Tuile, We Meet Again- Cherry Tuiles- 23 eggs, 15 1/2 cups of sugar, 12 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 18 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 161 recipes to go!

April 4, 2010

Martha's Cherry Tuiles

André's Cherry Tuiles

Some of you may have read an earlier post of mine titled, Tuile I Ever Stop Baking These Damn Tuiles? .

In this post I described the tedious process of making these candy-like cookies. A minimal amount of flour, lots of butter, and a heck-of-a-lot of sugar are combined and baked until they flatten into a paper-thin, bubbling glob. Once removed from the oven, they are allowed to cool slightly, then gently lifted with an offset spatula, and shaped into their forms. Cannoli molds were needed for this particular tuile to shape into delicate and crispy tubes.

I have four words to describe this process.  Pain-In-The-Ass!  You can only bake a few at a time because they spread all over the baking sheet, and you really can’t predict what shape they will take once they flatten out. Some of the tuiles assumed perfect circles, while others became long, meandering rivulets of sugary goo. Bake them too long and the sugar burns, bake them too little and they cool into a gummy, caramel-y texture that sticks to your teeth.

The process of shaping them is no treat, either. Try to shape them too soon and they fall apart. Shape them too late and they’re too crispy to work with. Like I said in my previous post, the reason tuiles are shaped at all is because if they were allowed to cool and crisp in their flat form, they would look exactly like novelty cat barf.  This would be particularly true of this recipe which calls for a 1/2 cup of dried sour cherries. The end effect would not only look like cat barf, it would look like cat barf from a poor kitty that is not much longer for this world.  These are not things you want to think about while enjoying a cookie.

How are they?

By themselves, they are simply too damn sweet. I am not fond of hard candies, having loss dental work to sweets that were far too sticky. However, I served them crumbled with vanilla ice cream to my guests at a small dinner-with-friends evening, and they were delicious.

As I mentioned in my previous tuile post, tuile is the French word for Tile. They are called tuiles because they resemble the clay roof tiles commonly seen throughout the cities of France.

I am a mix breed from Louisiana. I am half French (cajun-actually , although my geneaology would indicate  my father’s family is actually Creole- again, read the previous tuile post to understand the difference.) My mother’s side of the family is Irish Catholic from Uptown New Orleans.

Yes, folks. I’m half Irish and half Cajun. Needless to say, I have misdirected anger issues. I think my saving grace is that I have a smidge of German thrown in from my mom’s mom. Germans have anger issues but they generally focus them on something productive. That was a reference to engineering, not genocide.

I have never written about my maternal grandmother. She and I were very close and she died just a few years ago. I lived with her during my last two years of high school and many of the things in my life that I have a deep affection for, are rooted in what she taught me. My love of cooking, crafting, card games, scrabble, and wine before bed, to name a few. So many in my family believe she was a saint. Putting up with my shenanigans (as she called it) for two years probably would count towards canonization.

This is not to say, grandma was perfect. She wasn’t. She was a living time capsule of a dutiful housewife, even years after my grandfather passed away. She cooked, cleaned, tended to the household, raised eight children, went to church, and never drove or worked a job outside of the home her entire life. She never expressed opinions on politics or business. I don’ t think she felt comfortable commenting on such things, almost as though, she didn’t think it was her place. Conversations about sex would be out of the question. Southern Catholics from the depression era never engaged in sexual congress, and if they did, there had better be a baby in nine months or they’d have to drive the 15 miles to the Protestant church in Metairie every Sunday.

Grandma was truly a loving person with a wonderful heartfelt laugh. She always had a hug and a kiss for everyone and lived a long and humbly noble life.

Because of the time capsule in which grandma lived there were a few modern advancements she simply could not embrace. Because she rarely spoke of politics, many of her opinions had gone unnoticed by me. Looking back I remember a couple of instances with grandma that have stuck with me through the years; little glimpses of what she thought about the world around her, and how threatened she was by how the world was changing.

I distinctly remember one instance at my Aunt’s house. It was carnival season in New Orleans, more commonly referred to as Mardi Gras, and my grandma had been slightly over-served. She was clearly a little giddy and was telling  stories to my cousins and me of her old neighborhood in Uptown.

“There was a lady who would always come through the neighborhood looking to make some extra money washing clothes or doing housework, and she always had a couple of little pickaninnies with her.”

I remember I was around sixteen years old at the time, and there was my grandmother using one of the most racially disparaging terms. My mouth hit the floor and in my best judgmental, elongated whine, I exclaimed, “Graaaandmaaaaaa!”

She looked at me blankly. She didn’t know why I was so offended by her statement. My cousins, who were older, were amused by grandma speaking this way.  I was not. I was very disappointed to learn that this woman who had been so loving, so kind, so warm, was also a bonafide racist.

Years later, four years before Hurricane Katrina washed the city out, I was living in Uptown New Orleans. I visited my grandmother often. Due to her declining health, she had been living with my Uncle and his new wife in Metairie. Occasionally, I would drive grandma to her hair or doctor’s appointments and we would chat along the way. My roommates, at the time, were a couple of friends, both actors, who had recently wed. They were very talented, intelligent, and deeply passionate people who were very much in love. They were also an interracial couple. This did not sit well with grandma. I remember complaining to her while driving to one of her appointments, about my male roommate being so messy. He didn’t keep the house clean, never did laundry, and was always smoking weed. Grandma glared at me intensely and offered up her assessment of the situation.

“André, you have to understand that when a black man marries a white woman, he thinks he has it made. He doesn’t have to clean, bathe, or even brush his teeth. Why bother? He has a white woman. What else would he want?”

I just about wrecked the car.

My grandmother was a racist… But aren’t racists bad people? They destroy communities, don’t they?  They chant racial epithets and burn crosses, not crochet afghans and whip up really good oyster stuffing.  Don’t they go to hell? No. Not my grandma. No way.

I heard a quote last year that has stuck with me.

“We can only read the world with the light we’re given.”

Is it fair of me to say that grandma was a racist? Probably not. She had very limited light in which to see her world. She had the light of family, house, and home. She had the light of the few blocks that surrounded her. She never traveled the world. She really never met anyone outside of her own circle of family and friendly neighbors.

With the light she had been given, she read as much as she could.

As easy as it would be for me to dismiss this person as ignorant, judgmental, and bigoted, I simply never could. I learned so much about love, acceptance, and belief in myself from this person. This imperfect and wonderful woman.

Sure, some of her thoughts were askew. She called them pickaninnies because that is all she knew them as. She knew that black men wanted white women. She also knew that her family needed her. She knew that when we were sick, she’d make us well. She knew that when we needed to talk, she would need to listen. She was not a saint. Honestly, are we expected to be saints? Isn’t being human hard enough as it is? My grandmother was a good person. The best person she could be with what she was given.

I know that if there is a heaven, she’s there. I think I know what her heaven would be like. She wakes up everyday and makes breakfast for everyone, then sits down with a hot cup of chicory coffee mixed with boiled milk and watches the Price is Right (with Bob Barker hosting) all afternoon. She shouts out dollar amounts and is always within $5.00 of the actual price.

Cherubs stop by for po-boys and she serves them right up with a frosty mug of root beer. She gives each a hug, a kiss, and a quarter in their pocket as they fly off…

the little white ones,…

and the pickaninny ones, too.

4 Responses to “Tuile, We Meet Again- Cherry Tuiles- 23 eggs, 15 1/2 cups of sugar, 12 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 18 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 161 recipes to go!”

  1. Nicole Dubroc Says:

    Andre- I miss that woman more then words can say. You are so right- she is in heaven still taking care of all of us and loving everyone she meets up there. Grandma, have another bourbon and water on me! One love!

  2. Tommy Says:

    “We can only read the world with the light we’re given.” That’s poetry, it really says it all.
    Your grandmother sounds like a lovely lady, and I think my own is a few clouds over watching the same TV show, with a cup of percolated coffee.

  3. Russ Says:

    “We can only read the world with the light we’re given.” Dang, that’s good. Also…novelty cat barf cookies just doesn’t sound as appetizing as what Ms. Stewart came up with.

  4. Carol Says:

    I do hope you’re considering publishing these posts, Andre. They are potent and vastly entertaining.

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