Tomorrow I defend my Master's thesis before my graduate committee, before scholars in my field who will ask me difficult questions and point out all the theoretical concerns, flaws, and problems in my 96 page opus. This 2 hour period tomorrow afternoon will seal the fate of my academic success forever. Okay, so maybe it's not that grim, but it's really just one of the last hoops to jump through before this project is done. I have worked nearly two years on this project, which details the World War II literature of a collaborate duo of writers Clara Spiegel and Jane Mayer, who wrote under the pseudonym, Clare Jaynes. In those two years, I've come to know this material inside and out. There's blood, sweat, tears, and cookie dough in it.
Yes, cookie dough. In honor of my thesis defense, I am baking one of Spiegel's cookie recipes, which I will share with my committee members. Critical literary theory is always better on a stomach full of crisp, buttery Apricot Monte Carlos, right?
The Clara Spiegel Papers are archived at Boise State, which has made my research a joy. In fact, I never would have discovered these fascinating women who give us a very shocking glimpse of what it was like to be woman in World War II America had it not been for Clara's archive. Archival research means permission to rifle through someone's diaries, travel journals, scrapbooks, photo albums, and manuscripts, which means you never know what you are going to find. Last fall, I discovered among Clara's papers a cookbook manuscript she had written.
The recipes are cheater versions of gourmet fare, written when Spiegel was 86 years old. Because Spiegel had a private cook for half of her life, it's no surprise that some of these recipes are a bit strange and dubious. However, because I'm the brave gastronant that I am, I've fallen in love with Clara's The Indolent Gourmet.
Here's a recipe I recently adapted from The Indolent Gourmet:
(note: I have changed this recipe from its original state by 10% or more)
(I know this sounds strange, but if you enjoy key lime pie, you'll probably like this. The sweetened condensed milk gives the pie a rich mouth feel, contrasted by the punch of citrus. Then, as an afterthought the earthy, mellow vibe of avocado comes through on the finish. And, Clara was right even the absolutely Indolent can make it.)
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup melted butter
3 T. sugar
2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and quartered
1 - 14 0z. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 T. lime juice
1 t. lemon zest
1 cup sour cream
2 T. milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.
Combine graham cracker, melted butter, and sugar. Press firmly into 9 inch pie pan to form a pie shell. Bake 10 min.
Meanwhile, combine avocado, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, lime juice, and lemon zest in food processor and blend until smooth.
Remove pie shell from oven. Allow to cool slightly, then pour the avocado mixture into shell.
Combine sour cream and milk and mix well. Carefully spread this over the avocado mixture. Sprinkle top with 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. Chill thoroughly before serving.
(You'll need 5 or 6 hours for it to chill enough to set. Notice in my pictures how I got a little antsy and cut into it too soon, but it did finally firm up to a nice, velvety inconsistency.)