During the winter of 2011, Suzie and I spent six weeks in Rome, writing a self-guided walking tour book to be called The Secret Streets of Rome. It will be out next Fall, published by Andover Press in New York. I’ll be posting lots of information about art and architecture, but first things first – Gelato. I don’t know how they do it, but Italians make ice cream so much better than we do. It’s actually much lower in fat than ours, but has much more flavor. The chocolate is very, very dark and extremely strong, the raspberry is dark purple and aromatic with raspberries. My favorite is stracciatella – which is Italian for fudge ripple (it means streaky) and is creamy vanilla with dark rivers of fudge. There are several great Gelaterie in Rome (of course) though aficionados insist that the best in Italy is in San Gimignano. Our favorite in Rome is the Gelateria del Teatro, located under a stairway to a tiny theater just west of the Piazza Navona.
Happily, for those of you who visit or live in Cape May, we need not despair. There’s a gelateria in Washington Commons (across Ocean Street from the Washington Street Mall) called Cione. For more ice cream, this one American, but organic, handmade, and really, really good, visit Bliss in the Carpenter’s Square Mall (that’s the little building behind Gecko’s in Carpenter’s Street).
Suzie loves Banana Bread and, of course, chocolate. So I like to serve Banana Bread for tea at the inn. Whenever we have some over-ripe bananas, I stick them in the freezer. To make Banana Bread, I move them to the refrigerator the night before and then just peel them directly into the mixer-bowl. All that slimy banana pulp just makes the Banana Bread better. If the bread seems too dry when it comes out of the oven – it has to be fully baked – just soak in some simple syrup ( ½ cup sugar dissolved in ½ cup hot water).
2 cups (10 oz) unbleached flour
¾ cup (5 ¼ oz) sugar
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 bananas, mashed (about 1 ½ cups)
¼ cup plain yoghurt
2 eggs, beaten
6 Tbs. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups walnuts or other nuts, toasted and chopped (Suzie hates nuts, so I leave them out)
(You can reduce sugar to 10 Tbs. and add 2 ½ oz grated bittersweet chocolate (heaping ½ cup)).
350F., 9” loaf pan, lined with cooking parchment
Mix dry, Mix wet. Mix together. Bake about 55 minutes. Cool in pan then on wire rack.
This is Sherlock Holmes weekend in Cape May, so I thought I’d tell you the oddest Arthur Conan Doyle story. It is also a New Jersey connection for Sherlock. Sherlock Holmes was the ultimate reasoning machine, while his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, was a gullible dope. In 1922, the
Harry Houdini and his mother
Conan Doyles and the Houdinis were vacationing together on the beach in Atlantic City. Conan Doyle was very proud of his wife, who claimed to be a medium or clairvoyant. As they were relaxing on the sand, she announced that she felt the spirits coming through. They rushed back to the hotel and Mrs. Conan Doyle went into a trance. She said that she was channeling the spirit of Harry Houdini’s mother, who had recently died. Harry had been very close to his mother, and wanted séances to be real, but wasn’t willing to accept nonsense.
They all went back to the hotel and Mrs. Conan Doyle went into a trance. She used automatic writing to transmit a note from Houdini’s mother. The note had three crosses at the top of it and was clearly written by an old Italian lady. The catch was, Harry Houdini wasn’t Italian, and wasn’t Catholic. He was Jewish. Houdini was his stage name and him mother only spoke Yiddish, not English. Clearly, Mrs. Conan Doyle was taking advantage of Harry’s grief to convince him of her powers. Harry pointed out to Arthur how unlikely it was that his mother had learned English in the short time since her death, and how unlikely an old Jewish lady was to head her notes with three crosses. Arthur Conan Doyle was furious that anyone would doubt his wife’s powers – and the two men broke off their friendship.