An old house is a wonderful place to be during a big nor’easter; our old girl is standing strong against the storm this morning, her cornices and gables creaking a bit; wind gusts crash through the old Linden trees, shake the timbers of the maples, the shutters clunk against the house, and raindrops are coming at her sideways, pattering against the windows the way they’ve done here for 150 years of storms. ♥
I lit a candle, just in case we lose electricity. In my studio, it’s cozy under lamplight, with my tea and kitty, my wooly “England” shawl around my shoulders, lambswool slippers, paintbrushes and paper; the furnace is humming, Joe’s still asleep, I have the house all to myself; we are safe and sound.
Old houses know how to handle these things.
Here’s the view from the upstairs window yesterday afternoon just as the storm was getting started — our ghost keeps watch over the street. It was cold on our walk through the woods yesterday morning, cold enough for hats, big jackets, and gloves . . . the wild geese flew, in a scattered V line, over the pond, their barking cries high in the sky, blown back at us by the wind, providing more food for deep thinking; more scientific examination: . . . me: “Where do you think they’re going?” Joe: “I don’t know. South.” me: “Thank you.” Me: “How do they know where to stop?” Joe: “Their parents?”
We said goodbye to our dear friends who were out there closing their house for the winter; we picked bittersweet from the secret cache that grows around their house. By the time we got home and out of the car, the storm was near, tattered leaves were blowing around us and over us like tickertape.
So we blew around with them, like in the Wizard of Oz, battening down the hatches, pulling the heavy barn doors closed, filling the bird feeders, hanging dried corn on the kitchen door, putting storms on the kitchen windows; we brought in the mums and ornamental cabbage and put them on the pantry floor so they wouldn’t get beaten up by the storm. We got it all done, cut the last rose from the garden, just as the rain started in earnest; we ran inside, hung up our coats, took off our boots; Joe made us a fire, and I made us grilled cheese sandwiches!
There is, of course, a right way and a wrong way to make a grilled cheese sandwich. And I believe, with all due respect to other grilled cheese sandwich makers, that I have it down perfect. There is no folderol involved; I don’t really want fou-fou on my grilled cheese. Mangos or cranberry sauce, sorry, do not belong on a grilled cheese sandwich. No olives or sardines, and no Boursin cheese. If those things are on it, and maybe they would taste good, I’m not sure, but they should choose another name for sandwiches like that. They shouldn’t call them “grilled cheese.” A good grilled cheese sandwich should be made with plain, normal cheddar cheese, melted to a complete puddle on good toasty bread; not greasy, or white in some spots and dark in others. I like them exactly like my mother made them; crunchy, bendy, buttery, melty; simple plain perfection. Is that asking too much, restaurants of America? I think it must be. Not you of course, but perhaps you know someone who needs grilled cheese guidance? Tell them about this. Friends don’t let friends go through life unschooled in the fine art of grilled cheese making. ♥
So here’s how it’s done: first off, I don’t butter the inside of the bread at all; there’s enough oil in the cheese to take care of the inside of the sandwich. Just lay out two pieces of healthy whole-grain bread (sourdough also makes a wonderful grilled cheese). Cover one piece of bread with slices of good cheddar cheese. (Cheddar cheese on Martha’s Vineyard is white, in California, it’s yellow. We don’t know why.)
Then cover the cheese with the other slice of bread, and butter the top with soft real butter.
Then melt a pat of butter over medium high heat in a skillet.
Put the unbuttered side of the sandwich down, and cover the pan; reduce the heat to medium low. In a few minutes, take off the lid, and press down hard on the sandwich with a spatula. This spatula-pressing is the secret to a tight well-made sandwich. Cover again and keep cooking until . . .
. . . it’s evenly toasted; turn it over, press down on it hard with the spatula, and cover the pan again.
Cook until it’s perfect, when the melty goodness begins to leak out of the middle, the edges are crunchy and a buttery-brown toasted color. Scoop it out of the pan and put it on a serving plate and cut it in half. This is a deeeeelicious grilled cheese sandwich.
It breaks in your mouth like a cracker. Take it to the fireplace, or to the TV and turn on a good old movie, like The Bishop’s Wife, put your feet up.
You might need to pamper yourself today, and this would be a wonderful way to do it . . . grilled cheese and old movie, will make you forget any kind of possible disappointment — everyone might need a little of this, everyone but the WINNER of our banana dish, and she can make herself a grilled cheese to celebrate!!
Yes, I’ve been leading us, the good, toasted-cheese way, up to announce that the winner of our drawing is SARA DeCOEUR, who’s in Florida right now, getting her kids ready for Halloween. She wrote: “I LOVE that beautiful banana holder!!!! It is quite glorious! My housekeeping tips are 1) baking soda – it does wonders! and 2) pump up the music and make it a game so the kids do most of the work!!!! LOL!”
When I wrote to tell her she won, this was her reaction: “OH HAPPY ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yippeee!!!! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! And might I add, I really adore your blog! It warms my heart!”
So I think she was happy! ♥ And she takes excellent advantage of the exclamation point! A girl after my own heart!!!!!! Her banana dish will go off to her on Monday, with a little thank you note, so she knows (just like I hope the rest of you do), how much she’s (and you’re) appreciated. ♥ And don’t worry, there will be a lifetime of other chances!!!!!! ♥
So here’s my day today: we need to put the candy in the big wooden bowls, carve stars in our pumpkins, brew up a big pot of cider, cook a small feast, make basket arrangements with the ornamental cabbages and mums; set the dining table with plates and cups, and generally spruce up the house for our aprés-candy Halloween Open House tomorrow night, and for the rest of the season.
When Joe went to get the candy, he found these colorful leaf garlands and brought them home, so I’m playing around with them; and also trying to figure out where his purple twinkle lights will look the best! We’ll get the bittersweet out of the car and decorate the porch, and put the scary candles on the front stairs so they’ll all see them when we open the door to “trick or treat!”
The kitchen table is ready! It’s going to be a fun couple of days in the house of creativity, and I’ll take lots of pictures. Hope yours is wonderful too! Thank you all so much for your part in our giveaway; I learned so many new household hints from you, that was fun! Have a wonderful day, stay warm, stay cozy, and be happy. ♥ xoxo