Bella, Martha! Bellissima!- Baci di Dama!- 129 eggs, 98 cups of sugar, 99 sticks of Butter, and 115 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 99 recipes to go!

October 28, 2010

Martha's Baci di Dama

André's Baci di Dama

Nestled in the Alessandra province of Italy is a tiny hamlet by the name of Tortona. It is in this tiny village, Baci di Dama (Lady Kisses) were first concocted. A simple mixture of chocolate, meringue and chopped toasted almonds are combined to create a confection with quite an impressive flavor. These nutty meringues are joined together with a kiss of melted chocolate ganache to form an orb of light and crunchy goodness.

When introduced to the world of confections, Baci di Dama were exdchanged as tiny tokens of affection, little, sweet gifts to be shared by lovers or presented as a display of one’s amorous intentions.

I baked this sweet treat for a party held by one of my partner’s co-workers. She was Italian and I thought she might appreciate a cookie with a nod to her homeland. As you can see from the photo above, my Baci di Dama look a bit like deer poop. This is unfortunate. They are quite sweet and delicious with an distinct almond flavor. My meringues just happened to take on the shape of woodland droppings. Actually, this worked out well since it is the Halloween season and people are used to sweet treats that have a less-than-appetizing appearance.

I did, however, look up a new Italian translation for my offering- Escrementi di Dama! Kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

It’s that time of year again. A time for goblins and witches, although you never really see kids dressed like goblins. What exactly is a goblin anyway? Most kids I know usually dress like Marvel superheroes or Disney princesses unless they’re teenagers. Then they just dress like hookers.

It’s also a time for eerie stories about ghosts and spirits and things that go bump in the night. I’m going to add my own personal ghost story to the mix. It’s a story I’ve never shared with my family and one that I am sure my sister, Nicole will be calling me about shortly after I post this to my blog. My sister, Nicole has an affinity for the paranormal and often travels with fellow afficionados to haunted hotels and points of interest throughout the South snapping hundreds of photos in order to capture an image of the dearly departed. She’s shown me quite a few with speckled orbs of light that she is convinced is a proof of protoplasmic jiggi-whatsitz. I am quite skeptical, if you can’t tell.

In the early eighties on Woodhaven Drive my family lived in a squat, white-bricked ranch house surrounded by large oak trees covered in moss, much like many of the old suburban Louisiana ranch houses built in the fifties. Most of the neighbors on our street were original residents of the Broadmoor subdivision. Their children had grown and left the nest years ago. It was unfortunate for my little sisters and me. We had very few children our age that we could play with.

In another squat ranch home of sandy red brick just across the street was a family. The Sterns were an elderly couple, long retired with several children who were grown and had families of their own. Their eldest son was divorced and had a tough time making ends meet and so his daughter, Frannie, lived with Mr. & Mrs. Stern. Frannie’s father, while visiting his daughter and his parent’s house a few years earlier suffered a massive heart attack and died leaving Frannie to be reared by her grandparents.

Frannie was a few years older than myself. She was a harsh and frequently angry adolescent. I would often find myself pissed off by something she’d said or done. I distinctly remember her hitting me in the head with a  small, white transistor radio. I also remember going to my mother to show her the bruise in hopes that she’d talk with Mrs. Stern and have Frannie punished. Mom explained that no one liked a tattle-tale and that she was sure Frannie had her reasons.

Frannie spent a lot of time at our house. My sisters adored her. She was the big, worldly, older sister my sisters wanted. She would talk about boys and kissing and my sisters were mesmerized. I’d secretly listen in because, truth be told, I was a bit mesmerized, too. Frannie would bring over her old copies of Teen Beat magazine and my sisters and she would cut out the photos of the guys they thought were the cutest and fill scrapbooks with images of Andy Gibb, Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett.

We felt sorry for Frannie. She didn’t have a dad and we never really knew what happened to her mom. She was alone. One Spring, Frannie was no where to be found. My sisters and I hadn’t seen very much of her in months. She was a few years older than us and had moved on to high school and therefore we thought she’d just become too cool to hang out anymore. Mr. & Mrs. Stern didn’t tell us anything about her whereabouts and our parents weren’t talking about it, so my sisters and I just assumed she thought we were too childish and wanted to hang out with kids her own age. It seemed like something Frannie would do.

It was late. Way into the wee hours of the morning. I slept in a converted foyer with French doors on either side that opened to a hallway on one end of the room and to a small dining room on the other. One entire wall of my room was a large sliding-glass door that opened to the backyard and a small kidney-shaped swimming pool. I remember that evening I fell asleep without pulling the heavy, green curtain over the window. I looked out at the darkness of our backyard and could see the moonlight reflected in low-lying fog that hovered above the pool. Banana trees swayed and rustled in the wind. Out of the chilling white noise of the evening that lulled me to sleep I was awakened by a thud. I sat up in my bed and glanced sleepily around the room. Shadows cast from large banana leaves outside my window moved gently back and forth across every surface, every corner, every nook of my tiny bedroom.

Thud. The sound interrupted the quiet darkness again. I sat trembling in my bed.

Since my room was not intended to be used as a bedroom, there were no closets. A friend of our family had constructed a large cedar and pine wardrobe that now stood in the darkest corner of the room. Thud!

The sound was coming from the wardrobe. From inside- to be exact. I held my breath and inched forward to the foot of my bed. Trembling, I reached my hand out towards the door of the wardrobe. Before my hand touched the cold, metal-ringed handle, there came another thud.

I could feel tears building in the back of my throat and my feet and hands turned to ice. With a gasp I threw open the wardrobe doors.

Clothes. Hanging clothes. The same clothes that had always been there. Maybe it was the pipes in the bathroom or a squirrel that was trapped in the wall.  I retreated to the bed leaving the doors of the cabinet opened. I closed the curtains a bit and flopped back down on the bed.

Just as I began to nod off once again, I heard the thump and out of the corner of my eye saw the clothes in the cabinet gently sway. I was terrified.

“Who’s there?” – I called out meekly.

There was no response. I rose to my feel and walked with wobbly legs to the cabinet once again. I parted the clothes on the rack with one courageous move. A face! There was a face peering back at me! I began to whimper. Terrified, I tried to call out to my mom, dad, sisters, anyone who could hear me. The face in the shadows inched towards me and I heard it speak. It said “Shhhhhhhhhhh.” As the face emerged from the shadows and entered into a sliver of moonlight, I could see it was Frannie smiling mischievously. I had been the victim of a terrible practical joke.

I whined with relief- “Frannie! What are you doing here?”

Placing her finger to her lip, she simply said “Shhhhhhh.” – and then motioned me to follow her. We tiptoed out of my room and into the hallway. On the wall was a large wooden clock. It’s pendulum swung back and forth, back and forth. Tic…. tic… tic… tic… Frannie turned and looked at it with an annoyed expression. I reached up and grabbed the pendulum so that the ticking would stop. Satisfied with creeping in perfect silence, Frannie moved down the hallway to the closed doors that led to my sisters’ and parents’ bedrooms. She paused in from of each one placing the palms of her hands against the doors and leaning her head in as if to listen to what was going on inside. She then looked over at me with another annoyed expression and motioned for me to go back to my room. Frannie was so demanding and had no right to be in our house at that hour but I did as she indicated because I didn’t want to get hit in the head with another transistor radio.

I woke up the next morning to the sound of sobs coming from the kitchen. It was my sister, Nicole. Mom was talking very gently to her, holding back her own tears.  I laid in my bed listening to their conversation and ready to tattle on Frannie for breaking into our house last night.

Mom carefully and slowly explained to my sister that Frannie hadn’t been around for the last few months because she was in the hospital. Frannie had leukemia and had become quite ill. They didn’t want to tell us where she was because they thought it would upset us.

Frannie had died early that morning.

That’s impossible, I thought to myself. She was just in our house last night. I looked at the wardrobe. The doors were closed. But I had opened them last night! Or… maybe it was a dream. Yes… It had been a dream… a sad coincidence. I laid in my bed and listened as each of my sisters awoke and my mother shared the sad news. Our house filled with tears. I, too, began to weep, pulling the covers around me, stuffing the covers into my mouth so that no one could hear my cries of grief.  When I finally felt okay to leave my room, I stepped out into the hallway. Mom was there. Before she spoke I told her that I had heard everything already and I put my arms around her waist and pressed my head into her shoulders. I looked up at the clock that hung on the wall just behind my mom.

The pendulum was still.

Frozen at the time of Frannie’s death.


9 Responses to “Bella, Martha! Bellissima!- Baci di Dama!- 129 eggs, 98 cups of sugar, 99 sticks of Butter, and 115 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 99 recipes to go!”

  1. Nicole dubroc Says:

    I will testify that the clock was stopped. I remember that. She was like a
    Movie star. She was only 14 a
    Month shy of 15. December 8 is her birthday and I will always miss her. I am
    Not surprised that she stopped by before she
    Left- after all , we are the only family she had. Love you – big sister!!!

  2. Suzanne Heins Says:

    Andre, that is one terrific ghost story.

  3. Tommy Salami Says:

    I bet you made a bunch of those cookies in your pants when you realized what had happened.

    By the by, “little deer turds” would be “stronzi di cervo” in Italian.
    Stronzi is like calling a kid a “little shit” too. 🙂

  4. Charlotte Says:

    What a wonderful story! You are a dynamic writer and I felt like I was with you every step of the way as you walked with Frannie. May she rest in peace and I am sure she is smiling down at you when you wrote this beautiful story. Storytelling is a big part of my heritage (Hopi-Dine. I truly enjoy your blogs as you are a wonderful storyteller. Blessings to you and Aisv Nv Wadohiyado (walk in thankful peace) Aho!

  5. Alarie Tennille Says:

    I really shouldn’t have read it this late at night, but it’s a great story. Thanks!

  6. Mary Gemmell Says:

    I was so annoyed when the UPS man rang the bell to deliver a package. I just didn’t want to tear myself away from your story about Frannie.

  7. Russ Says:

    Whoa. Just whoa.

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