I survey my refrigerator every day or so to see what’s left over, forgotten or likely to go to waste if I don’t use it soon.
Some would say it’s the old French frugality cropping up.
Grandma Annie did the same thing. I thought of her as I cobbled together a quick lunch today. And for some reason, I thought of Barb, perhaps because I sensed hers was a frugal existence.
It’s been years since I thought of her, the large, plain woman who lived two short blocks from Grandma Annie. I remember her as a quiet woman, either sad or wise, or perhaps both. She wore sensible dresses and sturdy shoes and was one of those people you see walking when others drive.
She was younger than my grandmother by 15 or 20 years, I think, but Annie seemed to watch out for her. If she baked cupcakes or cookies, she’d whip off her apron, grab her coat and say, “I’ll just take some down to Barb.” If Annie’s garden yielded more tomatoes than usual, she'd always give some to Barb.
Barb would do the same, less frequently. I do not recall Annie entering Barb’s house or Barb lingering in Annie’s sunny living room, but they kept in touch.
As I grew older, I understood that Barb’s handsome husband was a bit of a ne’er-do-well. He had a good job, I am told, but what he did with his money, I do not know. There were whispers, of course, there are always whispers; Annie was too polite to say. I knew better than to ask.
In my head I drew certain conclusions about Barb that I never voiced around my elders. I simply filed it all away.
Barb fascinated me. I knew she worked in the office of a big department store and she walked to work every morning and walked home every night surefooted in her big sturdy shoes. Not many of her generation worked outside the home, but Barb did so with quiet dignity that I admired even as a child.
She did what she had to do, and if she was troubled by it, she never said. She simply did.
I do not think my grandmother pitied her. Nor do I think Barb sought pity. But it was clear Annie respected Barb and thought of her when she had extras to give away.
Today, looking at the contents of my refrigerator, I was baffled until I stumbled upon on a site called Let’s Cook French, which featured the recipe from which this cake was adapted. It was an interesting experiment.
Blue Cheese and Pear Cake
1 ¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup oil
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons honey
1 ¼ cups blue cheese, crumbled
½ cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
three pears, peeled and chopped
Preheat oven to 400. In large bowl, mix flour and baking powder. In smaller bowl, whisk eggs, oil, milk, salt and pepper. Pour into dry ingredients, and blend. Add the Gruyere and blend. Finally, add the pear, blue cheese and nuts.
The original recipe calls for the batter to be poured into a buttered and floured cake mold. I used a bundt pan.
Note: This is a most unusual cake. More savory than sweet, it strikes me as a brunch dish that could be served with a fruit salad or with a lettuce salad that includes fruit. It has a rustic, Old World taste, not unpleasant.