Monday, March 3, 2014


Rest you then, rest, sad eyes, 
Melt not in weeping 
While she lies sleeping, 
Softly, softly, now softly lies sleeping. 
- Anonymous 

 Hushed voices, words softly whispered like the rustle of silk against bare skin, fingertips softly grazing the back of a hand or a cheek softly blushing. A prayer murmured softly to no one in particular. 

 Hushed voices broken by giggles, confidences divulged behind cupped hands, girlhood secrets, girlhood laughter. Shhhhh softly so no one will hear. 

 Tears. The rumble of low voices, softly imparting reassuring words.

Kiss Me Softly, Listen Closely 

 Soft peaks of whipped cream, snow falling softly, a light dusting of white. Whipped cream, drooping softly, or elegant sweeps of glistening meringue, thick creamy sweeps of cake batter in soft waves. 

 There is something so sensual about cooking. No, not the slicing and mincing, knife thudding against wood, rat-a-tat-tat; not the crack of chicken bones or the violent sizzle and pop of onion tossed into hot oil, seething, or the aggressive bubbling of red sauce, spattering angrily across the stovetop. 

 The tickety-tack tickety-tack of beaters against plastic as eggs whites froth and rise, the foam of a head of beer, the bubbles of champagne. Thick, thicker until opaque and glossy, snow piled up on the rooftops. Gently, softly, lovingly fold mountains of whipped egg whites – so aptly, so elegantly blancs d'œufs montés en neige in French, egg whites whisked to snow – into cake batter, softly, delicately so as not to break the white, deflate them into flatness. Fold, turn, fold until a luxurious, creamy, soft-as-velvet batter is created, almost a shame to bake it into cake. 

 Radio humming softly as I knead. I push my hands into flour, letting it gather softly around my skin, flour filtered through my fingers, softly drifting down to the tabletop. The slow, rhythmic movement of kneading, pressing fingers softly into cool, damp dough, pushing, pressing until smooth. Therapeutic, really. 

 I love pushing my fingers into flour, lentils, couscous grains, beans, softly, softly. Sensual.

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
- William Butler Yeats

 We came together at a party. Loud music faded into the background, barely heard as little more than a reason to dance, slowly, arms wrapped around each other softly, tentatively.

 He leaned in towards me; months of doubt and yearning fell into confidence. He murmured in my ear ever so softly, his warm breath on my neck, in my ear as I listened shyly.

 All that remains of that night is a black and white photograph taken in a softly lit room, early morning. My profile against the blank wall, a smile dancing softly on my lips; my knees are pulled up to my chest (sitting on that old, worn mattress on the floor) and I feel delicious (no other word). Noises from deep in the house, voices, footsteps on the wooden floor, clattering down the stairs, noises of people preparing and eating hurried breakfasts filtered softly into the room, our private haven. None of that, no one existed apart from us at that moment.

 The filtered light softly illuminating my skin, my dreams.

 One last hug, one single "you drive me crazy" spoken softly, lips pressed against my shoulder. "Will you come back tonight?" expectation lighting up his face, briefly hidden behind the camera. "Will you stay?"

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

 Parenting. Words softly spoken, lullabies crooned, tunes hummed gently, softly. Admonitions yelled, fists clenched, holding back. Angered threats slipping softly, guardedly, between pinched lips. Parenting is a complicated balancing act. Utter delight and perfect joy slip into anger and frustration with little explanation.

 A tiny bundle of joy wrapped up, swaddled softly in a cuddly blanket, the sleep of a newborn, smelling sweetly of milk. Two parents leaning over to watch, breath held so as not to wake him. Tiptoe softly from the room, voices held in check, muted whispers not to break the peaceful silence.

Softly…. Laugh, Rain, Thunder, Touch

 I loved watching my father bake. With the precision of the engineer that he was, with the attention usually reserved for working under the hood of a car, he would make cakes and puddings, gorgeous, delicate choux puffs and luscious prune and apricot compote like jewels shimmering in the moonlight. 

 His big, strong, rough hands – I remember slipping my tiny hand into his, him softly taking mine and holding on, secure, safe and warm - would softly fold beaten egg white into batter, creating what would be the perfect sponge cake, light and ethereal. Those hands would softly and precisely pipe out dough, which would puff up crazily in the oven, puffs which he would later fill to overflowing with pastry cream. Those hands would ladle out perfect rounds of batter onto the old pancake griddle to sizzle and set, piles placed before four hungry, happy children.

 His movements as he baked or cooked were as soft and gentle as the manner in which he would gather me in his arms for a hug or cradle my face between his warm hands. Softly. A father's hands are full of magic and fascination; gardening, tightening bolts, boarding up plate glass windows against hurricane winds, taping cartons for mailing, handing out quarters for straight A's or lunch money.

Definitely not "stewed prunes" which evoke images of cold, harsh diningrooms in senior residences straight out of the 1960's, seltzer water and rye bread. My father made pots of gorgeous prune compote, prunes and apricots slow simmered in water spiced with cinnamon and magic until the dried fruit softened and plumped up, shimmering jewel-like in a rich sauce. This is a sumptuous adult version in which prunes are simmered in a gorgeous red dessert wine and water with just a hint of orange and cinnamon. Serve these delicate, wine-infused prunes warm in small bowls topped with whipped cream or ice cream or use them as a topping for almost any dessert. 


For 250 g moist pitted prunes (weighed without pits, about 35 - 40 prunes)
1/4 cup (50 g) granulated white sugar
2 cups (500 ml) total liquid = water + red dessert wine (or a fruity red wine or port wine) - (I used 1 1/2 cups/375 ml water + 1/4 cup/125 ml red wine but you could use less water + more wine, up to 1/2 cup, for a stronger hint of wine)
Pinch ground cinnamon
Thick slice (about 1 cm/ 1/2 inch) orange (with peel and all)

Place everything (prunes + sugar + water + red wine + cinnamon + orange slice) in a saucepan, bring to the boil, lower to simmer and simmer 10 - max 15 minutes until the prunes are plump and tender but have not exploded. Carefully remove the prunes from the liquid to a bowl and continue to boil the liquid with the orange slice until slightly thickened, maybe another 10 minutes or as desired.

Serve the prunes warm in a bowl with some of the liquid/syrup and topped with whipped cream or ice cream.

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  1. Loved this , beautiful photos until I came to the "squashed" banana ,,:-) My mother-in-law loves her prunes and often cooks this . Well done.

  2. Such a gentle post, lilting and pleasurable.

  3. What an interesting post, I could almost hear a slight whisper in my right ear. Love this!

  4. A softly calming read for me during an especially hectic day. Thank you.