A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Kissel is a Russian fruit dish which I make with cranberries and serve as a dessert. When red currants or other red summer fruits are used (raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, and so forth), it's the Danish rødgrød med fløde, served daily in some Danish households. Cranberries are oh-so-good for you, full of vitamins and antioxidants, but too sour to eat out of hand. If you're going to eat sugar, it might as well be in this healthful fashion.

The recipe I use comes from the now out-of-print Horizon Cookbook, published in 1969. I own the two-volume hardcover edition in a slipcase. If the house were burning down, it's quite possibly the first thing I would grab. The first volume is an "Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking Through the Ages"--erudite and engaging. The second volume is recipes from all over the world, plus menus from elaborate dinner parties of the past. Every recipe I've tried is absolutely authentic. All the great classics are in here. I use it regularly for pesto, guacamole, pastry cream, baklava, scones...and this.

Basic recipe: three cups of cranberries and four cups of water, boiled about ten minutes and then pureed through a food mill or sieve. A cup (or to taste) of sugar added and the whole business brought back to the boil. A quarter cup of cornstarch or potato starch mixed with a little water stirred in carefully so no lumps form, and cooked a minute or so till it thickens.

I turn the kissel out into a pretty glass bowl for serving. It's supposed to be eaten chilled, but I like it the minute it comes off the stove. Top with heavy cream or a non-dairy alternative.

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