Martha’s Nuts About Blondies!- Butterscotch-Cashew Blondies! -211 eggs, 162 1/4 cups of sugar, 160 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 198 cups of flour used so far- 54 recipes to go!

May 10, 2011

Martha's Butterscotch-Cashew Blondies

André's Butterscotch-Cashew Blondies

I apologize for being a bit remiss in updating my posts lately. I have been very busy with various activities and have been battling a pretty bad case of sinusitis.

I know… excuses, excuses.

Anyhoo, things are starting to slow down and I’m on the mend so let’s pick up with Martha’s Butterscotch-Cashew Blondies.  My partner, Dan and I have been watching Martha on the Hallmark Channel and during a recent episode she baked up a batch of these. I knew they were in the book and Dan, having remarked at how delicious they looked, urged me to bake them as soon as I could.

An easy recipe, Butterscotch-Cashew Blondies are simply a blondie that incorporates Butterscotch morsels and chopped, toasted cashews into the usual batter of flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs and browned butter. The brown butter, or butter that is melted down and heated to the point of browning the butter solids, has a delicious and nutty taste which augments the flavor of the toasted cashews.

These blondies came out of the oven perfectly baked with a glistening, crisp top-crust and a caky and moist interior. They were sweet and salty with a distinct nutty flavor. My partner, Dan took them to work where they were devoured by his fellow co-workers to rave reviews. Incidentally, Dan was recently promoted. I’m sure he was awarded this position due to his own skill (but I’m sure the constant stream of freshly baked goods didn’t hurt either- wink wink.)

The Storm (pt 3)

The relatives began to arrive. Uncles, Aunts, cousins, friends all began to trickle into the small viewing room in the suburban funeral home. Hugs were exchanged, stories swapped. The question on everyone’s lips was “How’d you fair in the storm?” The answers varied. Some had little to no damage, others were wiped out. A cousin and her husband owned quite a number of rental properties in the city and every single property sustained significant damage. I listened to their stories sympathetically knowing that my home was over 800 miles away, safe and dry.

I watched my mother smile through swollen eyes as each friend and relative entered to pay their respects. My father hovered through the room. My dad, having sold life insurance his entire life, has always secretly enjoyed the pageantry of funereal proceedings. He enjoys the attention of groups of people and knows how to work a room. He hopped from one group of grieving relatives to the other making sure that each knew of his altruistic spirit, having offered his home as shelter to over 25 relatives who found themselves refugees of the storm. He pauses to offer affected sympathy to his in-laws.  I could see mom trying to tune-out his ramblings and cover her disappointment that he’d offered comforting words to everyone in the room but her. My sister, Nicole arrived with her husband and two boys. Each, including her husband, wore an ill-fitting suit with ashen faces. This was the boy’s first funeral and it was all a bit much for them to take in. Nicole and mom stood just a few feet away from the casket containing my grandmother’s diminished frame. My sister, Alyse arrived and more hugs and tears were exchanged. I stepped outside to grab a smoke and release a bit of the tension of grief that was welling up in my chest.

Dad came up behind me and slapped me on the back.

“I thought you quit?”- he asked disappointedly.

“I have. About a hundred times now.” – I replied in my usual smart-assed way.

“That casket in there…”- he went on- “It’s probably the cheapest one they offered.”

He was probably right- particle board and grey felt. It somehow seemed fitting, though. Grandma was always very practical. What would be the purpose of an expensive casket? It’s like a pair of shoes you’ll only wear once. Why spend a lot of money on something so useless? Nonetheless, his remark made me angry. This woman had lived a life of ninety-four years. Who was this man to judge her in her final moments? I walked away in disgust just in time to see my sister, Michelle pull into the parking lot.

I haven’t spoken much of my sister, Michelle. I find it very difficult to write about her, although she could easily have been the subject of every one of these 175 stories. She is clinically diagnosed as having bipolar disorder but it’s hard to let that excuse her years of cruel and criminal acts, most of which have been carried out against my parents. As a result of the endless drama surrounding her frequent run-ins with the law and thousands-upon-thousands of dollars mysteriously disappearing in the form of cash and personal affects from my parents’ bank account and home, my sisters and myself chose to disassociate ourselves from her. Now, at grandma’s funeral we’d have to confront this person who had become somewhat of an embarrassing scourge.

She entered quickly and with purpose into the small viewing room. Her skirt was, as expected, too short and the bust-line of her tight-fitting blouse was, as expected, too low. Her costume jewelry jingled into the room and she immediately threw herself onto my grandmother’s casket weeping loudly. My mother, placed her hand on her shoulder as she heaved with sobs sending rivulets of mascara down her overly-rouged cheeks. I could see my other two sisters fuming a few feet behind, watching this spectacle unfold. Dad placed his hand on Michelle’s shoulder, too.

I’ve never been a parent and therefore it is difficult for me to comment on what makes a parent’s heart tick. Here is a person who has done everything in her power to destroy all trust and love between her and her family and yet here were her two most wounded victims offering her comfort. I was dumbfounded by their affection. Michelle reached into her purse and produced a photograph of her and grandma she’d had taken years earlier. She placed the photograph in the casket with grandma. This was too much to take for my youngest sister, Alyse. Once Michelle had moved away to step outside for a smoke, Alyse swooped in and snatched the photograph away. This soon erupted into a heated argument outside between my siblings. Dad stepped in to cool things down which only fanned the flames of anger. At that point the sun was setting and I took my leave, hoping that by the time of the funeral, my sisters regained a sense of decorum.

That night I thought of grandma. I remembered her jewelry chest. It was filled with costume pieces mostly. Nothing too fancy, just bits of faux gold and silver that sparkled in the light. A few heavy doubloons from Mardi Gras Balls of yesteryear were magical, in my opinion, like rescued pieces-of-eight from a long-sunken pirate’s ship. The most spectacular and prized of her simple jewelry collection was a bracelet on which hung twenty-two circular, golden charms, each containing a birthstone with a name and date engraved in beautiful, scrolled script. Each charm represented a grandchild and each was inscribed with their name and date of birth. Each contained a semi-precious stone, the birthstone of each grandchild. I always looked for the one containing the stone with the pinkish hue. It was a garnet, my birthstone.

The next day we arrived in the small chapel room on the other side of the funeral home. We gathered somberly. There was no music, no fuss. The priest began to speak. I sat next to my sisters and nephews. My mother’s oldest brother rose to deliver the eulogy. My Uncle Bill is a tall, imposing man who relocated his entire family to Texas many years ago where he was able to cultivate a strong, unwavering, sense of Republican pessimism through the years. He spoke with his deep, booming voice of grandma’s greatest legacy- her love- his voice grew weak and cracked as he said this. He then spoke of a bracelet. One-by-one, he called the names from a handful of small, circular charms, now removed from the simple chained wristband. One-by-one each of the grandchildren stepped up to receive theirs. Tears rolling down my cheeks I stepped up. My big, bear of an Uncle reached out and gave me a deep embrace. I could feel his broad shoulders quake with sadness. I took my seat next to my sisters and nephews and pressed the cold, metal charm firmly between my thumb and forefinger feeling the tiny garnet press into my skin.

I thought about grandma’s final act on Earth. She brought us all together in the wake of a terrible storm. She facilitated a gathering of her family, a family who needed to see each other, who needed to know everyone was alright. Just like Uncle Bill said, grandma’s legacy was her love. I looked over at my parents, each had an arm around my sister, Michelle. This time, instead of anger and confusion at the sight, I felt a glimmer of understanding and even a little forgiveness.

This is how I will always remember the storm.

The storm where we lost grandma and found each other.

Thank you, grandma.

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