Marjorie Ellen Baer

December 31, 1953 – October 6, 2007

MEB 1953-2007

I have been buying the super fancy Saint Benoît yogurt recently specifically for the special containers they are sold in. I ignored my qualms about paying the exorbitant price for this creamy treat since I lusted after these sturdy ceramic cups as convenient ramekins to make my own yogurt. I have a assembled a nice collection now and find they are good for all manner of wonderful uses.

I baked some delicious nectarine crisp in them on Sunday and took them with me when I visited my friend Marjorie. Despite the loving support of her friend Ruth and her two brothers and the dozens of friends who have rallied to her support, she requires round the clock professional care. Paula, Marjorie’s home-care nurse that afternoon served the nectarine crisp to her with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. The next day I got a special mention in the yahoo group set up to coordinate support for her. Reading the post from her brother Phil thanking me for sharing this welcomed treat, made me feel very happy.

The ramekins work perfectly for making my homemade yogurt because they hold heat so well. Who can be bothered using an electric yogurt maker. I feel it makes me more connected to use the heat from the sun, or the stove while baking other dishes, or even my oven at the lowest temperature to help keep them warm enough to grow the culture. The trick is you have to sustain a warm environment over 4 to 8 hours. I try to be creative in finding warm places. Even though I know the temperature in my kitchen sometimes dips below the warmth needed for the culture to grow, with only a little effort my yogurt seems to set quite well. I experiment and take notes on each batch I make. I record things such as which brand I use for the starter yogurt, how long to keep it warm and where, the amount of dried milk, or if I’ve used whole or 2% milk. This helps to fine tune the homemade recipe to the combination that works best to produce yogurt with my preferred taste in the re-usable containers that please me so much. I haven’t had a bad batch yet.

The ramekins are valuable to a cook with little time and a big sweet tooth. And as I said, they make for convenient portions of an easy to bake, always delicious recipe. Any fruit can be made irresistible when baked with a few common ingredients topped with generous dabs of butter. It was the early Autumn light that inspired me to snatch up the fading season’s nectarines for Marjorie’s Sunday treat.

I learned during my visit, that Marjorie is a big fan of nectarines. Perhaps, like me, she likes the sound of the word that rhymes with tangerines and submarines. A story was re-told by her friend Elizabeth, visiting the same day. She recalled that during one of Marjorie’s earliest “episodes” just after being diagnosed with a brain tumor when there was a noticeable loss in her ability to retrieve words at will. She strained to call forth some word that refused to flow out to her lips, and she blurted, almost cursing with frustration, NECTARINES!

Paula carefully mashed the colorful fruit with the back of a spoon into a soft pureed state before she lifted the desert to Marjorie’s lips. I saw the taste of summer sweetness spread across a smile and soften the muscles around her mouth. The poignant scene, easing for a second, the bitter irony of the present situation for this most accomplished editor, respected colleague and friend.

Nectarine Crisp

Slice 4 ripe nectarines into small ½ inch cubes
Add juice from a lemon (or lime)
Mix in small handful of dried cranberries
Spoon to fill a small baking dish or 4 small ramekins

leave some room to sprinkle on top a large scoop of granola mixed with other dry ingredients
¼ cup flour
¼ cup brown sugar
cut in 2 tablespoons of butter

Sprinkle generous amounts over the fruit

Bake at 350 till bubbly (20 min)
Best served warm with a side of vanilla ice cream

I just spent a few magical summer days relaxing in the California Redwoods of Sonoma County with my family. What a treat this retreat was, where satisfaction meant lots of sleep and food and books and a clear night sky. Through the canopy of the tallest trees on earth the night sky held the universe for me. Literally, I could see the Milky Way. As a tribute to these living giants, I uploaded a picture I took in Cazadero as my new “custom header” (on this blog).

Also I wish to extend a warm thank you to Marjorie, for her generosity in offering this place to my family. All our heart’s prayers go out to Marjorie who bravely faces daily challenges from a tumor in her brain. My love to Ruth and Marjorie’s family and the amazing community of friends who have rallied together to care for her as she struggles to hold on to a conscious life.