The Barron & McCourt Connection
Sandra Rodriguez Barron, author of The Heiress of Water, wrote me an e-mail today that I asked if I could share with the world at large on my blog—and Sandy wrote back one word: Sure. So here’s a fun little story by a lovely writer:
“I ‘opened’ for Frank McCourt (kind of like a local band opening for The Rolling Stones!) at a small independent bookstore (Burgundy Books in East Haddam Village) this weekend here in Connecticut. I did a reading just before his, and got to siphon some of his early arrivals—call it my “outreach” to the Irish community. Anyway, I had met him ten years ago when I volunteered to drive him from MIA to the host hotel when he was promoting Angela’s Ashes at the Miami Book Fair. It was fun to tell him that we already knew each other, and he teased me by insisting that he remembered me because we had gotten lost (not true).
“As a reminder that anything can happen at book signings (even to Pulitzer Prize winners) someone fainted dead away in the middle of his speech! (She was okay; I guess it was the heat). The commotion broke his rhythm, though, and the whole thing fizzled after that, which was too bad.
“One of the (many) funny things he did manage to say before the drama was that students often say to him, ‘You’re lucky you had a miserable childhood, Mr. McCourt. At least you have something to write about!’
“Hmmm. I guess that’s one way to look at it.”
Thanks, Sandy! For more on Sandy, check the Links page on my website.
And so, of all things what could this little e-mail possibly prompt me to think about? You got it— ashes. What are ashes used for in cooking? Not pots above fires and ashes, but for the actual cooking process. I came up with only the fact that ashes are needed in the process of making lye. Lye is a derived from water running through ashes a few times, and it’s used in the preparation before cooking corn! Place dry ears of corn with the skins in the water for a day or two—keep turning them every once in a while. When the corn is swelled enough to break the skins, the skins come off, and also the tiny tips fall off, then thoroughly wash the corn, and cook it till it’s tender to the bite—shouldn’t take long because of the soaking stage beforehand. Slather corny cobs with butter and salt and pig out.
Today, instead of making a lye wash, people generally cheat and use bicarbonate of soda to “tenderize” the corn.
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.