By Bonnie Fishman
Every morning, when I sit on my splendid front porch on the edge of town in the San Francisco Bay Area, chickens cackling in the backyard (not mine), quail families talking to each other (also not mine), birds flitting from tree to tree in our new fruit orchard, I am filled with gratitude. I say it to myself, or anyone else who happens to be around: This is the life. How fortunate am I. I am leading my best life. I am grateful.
I have always been this way, though now that I don’t have the noise of working and raising kids, I’m able to be present with that gratitude. I even have an attitude about it– a proud, take that!, conquering type of attitude. I’m certain that I’m not alone in these feelings, especially as we transition out of a scary pandemic into a more open atmosphere. Those of us who have escaped serious illness or the death of a loved one, we are grateful. Those of us who have survived the economic downturn, we are grateful. Those of us who have shelter and enough food to eat, we are grateful.
When did this gratitude begin for me? My parents were both very positive people. They had the can-do spirit on steroids. Nothing was impossible. Dad and his brother built a summer camp post-WWII with a borrowed $12,000 and a dream. Dad was a 26-year-old war veteran. Take some 60 acres in northern Michigan and build a sports camp for boys–who does that?
Mom, on the other hand, had her own idea of the can-do spirit. She survived breast cancer at 31 and knew she wasn’t long for this world. With four young daughters to care for, she attacked every type of project around the house. Mom sewed all of our clothes, made every curtain, drape and bedspread, crocheted afghan blankets for every room, built a life-size village in our basement with a working soda shop and a small house with furniture, and adorned Dad’s office, complete with windows and flower boxes. Not to mention that she cooked and baked every day. She truly lived with gratitude, as if each day was her last.
That kind of positivity has a lasting effect. The glass has always been half full for me. Be grateful for what you have, don’t begrudge what you don’t. In this emergence from a worldwide epidemic, we collectively have to put on our big girl/big boy pants and move forward even stronger than before. Lucky me, I’m embarking on a life in a new home, a new town near my family. It is a peaceful, stress-free, bucolic existence. So grateful.
Simple morning coffee writing my column, an energizing swim in the nearby aquatic center, a quiet lunch of fresh greens accompanied with a bagel slathered with cream cheese and my homemade jam, a visit with my sisters, the chance to communicate with friends back in Michigan. Before I know it, it’s time to cook dinner in my first personally designed kitchen and settle in for the night with a good movie.
Many people may find this kind of life too slow, even boring. I find it incredibly satisfying. I have spent most of my life working hard, hustling to get the next gig, driving in rat-race traffic, and traipsing around the world. I don’t miss any of it except the travel part, which I plan to continue once the coast is clear.
What is your “gratitude food”? Is it a dessert? A special recipe? Something from childhood? For me and several people close to me, it’s very specific: the cheese blintzes with blueberry sauce at the Bread Basket Deli in Oak Park, Mich., my home town. We eat these blintzes at any opportunity, to celebrate and be grateful. You bought a new house? Cheese blintzes. You sold a house? Cheese blintzes. You got a good report from your doctor? Cheese blintzes. It’s your birthday? Cheese blintzes. To celebrate a good life? Cheese blintzes. What is special about this particular blintz is that the filling is very fluffy, with a pronounced vanilla flavor, one of my favorites. It is quite large. They then fry it in a deep fryer instead of pan fry it, which is the usual home method. Unfortunately, I am unable to get the deli’s recipe. So, I created one of my own. I think these blintzes are a delicious way to be grateful!
Cheese Blintzes with Blueberry Sauce
Yield: about 10 blintzes
1 lb. farmer’s cheese, room temperature
1 lg. egg
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 lg. eggs, room temperature
1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. water
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
oil or clarified butter for sautéing
Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl beating with a wooden spoon until well mixed. Reserve.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and water. Whisk in the flour and salt. Beat well. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.
To make pancake: Heat a 10” nonstick skillet over moderately high heat. Add a half of a tablespoon of oil or clarified butter. When hot, pour in about 1/4 cup of batter, twisting the pan with your wrist to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour off excess. Turn heat down to medium. Cook until just set. Flip out onto your work surface. If it gets brown, make sure the brown side is facing up. Continue with remaining batter, adding oil only when needed.
Assembly: Divide the filling evenly among the pancakes, placing a log-like shape toward the bottom of each one, leaving a 1” inch border. Fold the bottom border over the filling, fold in the sides, and roll up the blintz, working away from you.
To sauté: Heat some more oil or butter in the same pan over moderate heat. Add about 3-4 blintzes, seam side up. Cook until golden brown. Turn over and cook the bottom. Serve the blintzes on a plate, seam side down. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Top with blueberry sauce.
3 c. fresh blueberries, divided
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbs. water
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. fresh lemon zest
In a small saucepan, combine the 2 cups blueberries, the sugar, water, and cornstarch. Cook over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderately high. Gently boil the blueberry mixture for about 10 minutes or until thickened. Add remaining blueberries and lemon zest. Cook for 5 minutes more.
Pour batter into hot pan, twisting your wrist to coat the bottom
Place a log-like piece of cheese filling toward the bottom. Fold in bottom and sides
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.