Cook the Books read Jessica Fechtor's memoir called Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought me Home for our bimonthly selection. Jessica's writing is what we teachers like to call "authentic voice." Even though I have never met her, I know I would recognize her when she spoke. Her book tells the story of her brain aneurysm at the age of 28, her nothing-short-of miraculous recovery, her food blog and how food and cooking helped her return to the world.
I was completely, soulfully and utterly mesmerized by this book.
Jessica writes her story in carefully crafted, simple yet powerful sentences, that sets the story free to soar. We walk beside her bleeding brain, recover with her outside of surgery, struggle with physical therapy and the loss of sight and taste, celebrate when things start to go well, cry when they aren't. And between all of this, is food.
Not just any food, but food, like Jessica, that has a heart. In its own simplicity, she talks about toast with good bread and butter. She talks about fruit in a way that makes you sit up and take notice. There are certain canned tomatoes and a certain salt that make food sing. (You will need to read the book to learn these things!)
While I read her journey to recovery, I was thinking about mine, several years ago, and how I thought about food. Food is a connection between love and wellness, between love and healing, between love and caring. Food is offered when things are bad, when things are good and when things are just right. Find the foods that say love to you, and you can find your way back home.
I was intrigued by all the foods Jessica mentions in her book, but I was certain I wanted to create the Cherry Clafoutis at home. My husband loves cherries and I wanted to taste this simple dessert that features cherries at its core. It was delicious and I hope you find it so, too. I modified her recipe to fit our dish. Here's how I made it:
1 T softened butter
sugar for dusting the pan
1 cup of fresh cherries, pitted
1/2 c milk
1 T brown sugar
1/2 t baking powder
1 t vanilla
1 T brandy
1/4 t salt
2 T flour
confectioners sugar for finishing
Preheat oven to 375. Use the butter to coat a round cake pan, thickly coated. Dust the pan with sugar and shake out any excess. Put the cherries in the baking dish (I halved mine) in a single layer. In a blender pitcher, add milk, brown sugar, baking powder, egg, vanilla, brandy, salt and flour. Blend on high speed for 1 minute. Pour the batter over the cherries and back for 30 minutes. The clafoutis will puff up and turn golden brown. A tester will come out clean. Serve at room temperature, dusted with confectioner's sugar.
Read the book. It will nourish you in both mind and spirit. Come back and thank me later.