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So... what about your wake?
August 2005 (just barely pre-Katrina!)
Revised 13 December 2013

On Eagle's Wings

"You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord,
Who abide in His shadow for life,
Say to the Lord, 'My Refuge,
My Rock in Whom I trust.'

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.
The snare of the fowler will never capture you,
And famine will bring you no fear;
Under His Wings your refuge,
His faithfulness your shield.
~ Michael Joncas

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run,
and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint."

~ Isaiah 40:31

Okay, okay, okay. I know. We seem to be dwelling on death of late.
Trauma. Loss. Sadness. The need for comfort…
C’est la vie, non? And surely you agree that la morte is simply a part
of la vie. The cycle of life, as it were.
And why not? There is a lot of that going around lately. The Spice Cabinet
is, after all, “Your Webmistress, Up Close and Personal”, no? Our goal
here is to share with you what is going on in our corner of the world,
hoping that our words will somehow touch you.

There is no point in giving you the blow-by-blow description of recent
(and ongoing) traumas. Suffice it to say that we have been dealing with devastating illnesses in the immediate family for about five years now.
Surgery after surgery after surgery. Trips to M.D. Anderson in Houston.
Two cancer deaths. Hurricanes and the threat thereof. A pending lawsuit.
Not to mention the impact of global insanity…
So. Today, I finally took care of my will. What took me so long? Perfectionism, perhaps? I wanted to make absolutely sure that I had all
my bases covered. Not that there is all that much to leave behind, mind
you, but somehow I was paralyzed by the thought of having to specify
which son got what. It finally struck me that this is not at all necessary,
especially considering the fact that this ridiculous procrastination has
been going on for a good twenty-odd years now. A simple “last will
and testament” will do quite nicely, thank you. Highly preferable to no
will at all, don’t you think?
And if, during the course of whatever years may be left, I feel the need
to specify in writing that Chef Keegan gets all the cookbooks and All-
Clad, Kerry gets the PC and the crystal and my granddaughter Kylie
gets the jewelry and lots of books, wills can be amended. No biggie.
Mine would have to be amended anyway, as I now have a grandson,
Bennett. He'll want trucks and cars.
I rest my case. The deed is done. Yet another monkey off my back!
The fact of the recent deaths in the family, plus the reality that my
82-year-old Aunt Josephine (respectfully referred to by one and all
as “Miss Jo”) is in declining health and very nearly blind (most recent
surgery was a cornea transplant), brings to mind what a marvelously
healing experience a wake can be. Are you familiar with this tradition?

Wake: The Irish practice of watching over the body by candlelight the night
before the funeral and the often wild feasting which follows. This may have developed simply because mistakes sometimes happened (cf. the folk-song
Finnegan's Wake upon which the James Joyce novel is based). The purpose
of the wake, therefore, was to create enough of a clatter to ensure that the
deceased was truly dead and to help the mourners forget their grief and
resume normal life once they were sure.”

(Courtesy http://www.alsirat.com/silence/cemterms/wake.html)

In the Catholic tradition, a wake is generally held the evening before
the formal funeral service. Often a rosary is placed in the hands of the
deceased, and the rosary is said at some point during the evening, often
led by a leader from the local community.
In our family, the idea is very simple: the wake (which can be held either before or after the funeral or memorial service, as circumstances dictate) provides an opportunity for family and close friends of the deceased to
gather and celebrate his or her LIFE. Period. Yes, there may well be
mourning and/or crying, as this can be quite an emotional time. Never-
theless, the primary function is to celebrate, to give thanks for the life
of the loved one, and to provide an atmosphere that serves primarily
to honor and memorialize the deceased, who is after all going HOME!
Therefore, laughter is not only expected, but inevitable. This is a time for remembering, for the telling of anecdotes and favorite family stories. It is
a time of closure, the beginning of grieving and the long healing process.
It almost goes without saying that in our family the favorite foods, drink,
and music of our loved one are mandatory. How better to let them know
how much they are loved and how much they will be missed?
Among my recent traumas is the fact that my responsibilities to Miss Jo prevented my attendance at both the funeral service and “Memorial Wake Party” (held about 2 weeks later) celebrating my Ya-Ya Sister Lori’s life.
It was quite the event, and everyone told me afterward how sure they
were that Lori would have loved it. That, my friends, is the point. A
wake has a life of its own because the spirit of the deceased guides it.

(Click here and/or here for more information on the traditional Irish wake.)

My wake? Easy. (Revised 13 December 2013) Everyone who knows
me even slightly knows my taste in food, drink and music, as these are
the cornerstones of my life. Well, okay, right after my spiritual life. Just
in case, though, I will make a list to file away along with my will and
other Very Important Documents.

What to eat/drink? Here is my short list:
Shrimp Chippewa
Baked ham,
served with good bread, hot rolls and/or
biscuits (lots!), excellent butter and Hot Mustard

Catfish and Hushpuppies
Salsa and Guacamole  (lots!) with Tortilla Chips
Favorite Mexican Layered Dip
New Orleans Boiled Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
(recipe follows)
Susan Spicer's Baked Oysters
Shrimp Dip
Sausage Balls
Garlic bread
New Orleans Bread Pudding
Favorite Chocolate Cake
Lemon Bars
Pound Cake
Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte
Cream Cheese Squares
Bloody Mary
Coffee, coffee, coffee...
Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate...

And please, Lord, let Creole tomatoes be in season...

Music? Thank God for iTunes! I'm actually in the process of creating a
"wake" playlist! There will be a wee bit of Celtic music (and bagpipes!) to
be sure. Zither music, a few schmaltzy Viennese waltzes (Strauss's Tales from the Vienna Woods performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert
von Karajan conducting, if you please!), Josh Groban, and 'On Eagle's
Wings' are mandatory, as are a large number of Gregorian chants, choice works of Palestrina, Pergolesi, Bach's Brandenburg Concerti, and just
about anything performed by Chanticleer!
This must be followed by some groovy jazz for reminiscing (long list)...
My marvelous sons know that my wake would not be complete without
Bach (lots!), Mozart, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Sting, U2, Led Zep, Duran Duran, ZZ Top, Bonnie Raitt, Edith Piaf, Gloria Estefan, The Buena Vista Social Club, Gipsy Kings, Fatal Mambo, tons of tangos, sizzling salsa, and
the entire Woodstock soundtrack. Ah yes, the 60s. What can I say... It's
only by the grace of God that I came through relatively unscathed. Ditto
the 70s! Looks like this wake could take days, no? Nothing wrong with
that... It takes what it takes!
Oh, yeah. Just in case you are wondering, the answer is "but of course"!
You know - my former husband, the German. Believe it or not. we're on
very good terms these days! I know he's somewhat tied down, what with family responsibilities and all, but just for the record, he's invited. I have
a feeling he'll be quite pleased to join us.
One last Very Important Detail... I prefer that my wake be held while I'm
still living. I don't want to miss the best party of my life, and I'll get to say
goodbye in person! I'm looking forward to it! No, really!

"Researchers have discovered that chocolate produced some of the same
reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered
other similarities between the two, but can't remember what they are."

~ Matt Lauer on NBC's Today Show

In celebration of life, we offer you one of our all-time favorites:

New Orleans Boiled Shrimp

Lots of ice!
1 bag Zatarain’s shrimp boil
2 large lemons, sliced
6 cloves garlic
1 cup butter
4 onions, quartered
1 can warm beer
1/2 cup Tony Cachere’s Shrimp and Crab seasoning mix
(more or less, to taste), or for a less spicy result substitute
1/2 cup salt
5 pounds fresh large shrimp, rinsed well, unpeeled
3 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled
8 ears fresh corn, shucked, rinsed

Fill your sink or a large cooler with ice, leaving enough room for the
cooked shrimp.
In a very large stock pot or Dutch oven place the shrimp boil, lemons,
garlic, butter, onions, beer, and Tony Cachere’s seasoning or salt. Add
1 gallon water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add
the shrimp. Remove pot from heat and let it stand 10 minutes, stirring
the mixture every 3 minutes or so to ensure that the shrimp cook evenly.
With a large slotted spoon, remove the shrimp from the liquid and place
them in the ice-filled sink or cooler to stop the cooking process.
Return the pot to the stove, bring liquid to the boil, and add the potatoes. Allow liquid to return to the boil, cover, and cook 10 minutes over medium heat. Then add the corn and cook an additional 10 minutes. A feast fit for
a Cajun Queen! Be sure to provide lots of paper towels and cold beer.
And naturally, to go along with this feast, you’ll want:

Our Favorite Cocktail Sauce

Actually, I think cocktail sauce is one of those things that needs to be prepared
on an individual basis, even though I realize that this is not always practical.
The Oyster Bar of the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, which has been one
of my favorite haunts since early childhood, places all of the ingredients on the
table and allows each guest to prepare his own sauce. My dad (God rest his soul!) could sit there all afternoon eating raw oysters and boiled shrimp until he could
not possibly hold another morsel. There would be tears in his eyes the whole
time, since he could add horseradish and Tabasco to his heart’s content. Chances
are his ulcers did not benefit much, but he maintained it was good for his soul!
Who am I to disagree? This has become our house cocktail sauce:

In a medium bowl mix together thoroughly:
1 cup chili sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
The juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
6 drops or so Tabasco or the hot sauce of your choice.
Adjust the heat any way you like. Some of like to cry in our shrimp
and some of us don’t…

And now for some comfort cookies!

Peanut Butter Cookies [with Ganache!]

Cooking for Comfort:
More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes That
Are as Satisfying to Cook as They Are to Eat
 By Marian Burros

© 2003 by Foxcraft, Ltd. (Simon & Schuster)


“We want to go back to a time when life was not so complicated – or, at least,
when we look at it from a distance, it was one that seemed much simpler.
One of the few ways most of us can get there together is through food.”

~ from the Introduction

“The idea of putting ganache inside a sandwich of peanut butter cookies comes
from Best Buns Bread Company of Arlington, Virginia, which provided the
peanut butter cookie recipe that I have adapted. These are big, soft cookies,
my favorite kind. One cookie sandwich is more than enough for one person.”

Yield: 24 cookies; 12 cookie sandwiches

1 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons smooth natural peanut butter
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups minus 1 tablespoon sugar,
PLUS additional sugar for sprinkling
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
Ganache [recipe follows]

1. Place racks near the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350
degrees [F].
2. Using an electric mixer, cream together the peanut butter and butter.
Add the 1 1/2 cups minus 1 tablespoon sugar and cream for 20 seconds
on medium speed. Scrape the bowl and mix 30 seconds more. Add the
eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and add the flour mixture all
at once. Mix until the flour is incorporated and stir in the peanuts.
3. Scoop the dough, about 1/4 cup for each, onto ungreased baking sheets; there should be no more than nine cookies per sheet. You will need three sheets. Press down lightly with a large fork in two directions to make a
cross, flattening the dough slightly. Sprinkle each cookies with 1/2
teaspoon sugar. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets. The cookies will
be very soft, but as they cool they will firm up somewhat, though they
will still be soft. Remove the cookies from the sheets when cool and fill
with Ganache.
5. Store in tightly covered container for a couple of days or refrigerate for three or four days.


1 pound bittersweet chocolate
1 pint heavy cream

1. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and process in a food processor until it is very fine.
2. Heat the cream to the boiling point. With the food processor on, pour
the hot cream through the feed tube and process only until well blended. Remove to another bowl and cool. Refrigerate only long enough so that
the Ganache can be spread thickly between two cookies. Spread equally
on 12 cookies; top with the remaining cookies.
3. Put in a cool place, covered, for several hours or overnight. The Ganache will seep into the cookies and keep them soft.

More comfort food from Marian Burros...

Featured Archive Recipes:
Comfort Food
Comfort Food for Times of Loss
What to Eat When Tragedy Strikes
When the Path to Serenity Wends Past the Stove
Nothing bad could ever happen to me in a café...
Crawfish Crazy
Emeril's Crawfish [or Shrimp] Boil
 Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Big Super-Nutty Peanut Butter Cookies


Be well, stay safe, enjoy yourselves. Make the most of every day, be
grateful for every breath you take. Live with passion! Give a hoot!
And until next time, remember,

"In Ireland, they say, the sleep that knows no waking is often
followed by the wake that knows no sleeping!"

~ Ancient Irish Truth

"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think
of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I
am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the
love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and
fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one."

~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating icon



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