Monday, August 29, 2011

Honouring Becky

If she were alive today, Becky Shauberger Turner would be celebrating another birthday, most likely with her beloved family.

Becky's absence is painfully evident when you go to her blog and read her last post.  But this is not about the void that Becky has left in so many lives.  This is a day to celebrate and honour her.  And one way that I will be celebrating Becky is by spelling the word "honour" as she would have done. I am going to ignore the squiggly red lines that indicate I have spelled it incorrectly.  I am sure Becky would have seen the same red squiggly lines over and over again while writing her blog.

When thinking about today and which of Becky's recipes I wanted to try, my first thought was to go with the Salted Caramel Nutella Brownies, in all its rich, decadent goodness.  Unfortunately I did not have the luxury of time that this recipe would involve.  I will save this recipe for another occasion, because I just HAVE to try it.  I can hear it calling my name!

Since Becky was a true Southern lady, and since I am from a far-flung corner of another part of the world, I picked the Peach Cobbler.  Even though  I noticed today that another friend of Becky's decided to go with the Peach Cobbler as well, I made it anyway because I have never baked a fruit cobbler before.   

I began with store-bought, locally grown peaches.  They may not have been the best, but they were going to have to do.

Peeled and hulled and sliced.  The effort was worth it.

Some sugar, a smidgen of grated nutmeg, a tablespoon of cornstarch, and the peaches were ready to go into the pastry-lined pie dish.

To my shame, I broke the cardinal rule I hold myself to.  Instead of making the pastry from scratch, I used store-bought pastry.  I know Becky is looking down from above and smiling at me, telling me not to be so hard on myself. 

The peach filling was generously dotted with butter.  I have never eaten fruit pies or cobblers before, but this was beginning to make me reconsider.

The cobbler was then covered with a pastry crust but not sealed shut as you would a pie.

The crust was dusted with sugar and cinnamon.

The cobbler went into the oven to bake.

An hour (which felt like an eternity) later.......


In her blog, Becky asked, "Think I could get away with eating cobbler for breakfast?"  You could get away with anything, Becky.  We miss you so much but you will continue to live through our wonderful memories of you. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Everybody Loves Lucy

Photo courtesy
Today is the birth centennial of the legendary Lucille Ball.  Wow, that made her just a few months younger than my maternal grandmother!  Coincidentally, both Lucy and my grandmother died the same year.  That's about all I know about Lucille Ball's personal life, other than the fact that she was married to her costar Desi Arnaz and had two children.  None of that matters to me, because this lady made me laugh.  Actually let me rephrase that.  She didn't just make me laugh, she caused laughter to come from deep inside of me, and out of me in ripples until I had tears rolling down my face,  until my stomach hurt.  I know, I know, not everyone thinks she was funny.  But I do.

The first time I ever saw Lucille Ball was, interestingly enough, not on television.  I saw her in the original 1968 movie "Yours, Mine and Ours", where she played the lead role against Henry Fonda.  The story was very Brady Bunch-esqe, the story of two widowed parents falling in love and the merging of their respective families.  I distinctly remember a scene from the movie where the actress (I didn't know her name at the time) came to visit her would-be husband's family.  His sons concocted a very potent drink for their stepmother-to-be.  I remember her drinking it and having the hiccups, then trying to hold back from being sick as she watched the lazy susan laden with food go around and around.  I remember laughing from watching her cross her eyes as she swayed back and forth in an inebriated stupor.  I was only 8 at the time and so the movie appealed to me more from a child's perspective, by which I mean that if the story wasn't about so many children becoming brothers and sisters because of their parents' marriage, I may not have necessarily watched it.  But I did remember the actress who made me laugh.

A few years later I was reintroduced to Lucille Ball, this time through a show on television called "Here's Lucy."  Back then, it didn't take much to make me laugh, I guess.  As I watched this beautiful woman take on the persona of a clown, I just fell apart.  The 11 year old me still found it funny when she did her signature bawling on almost every episode, where she would open her mouth wide and go "Waaaah" as she said her lines in a teary voice.  I laughed heartily when she opened up her lips only slightly and scrunched up her face and made the "Eeuuuh" sound, another one of those things only she could do.  But as I grew up, those signature moves lost some of their appeal and I found them irritating.  However, there was so much more to Lucy that kept me tuning in to her shows.  

There were various iterations of Lucy's television show based on what was going on in her life at the time.  "I Love Lucy", I learned, preceded "Here's Lucy."  Then there was "The Lucy Show,"  in which she starred with her two children Lucy and Desi Jr.  Through all her shows, one mainstay in a supporting role was Vivian Vance.  But no matter what, it was all about Lucy.  Lucy was way ahead of her time.  There was no comedienne like her before.  She threw zany one-liners.  She was a physical comic if ever I saw one, contorting her pretty face in exaggerated expressions of surprise, laughter, self-acceptance and total disgust, as when she took a spoonful of Vitameatavegamin.  She was kooky but hilarious.  You have to remember, her show existed way before many of us were even born, yet they have a timeless quality to them.  That is possibly why her shows are still in syndication. She was one of the first woman to show her pregnancy on television.  The day that the episode "Lucy Goes To The Hospital" was aired, she gave birth to her son Desi Jr. She didn't see boundaries, she saw opportunities to knock them down.  She was so breathtakingly beautiful, she could have been a model.  But she chose to be a comedienne. She would stuff her shirt with eggs and do the tango with her husband, so when he pulled her close, the eggs would break.  She would dress up as Carmen Miranda and look beautiful, but dance awkwardly just so we could laugh.     With her physical comedic timing and her ability for self-deprecating humor, she paved the way for other physical comediennes like Carol Burnett and Ellen DeGeneres.
Lucille has been immortalized in movies and television shows and not just her own.  Every time I think of the movie Rat Race, I remember the bus full of Lucys, being driven by Cuba Gooding Jr.  When I think of Ellen, the sitcom by Ellen Degeneres, I think of the mammogram episode where Janeane Garofalo and Ellen talk about their favorite Lucy scenes while waiting for their test results.  I have quite a few favorite scenes of my own from the various Lucy shows, which will stay with me forever.  I'm sure almost everyone is familiar with the candy wrapping scene, where Lucy and Ethel try to keep up with a conveyor belt gone wild by stuffing candy into their mouth, into their dress, in their hat.  Then there was the grape stomping scene.  If you click on the link, the fun part begins at 3:00.  And the geisha dance routine.  That was classic Lucy, at her physical best.  Then there is the softer side of Lucy, the romantic side of her, where she thinks of a unique way to tell her husband that she is pregnant.  Although all three of these scenes are excellent, one of my favorites is a later Twelve Days of Christmas scene from The Lucy Show.  She enlists the help of Mr. Mooney when one of the choir boys' voice breaks during the rehersal.  She conducts a boy's choir and gives them cues so they remember the lyrics.   Here is that scene, which I was fortunate to find on YouTube.

But my all time favorite is The Mirror that she does with another comedy great, the legendary Harpo Marx.  It is like watching a beautiful dance.  I have never seen comedic choreography this good before or since.   The clip below shows the original by the Marx brothers from the movie Duck Soup, and the Lucy/Harpo version begins at 3:18


I still love you Lucy.  You will live in our hearts forever.  Heaven must be filled with laughter now that you're there.