to stir a cake when a hand works so much better.

Mama showed me how to grease the cake pan with the canola oil, then she poured the cake batter into it. I smoothed out the cake, and into a 375° oven it went.

I’ve heard cake batter is pretty good, but Mama stopped me before I could taste any.

I nearly forgot about it, but I suppose it took 30–40 minutes to bake, and before I knew it, there was a cake! Mama cut a slice to share with me. She said it’s not the prettiest cake she’s ever made, but it sure tasted the best since we made it together. (To be honest, it seemed like I did most of the work.)

I'm in my play kitchen with a real cake!

It looks like I made this cake in my play kitchen, but I didn’t.

I liked the lemony taste to the cake, and it wasn’t too sweet. (It would be delicious with blueberries or raspberries!) It was heavy, though, so I didn’t feel like I needed a whole piece to myself. (Mama, however, had other designs in mind.) I like helping Mama in the kitchen, and Papa was very pleased to see we baked a cake. If this is what being a French kid is all about, then sign me up. In fact, my passport arrived last week.

Love, Jude