JANUARY “SENIOR MOMENT”: The Superagers!

“Use It or Lose It—-THE SUPERAGERS”

by Eleanor Jaffe

“How to Become a Superager,” (a recent NY Times article) gives added credence to the well-known phrase, “Use it or lose it.”  The author, Lisa Feldman Barrett, recommends that we elders work HARD at intellectual and physical challenges.  She writes, “If people consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain,” since, “all brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. If you don’t use it, you lose it….so work that brain.” What is more, she says, “The discomfort of exertion means you’re building muscle and discipline….superagers excel at pushing past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort.”   (To access this article, click here)

This is great advice that we BOLLI members follow in our course work—right?  But we are, after all, “seasonal learners” with long  interruptions between semesters.   When I started to think about how to keep building brain muscle during BOLLI’s course breaks, I discovered that even vacation can keep us superagers going.

EXERCISING MY SUPERAGER BRAIN WHILE ON VACATION!

I’d like to think that the luxury of being able to purchase and outfit a new vacation condo in Florida has given me and my husband a multitude of opportunities to exercise our superager brain muscles. The challenges of setting up a new apartment are multiple, even to experienced hands like us.  Here’s what I mean:

Let’s see.  First of all, how shall I equip my now empty condo?

I start by making a floorplan and a color chart.  Next, I decide what furnishings we need and make a master list. It doesn’t take long before I have to look for the often misplaced list, but when I find it,  I tend to revise it.  Then, I take it with us when we go shopping.  Back home in Boston, I dig up unbreakable furnishings (linens, trays, small rugs, etc.) that we could use in Florida. I pack them up and ship them down.  (I should have made a list of them…)

Next, I explore the resources my new surroundings have to offer.  What stores carry the things I will need?  How do I find those stores and websites that reliably provide “stuff”?  I consider the advice of the other newcomers we meet about how they achieved the same goals.  I learn about “consignment shops” where “lightly used” used items of often good quality are sold.  Sarasota has about 35.  And this kind of shopping offers adventure!  You never know what you may find—or how quickly someone else will spot that terrific bargain.  I’ve learned to be prepared to purchase on the spot.  I’ve also learned to schedule deliveries so that I will be at home when these purchases arrive.

But furnishing a new space isn’t all that this kind of relocating involves.  Our superaging brains get lots of exercise as we memorize lots of new code numbers: beach locker number, house entrance number, security number, cell phone number, etc., etc., etc.   I have to write them down. (And then look for this list later, too.)  We also have to learn directions: east, west, north, and south–especially difficult for me since I am–and always have been–“directionally challenged.”  We have to learn the names and locations of new streets, highways, restaurants, movie houses, parks, beaches, etc.

And, of course, probably most important of all, we need to think about how to create a new social life.

We make lists of activities that seem like they will be fun or worthwhile.  We locate the best lifelong learning center in the area so we can continue to do classroom learning.  And all along the way, we make new friends.  (The challenge, of course, is to remember their names.)  And, of course, we make sure that we stay in touch with old friends—they are the best.

We also need to schedule visitors.  And that takes special planning—how many and how often is too much?  Of all my tasks, this one seems to be the most challenging to me.

I am reminded of a hint from the renowned psychologist, B.F. Skinner.  He said that as we age, we forget a lot, and we ought to routinely equip ourselves with a pad that we wear around our necks that contain our “lists.”

Do you think pads around the neck could become the new fashion accessory for us “superagers”?

 

Eleanor and Liz
“Senior Moment” feature writers Eleanor Jaffe and Liz David

Eleanor says that, “As I grow older, I am more interested in the conditions, changes, services, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of 53 years, my friends — and my 102 year old mother.  What does it mean to be growing older in today’s society?  To satisfy my growing curiosity, I created and taught three different classes about aging issues over the past several years at BOLLI.  My experiences as a social worker and as a high school teacher of English–plus a lot of reading about aging and loss—and, of course, living to 80 (so far)–have prepared me to write this blog.

ONE BOLLI, ONE BOOK

During the final week of our Fall Term, BOLLI’s “Book Group” engaged lunchtime attendees in a BOLLI-wide discussion of Philip Roth’s novel, Indignation.

Roth’s book is set in the 1950s and features a butcher’s son from Newark who escapes the family ties that bind by enrolling at a small, traditional college far from home in the rural Midwest.

The BOLLI Book Group’s co-organizers, Abby Pinard and Charlie Marz, moderated the event.  “I think the One Bolli, One Book conversation went extremely well,” Charlie says.  “I’m not very good at estimating the number of people in a crowd, but I would say there were at least 3 or 400 people in the room.”  Abby suggests that 30-40 were actively engaged in the conversation circle, and mentions that another 10-20 observed from the tables.

Abby Pinard and Charlie Marz (left) greet participants in the discussion circle
Abby Pinard and Charlie Marz (left) greet participants in the discussion circle

Charlie points to the conversation as having been lively and substantive.  “Rosalie Fink told me that, although she hadn’t read the novel, she found the discussion so interesting that she went out and bought it and read it,  and, since that time, she’s  become a bit obsessed by Roth, recommending that we do another one of his novels–American Pastoral or Nemesis.  Another ‘silent’ participant, Marty Kafka from The New Yorker Fiction Salon,  told me that, although he hadn’t read the book, he found the discussion so interesting that he stayed just to observe/listen.”

Both Charlie and Abby believe that the event may become an annual one, but, whether that happens or not, the BOLLI Book Group offers excellent reading and discussion opportunities on a regular basis.

Watch The Bulletin for specifics about the group’s upcoming reading and discussion plans.

Want to know more about BOLLI’s Special Interest Groups?  Click here:  https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/33972419/SIGS.pdf

 

 

LINES FROM LYDIA: My Post-Traumatic Growth

This month, our most eclectic feature writer, Lydia Bogar, walks us through quite a host of recommended books, articles, and even opera focused on civil rights.  But perhaps the most powerful of all, Kander and Ebb’s musical, The Scottsboro Boys, at Speakeasy.

Speakeasy’s production of “The Scottsboro Boys”

MY POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH

By Lydia Bogar

If I hadn’t been so impressed by the book and then the film, The Help, I might not have read The Warmth of Other Suns which I read, ingested, and then donated to my neighborhood library for others to take in as well.  A resurgence of civil rights issues in 2011. That reminds me of a journal article that I wrote about the young black lady who was my uncle’s housekeeper when he retired to Florida in 1956.

Also in the summer of 2011, I watched the incredible performances of Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at the ART.  This was my first visit to the ART, and sitting in the fourth row intensified the experience. The minimalist stage setting, the lyrics, and the performers’ facial expressions remain clear and vibrant in my memory.

If I hadn’t been in Emily and Beth’s New Yorker Non-Fiction discussion course this past term, I might have missed the significance of “Justice Delayed” a very intense article with reference to Bryan Stevenson’s book  Just Mercy, which so impressed me that I read the library’s copy and then bought my own.

More intense discussions both, in class and in the Gathering Place, have helped in my post-election survival.  There are so many educated activists that our country can and will grow.  Emotionally, this phase is referred to as post-traumatic growth.

The New Yorker always returns me to the style and substance of Calvin Trillin.  Calvin may be best known for his foodie rants and raves (and tours which I hope to take one day), but most recently, I have read Jackson, 1964, his intense reflection on the Civil Rights movement and the journalists who worked very hard to deliver that message.  Jackson, 1964 reminded me of the long silent walk from Worcester State College to downtown Worcester on Friday, April 5, 1968.  Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated the day before; classes were cancelled; our student body stopped protesting the war in Vietnam and mourned the life of Dr. King.

The road that we are on now, including the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue that will soon host an inaugural parade, has included two powerful lessons that will sustain us going forward: Fences, a powerful August Wilson play about discrimination in Philadelphia in volatile 1950’s, and The Scottsboro Boys which has come alive on the Speakeasy Stage at the Calderwood Pavilion.

If you know the story, you still need to see the play. If you have seen the play, I suggest reading it and seeing it again. The Speakeasy artists and their technical staff have given a great gift to the City of Boston. The venue itself is perfect– sparse and small, ideal for the re-creation of 1930’s vaudeville. To tell the story of nine black boys and ten trials–plus a vase presented to The Supreme Court–is a courageous and inspiring pledge.  Including cameo-like appearances by people like George Wallace and Rosa Parks is artful.

Whether you avail yourself of the BOLLI discount or not, you must see The Scottsboro Boys before it closes on January 22.   It will contribute to your overall knowledge and sustain you on the political road ahead.  The show was extended from its original run scheduled to end in November–perhaps because it is such a valuable part of our post-traumatic growth.

 

lydia-2
“Lines from Lydia” feature writer Lydia Bogar

Former English teacher, health care professional, and quintessential Renaissance woman of all trades, Lydia Bogar joined BOLLI in the spring of 2016 after returning home from a stint in South Carolina where she dipped into another OLLI program.  “It’s good to be here!” she exclaims.  (And it’s good to have her.) 

JANUARY “BOOK NOOK”: Two BIG Novels

As the winter cold sets in,  Abby offers ideas for some good long-term reading time.   Here are two items you may have either missed along the way or might simply want to re-read.

THE FORSYTE SAGA

John Galsworthy, 1921

“He had long forgotten the small house in the purlieus of Mayfair, where he had spent the early days of his married life, or rather, he had long forgotten the early days, not the small house, – a Forsyte never forgot a house – he had afterwards sold it at a clear profit of four hundred pounds.”

There you have it. Nine hundred pages of delicious soap opera wrapped around sly commentary on the acquisitiveness and striving of the British upper-middle classes around the turn of the twentieth century. The Forsytes aren’t landed aristocracy like Lord Grantham of “Downton Abbey.” They’re only a couple of generations removed from farmers. But they’ve been successful in trade, in publishing, at the bar, and they live in ongepotchket Victorian splendor, faithfully served by retainers and housemaids, in London and its environs.

Galsworthy was himself the product of a wealthy family and trained as a barrister before traveling abroad, meeting Joseph Conrad and envisioning a different life. He fell in love with the wife of his cousin, an army major, and married her after a ten-year affair and her eventual divorce. He was among the first writers to deal with social class in his work and to challenge the mores and ideals reinforced by the Victorian writers who preceded him. Notably, but not surprisingly given his personal life, he defied the standard view of women as property and defended their right to leave unhappy marriages.

“’I don’t know what makes you think I have any influence,’ said Jolyon; ‘but if I have I’m bound to use it in the direction of what I think is her happiness. I am what they call a “feminist,” I believe…I’m against any woman living with any man whom she definitely dislikes. It appears to me rotten.’”

It is the unhappily married woman referred to here around whom much of The Forsyte Saga revolves. Irene (I-reen-ee), disastrously married to a “man of property,” is the antithesis of a Forsyte. She represents beauty and art and passion and free will. Before reluctantly marrying Soames Forsyte, she extracted a promise that he would let her go if it didn’t work out. His failure to do so drives the story and a multi-generational family estrangement. While Galsworthy thoroughly develops the other primary characters, Irene is a beautiful cipher at the center of the novel. We never get her point of view; we see her through the eyes of others and can only infer her thoughts and feelings.

The Forsyte Saga features a huge cast of characters but the family tree that accompanies most editions is needed only at the beginning. To Galsworthy’s credit, we quickly get to know the main characters and the chorus of peripheral relatives that swirl around them. There are births, deaths, betrayals, couplings, uncouplings, recouplings, and generational upheaval, all conveyed in deft, eminently readable prose, a short 900 pages. This is a sumptuous wallow of a book with redeeming social value.

EARTHLY POWERS

Anthony Burgess, 1980

A monumental novel that stuck in my mind for thirty years as an all-time favorite but needed to be reread to remind me why. An octogenarian British writer, said to be loosely based on W. Somerset Maugham, is tasked to attest to a miracle that will support the canonization of a Pope and writes his memoirs, giving us a personal tour of the 20th-century through his life as a homosexual, lapsed Catholic, successful but mediocre writer, and exile. Examines morality, the nature of evil, the role of religious belief and more. Linguistically playful and full of historical inaccuracies courtesy of its unreliable narrator, the novel features one of the best opening lines in literature* (sure to send you to the dictionary), and is funny, painful, thought-provoking, entertaining, challenging and rewarding. Shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1980, it often appears high on lists of best British fiction of the late 20th century.

*”It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.”

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 8.50.58 PM
“Book Nook” feature writer and Book Group co-leader, Abby Pinard

Abby is a lifelong book nut who retired from a forty-year computer software career in 2007 and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore. She is a native New Yorker who moved to Boston recently to be among her people:  family and Red Sox fans.  She is a music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie who flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.

 

 

 

 

BOLLI’S PHOTO GROUP: Getting the Picture

During the Fall Term, the BOLLI Photo Group treated us all to a glimpse of their activities in a wonderful lunchtime presentation.  It helped to introduce this very popular Special Interest Group to the membership as a whole and highlighted some of its activities.

Group organizer Joanne Fortunato kicked off the presentation with some images from the group’s October trip to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum.  She focused, in particular, on one outdoor installation called “Lincoln”  One would think the photographers’ images would all be quite similar considering that they were shooting the same thing.  But, clearly, this is never the case!  Note how very original these shots are!

Miriam Soybel
Miriam Soybel
Mel Markowitz (shooting Dick Hanelin)
Dick Hanelin
Joanne Fortunato
Joanne Fortunato
“Weathered” by Steve Schwartz
“Rabbit Hole” by Steve Schwartz
“Out of the Darkness” by Steve Schwartz

Other members of the group presented aspects of their work for the BOLLI lunchtime audience.

Linda Brooks shared her “Photography Projects with a Focus.”  She particularly likes working with themes and, after her “Windows and Doors Calendar” (which you can find on the blog by scrolling through SIG “Photo Group” items), she started creating books, including a dog story for children.  She photographed the 30 day gestation period taking place in the robin’s nest outside her kitchen window, and is now into flowers.

Helen Abrams provided “Photographing Trees: A Personal Journey.” As a docent at Mt. Auburn, she has an excellent opportunity to check out a huge number of different types of trees and focus on their fascinating differences–their twisted trunks and branches, their leaves…in all sorts of light.  She says that they eventually start to look like they’re going to move!  (You can find one leg of this journey in a very early blog item by scrolling back through the SIG “Photo Group” items.)

Steve Schwartz showed “Interpretations: Familiar and Artistic.”  He says that, as a CPA, photography fulfills his fascination with the intersection of precision and feelings.  His work, exemplified by his “Lincoln” photographs above, clearly does just that!

And, finally, the irrepressible BOLLI photo enthusiast/SGL/and field trip leader extraordinaire Arthur Sharenow rounded out the event by providing “Tips for Taking Good Pictures,” sharing some hits and misses.  Always a treat!

The group meets on one Friday afternoon per month–check the BOLLI calendar for meeting dates/times.  At each meeting, the group takes time to critique each other’s work, share ideas, and plan events.  Any interested BOLLI member–from beginner to professional–is welcome!  Coming up, another photography show featuring works by members of the group will be installed in the Purple Room for the spring term.

Want to know more about BOLLI’s Special Interest Groups?  Click here:  https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/33972419/SIGS.pdf

 

 

“RADIO FREE BOLLI” RETURNS TO RAVE REVIEWS!

“RADIO FREE BOLLI” RETURNS!

“Home Cooking Jazz” DJ’s Judith Stone and Nancy Connery with Trivia Maven Sue Wurster

After the successful launch of our term’s end “Radio Free BOLLI” show last spring, the cast and crew returned for an even more spectacular lunchtime presentation on Tuesday, December 6.  For the uninitiated, “Radio Free BOLLI” features the dulcet tones of members Judith Stone and Nancy Connery who provide a weekly “Home Cooking Jazz” show on Monday afternoons from 1-3 on the Brandeis station WBRS 100.1 FM.

This time around, Judith and Nancy–teamed, once again, with Sue as trivia maven, Emily Ostrower as show manager, and Megan Curtis as technician–provided a stroll down “The Great White Way” with Broadway numbers from shows spanning the decades.  All along the way, BOLLI members won amazing prizes in the form of stunning, top-quality plastic refrigerator magnets–but the event ended with a grand prize drawing in which members won places in our winter seminars and even a spring term membership!

As the show got going, the audience did too–eventually just breaking out into a Broadway sing-along thoroughly enjoyed by one and all!  It was an afternoon of hooting, humming, and simple hilarity–so watch for the springtime version of “Radio Free BOLLI!”

Steve Messinger nails a trivia question for a round of enthusiastic applause.
Steve Messinger nails a trivia question for a round of enthusiastic applause.
Sophie Freud, Naomi Schmidt, and Joyce Holman relish a
Sophie Freud, Naomi Schmidt, and Joyce Holman relish a “South Pacific” moment
Harriet Gould and Libby Saks join the hilarity as Phyllis Freeman and Susan Bradford, in the background, prepare to take the next trivia question.
Harriet Gould and Libby Saks join the hilarity as Phyllis Freeman and Susan Bradford, in the background, prepare to take the next trivia question.
Lynn Chernoff and Hella Hakerem inspect the high quality, rare, artistically arresting refrigerator magnet awarded for correctly identifying a number from The Pajama Game.
Lynn Chernoff and Hella Hakerem inspect the high quality, rare, artistically arresting refrigerator magnet awarded for correctly identifying a number from The Pajama Game (or maybe it was Cats…)
And, finally, show manager Emily Ostrower holds the winning ticket for
And, finally, show manager Emily Ostrower holds the winning ticket for “Radio Free BOLLI’s” Grand Prize spring membership winner!

Be sure to join us for our spring edition of “Radio Free BOLLI” when we return to Broadway’s Golden Age for another rousing sing-along and trivia fest!

radio-free-bolli
The “Radio Free BOLLI” Production Crew

From left, our crew consists of Megan Curtis, Technical Director; Sue Wurster, Trivia Maven and “Gypsy” Dancer; Nancy Connery, Co-Creator and DJ Deluxe; Emily Ostrower, Production Manager and Prize Guru; and Judith Stone, the Other Co-Creator and DJ Extraordinaire.

CAST PRESENTS: “Going Solo”

During the last week of the fall term, the BOLLI Membership Committee sponsored lunchtime presentations celebrating ourselves and our activities, providing our fellow BOLLI members with entertainment, discussion, and more!  First up, that week was our intrepid group of actors providing a program called “Going Solo.”

                                                                 CAST                                                                               (Creative Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre)On Monday, our CAST Our CAST members performed monologues drawn from plays (many of them one-character shows) featuring characters from real life.  The performers provided the following glimpses of fascinating people–

CAST Coach/Performer Sue Wurster as Stein

Sue Wurster started off the program with a piece drawn from the play Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein by Marty Martin.  The play, a single-character work, featured Pat Carroll in its off-Broadway run in New York in the ’70s and takes place on the eve of Stein’s eviction from her Paris apartment.  In this portion of the work, she talks about the inner self as well as what she was trying to accomplish in her work.

 

Monique Frank as Emily Dickinson

We then moved back in time (and place) from the Paris of 1933 to the Amherst, Massachusetts of the mid-19th Century.  In this scene from William Luce’s one-woman play, The Belle of Amherst, the reclusive poet talks about her father, her sister, and, of course, her poems.

Bunny Cohen as Amelia Earhart

In 1932, the National Geographic Society awarded its Gold Medal to Amelia Earhart for becoming the first woman (and the only person since Charles Lindbergh) to achieve a solo transatlantic flight.  In this passage from Laura Annawyn Shamas’ one-woman play, Amelia Lives, the aviatrix reflects with some amazement upon the extraordinary public response to her flight as she accepts the medal for her achievement.

Becki Norman as Vivien Leigh

In Marcy Lafferty’s one-woman show, Vivien Leigh: The Last Press Conference, drawn from the Leigh’s own words, we are given a portrait of the troubled and gifted actress not long before the end of her life.  Here, she talks about her most determined campaigns in life:  marrying Laurence Olivier and landing the role of Scarlett O’Hara.

Eileen Mitchell as Eva Peron

In a very unusual piece, First Lady, playwright Erica Christ has provided a unique look at the woman who used her position as Argentina’s first lady to fight for women’s rights and care of the poor. Here, Peron (after her death) reflects upon what it means to be a woman in Argentina…and more.

Sandy Clifford as the irrepressible Molly Ivins

Twin sisters Margaret and Allison Engel have provided a vivid image of brassy Texas newspaper columnist Molly Ivins in their one-woman play, Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins.  In this portion of the play, Ivins turns her humor on Texas politics as she tries to write about her father.

Bette Winer as J. Robert Oppenheimer

A scientist herself, Bette Winer was drawn to this particularly powerful monologue from Carson Kreitzer’s compelling play, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer.   In this passage, the scientist reflects upon the volatile age that he and his Los Alamos crew ushered in when they invented the modern devil, the atomic bomb.

The Cast of CAST’s “Going Solo” Presentation

So, is CAST a closed group?  NO.  Does one have to audition in order to be involved?  NO.  What if you’ve never been on stage in your life but are kind of interested in maybe trying some acting–is this something you could join?   YES!  And so, how would you go about doing that?

Just watch the Bulletin for announcements of our upcoming meeting times (next at BOLLI on Thursday, January 5 from 12:00 – 1:30) when we engage in lots of fun activity–we do some warm-ups, play some theatre games, engage in some improvisation, read scenes and/or plays, and so on.  No experience necessary–just a desire to have some creative fun!

Want to know more about BOLLI’s Special Interest Groups?  Click here:  https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/33972419/SIGS.pdf

JANUARY TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: PHISHING

DON’T FEED THE PHISH!

By John Rudy

Many of you have heard the term Phishing.  And phishing works like this.  You receive an email that looks like it came from a company you trust.  Typically, it indicates that there is a problem with your account and asks you to click on a link to resolve it.  Sometimes, it indicates that you have a gift waiting for you and asks you to click to receive it.  Any time you receive an unsolicited email like this, you should be suspicious.  Is it really from a site you can trust?  Once you click on one of its links, it is too late.  So, Message #1 is Do Not Click.

Then, look at the email address it came from.  In many cases, the words after the @ do not look  like those from the website you know.  Let’s take a simple example.  If you use PAYPAL, you know that their site is www.paypal.com.  I recently received a message, purportedly from PayPal, which came from noreply@gator4248.hostgator.com.  I think we can all agree that this doesn’t look as if it came from PayPal.  Recently, there have been a lot of phishing attacks purportedly from Amazon and PayPal.  Kim Komando has written an excellent article which should be required reading:   http://www.komando.com/happening-now/382417/top-story-paypal-and-amazon-phishing-scams-spreading-now/all

Kim Komando’s newsletter is free, and I recommend signing up to receive it.

BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy
BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy

John Rudy, a long time computer expert and guide, provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions on this month’s or any other computer/tech topic that you’d like to know more about in future Tech Talk articles.

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402

 

THE CHEF’S CORNER with John Rudy: Tiramisu

We discover all sorts of interesting aspects as we get to know our BOLLI colleagues–who knew that John Rudy is not only a  knowledgable “techie” but an accomplished “foodie” as well?!    We at BOLLI Matters are pleased to introduce our new FOOD FEATURE–  

TIRAMISU

When in Italy for our 20th anniversary (1988) we had Tiramisu, a tasty creamy dessert, made from dozens of different recipes–including Tiramisu ice cream!  When we returned, we scoured the Italian cookbooks looking for a Tiramisu recipe but didn’t find anything that sounded right.  Then, for our daughter’s Bat Mitzvot, we asked our caterer to make one.  It was excellent, exactly what we wanted, but he refused to divulge any recipe details.

After continuing to look, in a casual way, over the years, we started to see tiramisu recipes, but, again, none were really quite right.  So,  I decided I’d try modifying a recipe I found–I omitted the wine and used sponge cake instead of lady fingers.  I contacted a local gourmet shop to find the Mascarpone cheese.  They asked if I was making Tiramisu.  When I said “yes” and that I wasn’t happy with my recipe, the fellow said that he was teaching an Italian cooking course and would be teaching Tiramisu the following week.   What follows is an amalgam of my recipe, his recipe, some things found in cookbooks, and a number of personal changes.  There are hundreds of different recipes available.  Many use brandy, Marsala wine or Amaretto, none of which taste right to me.  Very few use chunks of chocolate.

Tiramisu has a cake portion (I use home-made sponge cake; traditionalists use lady fingers which are dry), a coffee-liquor mix, and a cheese mix.  Make Tiramisu at least a day before so that it has time to sit.  Remove it from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving.

The following is enough for a Pyrex 8”x8” pan plus a Pyrex 9”x14” pan.  I use glass pans.  It takes ~2½ hours to make this dessert.  (If you want to use only the larger pan, use two-thirds of the following ingredients.)

The Cake

8                   Eggs, separated, at room temperature

2 cups        Flour, sifted BEFORE measuring

2 cups        Sugar, granulated

2 tsp.         Vinegar, white  (it causes the sponge cake to rise; but                                    leaves no taste)

  1. Beat egg whites in a large bowl until fluffy; slowly beat in sugar.
  2. Separately, mix yolks and vinegar;  beat slowly into whites.
  3. Sift flour, then measure, and sift into batter while slowly beating the egg-sugar mixture.
  4. Pour half of the mixture into the two pans. Do not flour or butter the pans.  Pour the other half of the mixture into an11x17x1 cookie sheet, which has been lined with wax paper.  This will later be used for the top layer.  If you use a smaller pan, it will not cover both surfaces.
  5. Bake at 350° for about 12-15 minutes, until a toothpick poked into the cake’s middle comes out clean.  Do not be surprised if the pans take different amounts of time.
  6. Cool the glass pans upside down so that the sponge cake does not shrink.

Soaking the Cake

2 cups        Cold Coffee  (the stronger the better)

¾ cup         Crème de Cocoa  (you could use another liquor)

As evenly as possible, pour half (or a bit less) into the two cake pans, onto the sponge cake.  This will be the lower half of the cake.  Save the remaining liquid.

Cheese Mixture

24 oz         Marscapone cheese.  (room temp).  Can use the microwave                      to soften but not for more than 15 seconds for an 8 oz                                  container

6                Eggs, separated

8 oz           Chocolate, bittersweet, coarsely chopped  (Guittard semi-                       sweet Super Cookie Chips or Nestles Chunks work well).

2/3 cup     Sugar, granulated

  1. Beat egg whites until fluffy.
  2. Whisk egg yolks in double boiler with very hot, but not boiling, water. Whisk in the sugar.  Cook for a few minutes.  Ensure that the yolks do not turn hard by whisking constantly.
  3. Mix in the egg whites and then stir in the softened Marscopone cheese. This will be very tight in the double boiler!  You may find it easier to add these ingredients to the larger egg-white bowl for blending, and then return the mixture to the double boiler for about 5 minutes.
  4. I use the extra large chocolate pieces for chocolate chip cookies and might chop some pieces. Fold the chocolate into to the mixture and remove from the heat.  Otherwise the chocolate will melt.  Or could sprinkle the chocolate after pouring the cheese mixture.
  5. Spread the cheese mixture over the soaked sponge cake.

Finishing it off

1 pint         Cream, whipping  (beat cold, in cold bowl)

¼ cup        Sugar, granulated

1 tsp          Cocoa, un-sweetened  (can use regular cocoa or flaked chocolate)

  1. Take the waxed paper off the other piece of sponge cake and cut it so that it fits over the cheese mixture in the two pans.
  2. Pour the remaining coffee-liquor mixture over the cakes so that it soaks in.
  3. Whip the cream and sugar and, using a rubber spatula, spread over the two cakes covering any cracks in the sponge cake and also keeping in the moisture. Use a sponge to clean the edges.
  4. Sprinkle the cocoa over the cakes for decoration. This is done most easily by putting the cocoa into a fine-mesh sieve and tapping the sides while moving it over the cake.  Use a sponge to wipe the sides of the pans, removing any extra whipped cream and cocoa.  Cover carefully with Glad Wrap
  5. Let sit, covered, refrigerated, for at least 24 hours before serving. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving.  This dessert can be frozen
  6. It should really be covered, but plastic wrap can damage the top. Sometimes I just put wax paper over it–it is usually eaten before it dries out.
Chef John Rudy says that his mother inspired his lifelong love of cooking and baking. (She cooked vegetables in boilable packages.)

DECEMBER SENIOR MOMENT: ELLSVILLE

This month, Liz David reflects upon having had to make an important decision…one that many of us have either had to make or may face in the coming years.  As always, she shares her experience with warmth and sensitivity.

ELLSVILLE

By Liz David

When I was pregnant with our fourth child, Ted, in 1969, Barry and I
bought a piece of land south of Plymouth in Manomet.  It was a ¼ acre lot on a bluff overlooking Cape Cod Bay.  We could see, seemingly forever, from the sweep of the Cape at Plymouth to PTown.

We built a Stanmar four-bedroom house with floor to ceiling glass sliders facing the view.  It was an easy to maintain, efficient second home.  Facing the water, a small grassy area led to a flight of seventy-seven stairs.  Standing on the landing looking down and across the view, it felt like we could take flight!

In Manomet, the coastline is rugged–with sand, pebbles, rocks, shells, boulders, forlorn broken lobster traps and buoys.  Oh, and don’t forget the seaweed. Ted collected buoys which were hung around the house on the deck.

In 1972, our fifth child was born, and our family was complete: four sons and a daughter–Jon, Larry, Marc, Ted, and Betsy.  I told Barry I would not be a weekend wife, and he agreed, arriving in time for dinner most nights, braving the traffic from his office in Waltham.

We did what most families do at the beach. We sunbathed, swam, boated, entertained guests, entertained guests, and entertained guests. We had a permanent guest for about 7 years–my mother, Violet.

As time went by, the children grew up. Imagine that!  Barry and I decided to sell the house and look for another in the same general area. We didn’t want to have to deal with the Sagamore Bridge traffic to get to our 2nd home. We thought that maybe, just maybe we would find a home to retire to.  After about a year, we found just the place in Ellisville, South of Manomet. Ellisville was originally a Native American settlement used for fishing and farming, and, later, for many years, it was a fishing village with an inlet that provided safe harbor.

I knew when we approached the house and sat in the car at the top of the driveway that this was the place.  We could see through the windows of the house that it had an expansive view overlooking a marsh that stretched out to the sea.  It was–and, of course, still is–breathtaking.  The house became a home in ways that the first house did not, at least in appearance.  It was built for permanence.  The bedroom was my favorite room.  We could see the sunrise and the moonglow from the bed.  I told Barry, “this is where I want to die.”

Well, it’s not where I’m going to die because  the second home in Ellisville became too much to manage, and we decided to sell rather than move so far away from our family.   Ted, who was born in 1969, is now 47 and  lives in Lincoln with his precious family–his wife Nandini and  daughters  Maya, Mira and Lakshmi.  That is the best reason for staying put!

I wrote the following poem shortly after the sale.

 

AFTER THE SALE

With Recognition to Edna St. Vincent Millay

With my eyes closed I see the sea                                                                      Soft waves undulating toward the shore                                                      Sails flapping, ships calmly traveling in the distance

Closer by – the breeze brushes the marsh grass

Soft green in Summer                                                                                                          Rust in Autumn                                                                                                                      Dull gray as Winter sets in

Herons stretch their graceful necks

Egrets step daintily – feeding                                                                                        Swans a swimming – regal, aloof                                                                                  Crows perched in the trees – calling in conversation

And the hummingbirds fluttering in their perennial dance

With my eyes closed let me pretend                                                                 That the rustle of the leaves in the wind in Sudbury                                     Is the sound of the sea in Ellisville

*

Eleanor and Liz
“Senior Moments” feature writers Eleanor Jaffe and Liz David

Liz says…Years ago, when we were in our 40’s, my husband and I bought a sundial with the saying “grow old along with me–the best is yet to be.”  I’m not sure whether or not I believed it then, and I’m wondering whether I believe it now. Stay tuned.

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