Valentines

hebrew.jpgOctober, 1962.  Johnny Carson became the new host of “The Tonight Show”.  The Cuban Missile Crisis brought us to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.  And I was an eleven-year-old Hebrew School student at Temple Beth Shalom on the south shore of Long Island.

Three afternoons a week I was car pooled to this house of worship ostensibly to learn about the history of my people.  My teacher was an elderly Old World gentleman named Rabbi Nathan Levitats who spoke English pretty much the same way that I spoke Chinese…not well.  Still, he taught us bible stories and because the Hebrew name for Alan is Avraham, which is also the Hebrew name for Abraham, I immediately felt a special kinship with that Old Testament figure known as the “First Jew” because of his belief that there was only one God. 

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ManCatcherBrowniesWhen I was 7 my mother, Susan, met my future stepfather, Larry. They had been dating for about a month when she made him a batch of caramel nut brownies—a recipe she’d come up with herself. Larry took one bite and blurted, “Oh my gosh, I love you!” It was the first time he’d said anything like that, and it was sort of a joke—but then he followed up with, “Actually, I really do love you, and I’ve been wanting to tell you that.” After they got engaged, Larry renamed the recipe “Man-Catcher Brownies.”

Mom taught me how to bake when I was 12, and these brownies were one of the first recipes she shared with me. “Remember, Amy, whoever eats these will fall in love with you,” she said. I knew she was teasing, but the brownies still took on magical properties in my mind. My friends and I would have sleepovers and bake batches of them for boys we had crushes on. Sometimes we’d be sneaky about it and bring the brownies to the whole class, just so that a particular guy would be sure to eat one. When one of us had a steady boyfriend, we’d make up a nice little bag for him and tie it with a bow. Larry was on to our schemes. “Those man-catcher brownies work, so y’all be careful,” he’d say. “Don’t give ’em to anyone who won’t treat you right for the rest of your life.”

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moltenchocolate.jpgChocolate molten cake is my personal weakness. I cannot go without ordering it when I see it on a restaurant menu. Fairly common on many menus, it is a dessert that is not always created euqal. I can attest to this because I've tried pretty much all of them. But the best molten chocolate cake I've ever had is the one served at Jean Georges Restaurant; it's a signature dish of the restaurant and is on the menu at practically all of Jean Georges's establishments. For me it is an unforgettable dish. And I convince all my friends to try it too; I rarely have to force them. As the saying goes, dessert is served last, but don't let it be least, especially not this one.

This dessert is probably one of the easiest to make at home. So if you're unable to have dinner at Jean Georges or are on a budget like I am, why not try making it at home. It's a simple yet highly rewarding dessert. It's perfect for a dinner party because it can be made ahead, refrigerated, and baked just minutes before it's time to eat dessert. The first spoonful of lava-like chocolate oozing out from the center of the cake is so seductive that guests won't soon forget it. I think any holiday meal would benefit greatly with this molten cake served as dessert. It's a little bit unexpected and will add that touch of gourmet to the evening.

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moonlight-romance.jpgAs my husband and I celebrated our 14th anniversary, I realized that my first marriage lasted exactly 14 years.  Heading into our 15th year, I have every expectation that I will beat my personal best.  And things look promising.  So after a total of 28 years in marital experience, you would assume I've learned something about love.

I'm not so sure.

A good example is the question I remember asking my mother around age 12:  "How will I know when I meet someone, if he is the right one?"

And she answered serenely, as mothers have through the ages, "You'll KNOW."

I KNEW at 28, when I married my first husband.  Enough said.

My younger sister Carla asked our mother the same question and got the same answer.  Carla KNEW at 15, when she decided her first boyfriend was the love of her life.

And she was right.  So you tell me---how did she figure it out? 

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