Be True to Oneself
Bogus. Fake jewelry, diamonds in paste, rubies in plastic, don’t care let’s call it costume jewelry and layer it on the more the merrier! Fake nails? Nope, never… well when we were kids we faked lipstick with chocolate pudding or mashed potatoes (pucker up!) and fake teeth with corn kernels and little green peas, and fake nails? With something or other, for when we were kids what could possibly have been more fun than playing with our food? Mashed banana spit curls. Ah, fake your age (who, me?) with a little bit of fiction. Color the hair, padded bra, fake but not really. Fake boobs? Well….
Fake friends, I’ve had a few. Fake smiles and air kisses, all flash, little substance, though little did I know. False words, false pretenses, flowers offered might just as well have been plastic. False positive. Fake friendships have done their fair share of damage to my true heart, to my faith. Fake projects among false commitment painted with false promises, all bluff and bravado. Fake gratitude where my time and energy, my belief and trust have been handed over, and I’ve received fake smiles and air kisses, false pretenses and false affection, affectation, in return. Fake me out.
When we were young and our brother still sat in the high chair to eat his meals, my older brother received a science kit for his birthday. You can see where this is going… We who were good kids and never (or rarely) got into mischief, got into trouble, concocted a drink that looked pretty much like milk. Fake milk. We waited for our chance and when mom left the toddler alone to answer a phone call, we placed the glass of fake milk on the tray in front of baby brother. “It’s milk!” we cried. “Drink it!” And as he grabbed the glass in his chubby fists and pulled it towards his lips, oblivious to any threat, any joke, mom walked back into the room and we said “Stop! It’s poison!” so well pleased with our joke, bursting into giggles. Fake milk from a science kit. Bluff.
My husband threatens me often, saying “I’m going to start buying you fake plants, fake flowers. Plastic. You let all of my plants die. You don’t even notice that they dry up, wither and droop onto the floor. They drag themselves across the parquet, panting, begging for water, as if pulling themselves towards an oasis and you just walk by. And flowers! I buy you beautiful bouquets of tulips, roses, peonies and you never see that they need water. They scream for water and you don’t hear their cries! The petals curl up, brown and scatter across the table and you don’t even realize! I am going to bring you fake flowers. Plastic!”
Because he brings me flowers.
And he cooks for me. Faux filet. Honestly.
I have boxes and boxes of fake flowers, lovely, blowsy things in ethereal silk, and fake fruit in paper maché. I was once a milliner, creating hats from fabric, straw and felt, embellishing hats with circles of fake flowers, jaunty arrangements of silk flowers and feathers dyed blue, magenta, turquoise, the color of no real bird. Real feathers, fake birds. I have boxes of these beautiful flowers, fruit and feathers to dress up a hat, a fabric cloche like a Twenty’s flapper, a straw top hat like an English princess, a coquette beret comme une française real or fake, or a manly Borsalino, all dressed up in fake finery.
A Dream Come True
I loved Halloween when I was a kid. Fake teeth in strawberry-flavored wax or gum, plates of spaghetti and bowls of peeled grapes masquerading as brains and eyeballs. Fake fingers dripping fake blood.
Hannukah gelt. A tiny mesh bag handed to each child, a tiny mesh bag filled with shimmering gold coins, thick and shiny. Excitedly I would peel back the gold foil and savor the chocolate coin that would pop out. Those fake coins so much better than real! I still love chocolate coins. And chocolate cigarettes! Sugar lips and candy necklaces.
Grilled cheese sandwiches made with neon yellow or orange squares of something cheesy. Wrapped in plastic. Go on, admit it, you love it! Peel back the plastic, slap a couple of shiny squares in between soft white sandwich bread (bread?) and slather the outsides, top and bottom, both slices, in…. margarine. Fake butter? Yes, but how easy. Always spreadable. And grills up the charm. Mac & Cheese in a box, the cheese a beautiful deep neon orange powder. Ah, fake cheese. But Mac & Cheese in a box was this child’s dream, a special treat, and I could probably still eat a box of it, hot and creamy, all on my own.
Sincerity - if you can fake that, you've got it made. - George Burns
The old joke of breaded fish sticks being made from square or rectangular fish. They were the only fish my sons would eat for a number of years. And breaded chicken bought prepackaged, under plastic. Nuggets. Fake fish fake chicken. But oh my how tasty! So yummy that we don’t even bother asking what they really are. And do bouillon cubes really taste like chicken broth, chicken stock, chicken soup? But ravioli in brodo, those tiny little cheese or potato stuffed ravioli no bigger than a postage stamp floating in a steaming bowl of broth is just the homiest, coziest comfort food imaginable and when the craving strikes, when the sky is dark and brooding, rain beating against the window panes, the trees dancing in the wind, the roof creaking, then a bowl of ravioli in brodo is the one thing that warms and soothes, chases away the boogy man. And it is simple and plain, something even the persnickety son will eat. And enjoy. But is the soup real? Freeze-dried squares that I pinch and crumble between my fingers, breaking them up with a wooden spoon in a pot of water; is it soup? I toss a square cube into simmering couscous, into a pot of chicken parts and vegetables bubbling away to reinforce the flavor. Is it real?
Sitting at the table, we stare at the menu, and wonder if anything, anything at all is homemade, made from scratch. Such a small place, such an extensive menu. And is this dish or that really seasonal? One time a friend of ours mentioned a restaurant and explained, “His kitchen staff is a pair of scissors!” Another friend refers to this type of establishment as a “plastic restaurant,” the food served purchased already made, industrially, sealed in plastic pouches. Scratch and sniff. Fake food. It would have broken my heart to tell my darling son that the lovely little bistro where he took me out as a treat, a mother-son outing, served food purchased in plastic and simply reheated.
Chocolate truffles may be the most famous, best-loved fake food, one food resembling another. Chocolate, cream, butter and maybe a flavoring, formed into balls and rolled in cocoa powder, chopped nuts, sprinkles… it is a rich and elegant treat offered at Valentine’s Day and Christmas, served at parties and given as gifts. These are my version of the Chocolate Truffle, flavored with earthy, nutty tahini, sesame seed paste, and a bit of sesame oil and finally rolled in black sesame seeds. These truffles with the hint of sesame, are special and so delicious. Nothing fake about that.
Jamie’s Chocolate Sesame Black Truffles
5.3 oz (150 g) good quality chocolate, a mix of bitter (70%) and semisweet (64%)
3.34 fl oz (100 ml) heavy cream
2 Tbs tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 Tbs (15 g) unsalted butter, cut into a few pieces
1 tsp sesame oil
A few tablespoons black sesame seeds
Coarsely chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to the boil and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for one minute and then whisk until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture smooth. Whisk in the butter, the sesame oil and the sesame paste until smooth. Place the bowl in the refrigerator until firm enough to shape into small balls. Roll each ball in black sesame seeds to coat.