Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bringing a Piece of Literature to Life

Over the weekend my Bookman, who also happens to be the household cook and a darn good one at that, created a vegan madeleine recipe and whipped up a batch in spite of it being the kind of weather you don't want to turn your oven on in. He did it for me so I could fulfill my desire to taste something similar to Proust's madeleine and have a real life connection to a fictional story. I say "similar" because I know that when you remove animal products from a recipe it doesn't taste the same. This doesn't mean it tastes bad, far from it, just not the same. If there are any other Proust reading vegans out there who want to try a madeleine, here is the recipe:

2 “eggs” (I use about 1/2 c potato starch and 1T baking powder and 2 T coconut oil) ¼ c water ½ t vanilla extract ½ t lemon zest 1 c powdered sugar 1 1/3 c pastry flour ½ c vegan margarine, melted and cooled Mix "eggs", water, vanilla and lemon zest with a whisk. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until thick and creamy. Fold flour into "egg" mixture by fourths, then fold in the margarine. Drop teaspoon sized dollops onto greased and floured cookie sheets. Do not make these too large, they will fall apart when cooled. Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes until edges are golden and top springs back. Cool on cookie sheet for about a minute. Transfer to rack. Dip tips in melted vegan chocolate if desired, or dust with powdered sugar.
We are not a gourmet household and do not have any shell-shaped molds for a traditional looking madeleine. We just plopped dollops of dough on a cookie sheet. We made them too big, however, so if you are making this recipe and also do not have a mold, use small dollops. We also found them to be crumbly so next time we plan on trying silken tofu instead of "eggs." But they were tasty, the lemon zest imparts a nice tang.   The madeleines remind me how much fun it is to experience something from a book. Last year my Bookman and I were listening to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on audio and happened to be eating Turkish delight at the same time Edmund was chowing down on his from the White Queen. That was fun.   I have never done it, but I have always imagined reading a book or poem in the place it is associated with would be a special experience. Like someday I'd like to read Thoreau's Walden Pond while sitting and looking at Walden Pond. It would be great to read Emily Dickinson while standing in her room. Or Proust while standing in his cork-lined bedroom (ideally I'd get to lay on his bed but I'd probably find myself out on the street before I opened the cover of the book).   I'm not the only one to have thought about this. When we were planning our trip to Wales that didn't work out, we considered visiting Tintern Abbey and reading Wordsworth's poem there but the guidebook warned it was overrun with tourists. I am tempted to go there someday anyway just to see if the tourists are standing around rapturously reading "Tintern Abbey" or if they are there just because it's famous. Then there is The Women's Press in St Paul that has been offering book group trips to places like New Mexico, Alaska and even New Zealand for several years now. I've heard they are quite popular.   Even though I felt sort of weird and geeky wanting to try a madeline so badly and pestering my Bookman to make them for me, I am also giddy that I had one while reading Proust. Have you, reader, ever done something like this to bring a piece of literature to life? And if you haven't, do you dream of one day doing it?