What an endearing book. It took me awhile to warm to Eleanor, but when I did, her status in my literary hero catalogue ascended to join Don Tillman, Celine, Florence Gordon, and Veblen Amundsen-Hovda, to name just a few of my favorite literary iconoclasts. They’re all different, but share a unique view of the world that allows them to march to beat of their own singular hearts. Eleanor is a serial loner until a chance meeting with a co-worker changes her life. At it’s core, the book is about friendship, forgiveness, and finding one’s own way. Eleanor was very funny, although she didn’t usually intend to be. After assessing that the congregation in church were not enthusiastic enough in their rendition of a hymn,
Eleanor threw herself more spiritedly into the singing, and observed: “Quite a few people turned around to look at us, presumably because they had enjoyed our vocal tribute.”
Eleanor had a house plant that she loved, a parrot plant, called Polly, which was given as a birthday present in her childhood. Eleanor unashamedly admits that she sometimes talked to Polly. Another interesting thing about Eleanor is her computer password at work: Ignus aurum probat,” meaning “fire tests gold.” The rest of the Seneca quote is “and adversity tests the brave.” This is the perfect motto for her.
THE BEAUTY: When Eleanor was presented with a mylar balloon, she said, “What is it supposed to be? Is it … is it cheese?”
“It’s SpongeBob, Eleanor.” he said, speaking very slowly and clearly as though I were some sort of idiot. “SpongeBob Squarepants.”
“A semi-human bath sponge with protruding front teeth! On sale as if it were something completely unremarkable! For my entire life, people have said that I’m strange, but really, when I see things like this, I realize that I’m actually relatively normal.”
This was the perfect recipe for reasons that will become clear to you when you read the book.
Langues de Chat (Cat’s Tongue)
9 T butter, softened
½ C white sugar
2 T white sugar
3 egg whites
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ C all-purpose flour
6 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, melted
Preheat the oven to 400º F. Lightly grease baking sheets.
In a medium bowl, cream together butter and ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons
sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg whites one at a time until batter is light
and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla. Mix in the flour just until blended. Dough will
be a little stiff.
Using a cookie press or a pastry bag with a medium star tip, press dough
onto prepared baking sheet into 3-inch lengths, like a ladyfinger.
Bake cookies in preheated oven until straw-colored, about 10 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.
When cookies are cool, dip one end of each cookie in melted chocolate
and place on wax paper until chocolate hardens. (I had to use twice as much chocolate to coat all the cookies.) Store in a cool place.
*Note: After making these, I have decided never to pipe again, unless I can find an online tutorial or someone to teach me how to use a pastry bag. I never remember having a problem with the old fashioned pastry bag that you had to clean after each use. I used a disposable bag first, and had to give up because the dough wouldn’t come out the tip, and the bag was forming goiter-like bulges that threatened to explode! So I switched to a non-disposable bag and still couldn’t get the dough out. Next, I put the dough in a plastic storage bag and cut off the tip. No luck with this method either, so back to the disposable bag. Without a tip on at all, I was able to make the sloppy cookies you see pictured below. Also, this recipe was very messy: the kitchen had dough everywhere and I had it in my hair, my eyebrows, my fleece and who knows where else? Though not beautiful, they were delicious at tea time with a blizzard roaring outside. Knock wood, we still have power, although the storm reportedly has hours to go.