Monday, October 19, 2009

Blessed GrandMother

My paternal grandmother passed away last week. And although I have several personal memories of her, when my parents told me of her passing my mind instantly went back to an old photograph of her as a young bride. The photograph hangs over the spiral staircase in my parents' home and has been there for about the last year when my father recently obtained it from his parents. It is a black and white of my grandparents the night before their wedding. They are sitting at a table in a restaurant with each set of their parents. My grandmother looks very young and extremely happy. Her dark hair and her equally dark eyes are the perfect contrast to the light hair and light eyes of her future groom. The antithesis of their physical characteristics is only further personified by the appearance and features of their parents. My grandmothers parents were Italian immigrants with dark features, brooding facial expresions and large builds. My grandfathers parents were fervently French with light hair, extremely light almost crystal-like eyes and very small in stature.

It isn't just the comparison of the two families that had me thinking of the photograph (although it is so interesting), nor is it the old nostalgia of the 60 year old picture. The most amazing thing about the photograph; especially in the wake of her life; is the fresh newness of the young bride. I can only imagine that like I once did, all she could probably think of on the night before her wedding was the actual wedding - becoming a wife, walking down the aisle, her dress, her guests, the cake and the flowers. She most assuredly wasn't thinking too far past the next day and what her distant future would hold. At no point during that photographed dinner could she ever have perceived the life she had ahead of her. How could she have known that she would live to be 86 years old, that she would have outlived her groom by only 5 months after almost 70 years of marriage? Sure it is every new bride's wish, but so many aren't that lucky. She had no certainty during that dinner that she would have children with her future husband. Six to be exact - 5 daughters and one son, my father. She could never imagine that she would painfully have to bury two of her beloved children before her own passing. How could she have know that she would have 12 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren? How was the young bride to predict that she would live to see two devastating Hurricanes ravage the city of New Orleans? She lived in the affected areas for both Betsy and Katrina and survived to tell about both destructive storms that hit 40 years apart. During that dinner, on the night before her wedding she couldn't have conceptualized any of the many adventures her life had in store for her.

I love that photograph. I had never seen it before last year and I am extremely happy that it found its way into my family. It represents so much to me. It is about foundation. At the time that is was taken, I am sure it was nothing more than a mere family photo. The bride, the groom and their parents - every wedding weekend contains hundreds of photos of the same makeup. But when I look at that photo I always feel a special tug at what it embodies. The start of so much for the young bride. The beginning of a life, of a family - of my family. The perfect pairing of the beautiful young Italian bride and her handsome youthful French groom.

I looked for a recipe that I felt was the perfect marriage of French and Italian ingredients to celebrate the marriage of my French and Italian grandparents and my grandmother's long and happy life. I thought these traditional French pastries flavored with typical Italian ingredients was the perfect recipe for the celebration.

Rosemary and Parmesan Madeleines
Adapted from William Sonoma

  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 3 tsp. finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. fleur de sel, plus more for sprinkling*
  • 1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1⁄4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus
    more for sprinkling


Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F.

Brush the molds of two 12-well madeleine pans with 2 Tbs. of the butter.

Sift the cake flour into a bowl

and gently stir in the rosemary, the 1 tsp. fleur de sel

and the pepper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on high speed until yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the cream of tartar

and sugar

and beat until the mixture drops from the whisk in ribbons, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture being careful to not deflate the egg mixture

and the 1 cup cheese,

then fold in the remaining 6 Tbs. butter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared molds so the batter is even with the rims.

Bake until the madeleines spring back when pressed lightly, about 12 minutes. Immediately remove them from the pan and let cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with a pinch of fleur de sel and cheese and serve. Makes 18 madeleines.


Stacey T said...

Beautiful story. Sorry about your loss.

Anonymous said...

The madeleines look wonderful and your story is very touching and heartfelt. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Josie said...

such a touching story. So sorry for your loss, but what a legacy she has left behind!

Angie said...

Beautiful, moving story. I'm so sorry for your loss, but I have no doubt your grandmother is exceedingly proud of the legacy she left behind.

Cupcakes with Nic said...

I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother dying -- my own grandmother died 10 years ago and she is still so missed. She too had a wonderful, full life. My prayers are with you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful ... I am sorry you are not going to be there Wednesday to share this story with everyone.

Your Sister,


P.S. Now I really want to pass out your cards ;)

Rebecca M. said...

I've been a lurker on your blog for a while, but I feel this is worth coming out of the shadows for!

My condolences on your loss :( It is so nice to hear that your grandparents touched you so deeply and left a great legacy. I think your madeleines are a wonderful homage. My thoughts are with you and your family. Peace be with you!

teresa said...

i'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother, she sounds like a sweet person. what a wonderful tribute!

Jade said...

I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother. That is a such a beautiful story. She was a blessed woman!

Karine said...

I am so sorry for your grandmother! She seemed to be a great woman.

MaryBeth said...

Absolutely perfect Elizabeth, I would love to give them a try.

Caroline said...

Oh E, I'm so sorry.
You have created a beautiful tribute to your foundation, your family, your grandparents, and especially your grand mother. My heart goes out to you all.

Let's all eat madeleines...with rosemary for remembrance.


Katherine Aucoin said...

So sorry to hear about your grandmother. You posted a very moving tribute to her.

Your Singapore Street Noodles look fantastic. This is one recipe I am going to try soon.

Jenn/CinnamonQuill said...

Beautifully written post; what a wonderful tribute.

And this recipe is absolutely brilliant. I am very excited to try these!

Kerstin said...

What a lovely tribute to your grandma, so sorry for your loss.

Linda said...

What a lovely, lovely post.