Nice Pear, Martha!- Pear, Pistachio and Ginger Blondies! – 123 eggs, 94 cups of sugar, 94 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 109 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 103 recipes to go!

October 16, 2010


Martha's Pear, Pistachio and Ginger Blondies



André's Pear, Pistachio and Ginger Blondies


My friend, Nellie is a production artist with a talent for knitting. A former co-worker, Nellie was part of an enormous group of my co-workers laid off by my employer last year. It was a sad day. I was out of town at a conference when the lay-offs were announced. I received text-after-text throughout the day of names. Names of friends whose faces I would’nt see when I returned to work the next week. Ironically, my conference was at Walt Disney World- the happiest place on Earth, and yet I was very, very far from happy.

In Nellie’s new job, she telecommutes. Wherever she can bring her laptop is now her virtual office. Given this freedom, she’s decided to pack-up and move to Portland, Oregon. I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous. Personally, I’d love to telecommute. I like where I work but think I’d be a happier person somewhere other than in the Midwest. I wanted to bake Nellie something before she left and she did leave me a tin on my front doorstep.

I recently was in Los Angeles visiting my sister’s family and attending a meeting for work. Over the last few months in Kansas City I searched for one of the many elusive ingredients Martha’s Cookie Book calls for- dried pears. I know this doesn’t sound like that difficult an ingredient to locate, but I seriously could not find a local retailer that carried it. While in Los Angeles I went to the L.A.  Farmer’s Market with my sister for lunch and there in one of the open-air shops was a large cellophane bag of whole dried pears. I snatched them up immediately.

The recipe is a breeze. Pistachios, dried pears and crystalized ginger are chopped in a processor and added to a typical blondie batter of flour, butter, sugar and eggs and then baked. Dried fruits and crystalized ginger have a tendency to goop-up a food processor so it’s important to pulse these ingredients and not just let the processor run. If you find they are beginning to stick to the sides or the blade, sacrifice a bit of the granulated sugar you were going to use in the blondie batter to help free the goopy bits up a bit.

How do they taste? They’re quite good. Pear is a subtle flavor which is dominated by the ginger. I probably could have used dried apricots and they would’ve tasted the same. The pistachios are a nice touch, though. Overall, this is not one of my favorites. It’s just a bit too dense for my taste. They’re a bit like thick tummy bricks. I think the subtle flavors are suited for the more adult palate and wouldn’t recommend them for kids’ treats. They might be nice to serve with tea but I have never thrown a tea party and at age forty-two, I doubt I ever will.

So, good luck and bon voyage, Nellie. I hope that the Northwest is the perfect setting for a new and exciting chapter of your life and brings you many new knitting adventures.

I’ve been writing about my high school years lately and my group of misfits friends who came together under the name, The 12 Nice Guys. I think I still have few stories about this bunch to share so I’m just going to keep typing and see what comes out.

Catholic High School didn’t have a uniform. Coming from Saint Thomas More, this was awesome. I no longer had to wear the ridiculous navy Dickies slacks and the white cotton-polyester blend button-down knits with “Saint Thomas More” and a large blue eagle emblazoned across my heart. I was an individual now and could wear real-people clothes to school. That said, Catholic High had a strict dress code. Knit shirts or button down long sleeve or short sleeve shirts were acceptable but had to be tucked in. No jeans were allowed. Slacks must be neat and pressed. Socks must be worn with sensible shoes. No tennis shoes or sneakers. Hair could not be colored and could never extend over the ears. Students must always be clean shaven.

Basically, students were expected to be impeccably groomed and dressed in business-casual attire each day. I think I mentioned in a previous post that Catholic High was essentially a training camp for future doctors and lawyers. The penalties for not following these rules were swift and severe. For instance, My friend, Tom showed up with sideburns that extended a little too far down the sides of his cheeks. He was marched into Brother John’s, the assistant principal’s office and handed a disposable razor. He then had to shave his entire face without water or shaving cream. Once he finished and his face was raw and bleeding he was made to take handfuls of aftershave and slap it across his cheeks. Tom emerged from the office, his face red with embarrassment and astringent, patches of blood streaked down his cheeks mixed with angry tears.

Conformity was not only expected, it was enforced with an iron fist. With so many restrictions around us, when opportunities arose to express ourselves creatively, The 12 Nice Guys had a tendency to go a bit overboard. In the Winter of our senior year with only a couple of months left before Spring break The 12 Nice Guys began work on a monumental task. It would be the group’s masterpiece, our proudest creation. We would build the vehicle that would take us to Florida for Spring break. It would be a tribute to the engineering and creative skills of The 12 Nice Guys. It would elicit envy and disgust from every driver we encountered along the gulf coast’s interstate. It would proudly proclaim we were heading to Florida to do some serious damage. It would not only demonstrate the incredible engineering skills of  the group but also the complete absence of taste and decency among its members. It would be the most offensive thing to go from 0-to-60 in less than 5 seconds the Gulf States had ever seen.

It all started with an old 1978 Town and Country station wagon belonging to Ralph’s mom. It didn’t really run anymore so when Ralph asked if he and his friends could use it for a “project” she gladly threw him the keys. Pete and Tom focused on the engine and began searching for a new transmission in junkyards across town. Ralph and Benny gutted the interior, removing the seats and carpet. They also foolishly used a circular saw with a diamond-tipped blade to remove the entire roof, turning this poor station wagon into a convertible. Ralph’s front yard soon became a mechanical morgue of bits and pieces of Town & Country parts. The clanging and whirring went on into the wee hours of weekday mornings and throughout the weekends. It was about this time Ralph’s mom took up drinking in the afternoon.

Not having a bit of mechanical talent, I kept my distance and the group was thankful that I made no effort to contribute. They wanted me, “Dad” – to be surprised.

About a month-and-a-half later, the work was complete. I went to the unveiling at Ralph’s house. A blue plastic tarpaulin covered the vehicle so that it could be whisked away to some dramatic effect. The group of twelve gathered and a bottle of champagne was on hand for the christening. Ralph’s mom and dad were there, already a bit tipsy and huggy. Saint Ralph said a few words and the blue tarp was pulled back to reveal the most menacing vehicle I had ever seen.

Town & Country station wagons are big cars. Very much like a tank you’d drive your family around in. It was now absent a roof and so your eye was drawn to an interior of black velvet seats. Bright, red, synthetic fur covered the dashboard and the floors as though one had skinned a muppet to create a provocative and unique upholstery. The exterior was painted in flat black latex with yellow and black caution tape stretched along the sides like racing stripes. Limbs from dismembered mannequins served as points of interest along the interior and dash. A pair of steer horns extended from the front grill and painted orange, yellow and red flame details stretched across the hood in the same flat latex.

The engine had been souped-up to ensure that upon ignition there was not only an angry growl, but a fierce and furious roar. It was the most garish tribute to testosterone I had ever seen. Benny held the bottle of champagne above his head and yelled “I christen this vehicle… The Beast!” and smashed the hood with enough force to leave an enormous dent but not break the bottle. After several other attempts by several other members of the group leaving several other dents, they finally decided to just pop the cork and pour the contents over the hood and each other.

I thought there was something missing. True, the vehicle was an engineering wonder and a design disaster. The project had taken the most conservative of American-made cars and turned it into an instrument of the devil-  but it lacked a more obvious sense of irony. I ran to the convenience store around the corner to make a quick purchase and when I returned I placed a bumper sticker in the middle of the caution tape that stretched across the gated rear. It simply read “Baby on Board”.

Believe it or not, the vehicle roared all the way from Baton Rouge to Destin with four passengers on board. I followed in my Dad-mobile, one of three other cars that were part of this drunken pilgrimage. I watched as Tom drove The Beast over every orange pylon in Mobile. I’m sure there were troopers who witnessed this but out of some strange reverence or mourning for their own youth, they simply let the boys in the demon station wagon go.

I would write more about Spring break but I’m afraid I don’t remember much. No one got pregnant and no one died so as far as I’m concerned, it was a success.

Upon returning to Baton Rouge, the guys entered The Beast in several ugly car contests and, of course, won. At the end of the Summer after graduation, as each of us headed to our separate colleges, Ralph drove The Beast to the woods outside of his family’s camp in Holden, LA, where he left it to become a deer stand.

I imagine there’s been a smile or two from Louisiana sportsmen who’ve happened upon this relic of a demon station wagon now overgrown with brush and weeds. As they crouch behind the rusted doors upon remnants of red faux-fur and scattered mannequin limbs perhaps they imagine what it was like to be young again. What it was like to have the freedom to act upon a bad idea just because you could.  And in the quiet, as they wait for their four-legged prey, they imagine knocking down orange pylon after orange pylon as the restrictive world of dress codes, laws, rules and regulations goes roaring past.

2 Responses to “Nice Pear, Martha!- Pear, Pistachio and Ginger Blondies! – 123 eggs, 94 cups of sugar, 94 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 109 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 103 recipes to go!”

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story about The Beast. Nicely constructed narrative.

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