Stamp Kookys, sixth and final image: Fili’s “Love and Ribbons”, 2012

This cookie is the last in the LOVE stamp Kooky series for now. It is this year’s “Love and Ribbons” by Louise Fili and it was issued earlier this month. Fili is a famous graphic designer who has penned 18 books, many with her fellow designer and husband, Steven Heller. If you go to a big chain bookstore or their website, Fili’s and Heller’s titles typically crowd the shelf and the virtual shelf.

This is the first stamp I saw that I couldn’t wait to see in Kooky form.


Feast Your Eyes: Chocolat (2001)

A great foodie movie for this time of year (Winter, or pre-spring for some of us) is Chocolat, based on the foodie novel by Joanne Harris.

This year Ash Wednesday falls very close to Valentine’s Day. For those of us who grew up Christian (especially Roman Catholic), it was an obvious choice to give up candy or chocolate for Lent. So some years, that lovely heart-shaped box someone got you on Valentines met a premature end–it went in the trash, or stored and forgotten in the family freezer.  In 2 months time new chocolate arrived with Easter. ‘Oh well. Really, this tangent relates to the film…

Chocolat tells the story of Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk, who move frequently around France in the 1950s. Vianne is a very talented candymaker and baker with French and Native American roots. She learned her craft from her indigenous mother.

Vianne opens a chocolate shop the first week of Lent, much to the chagrin of the town’s pious, conservative and traditional mayor, Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina). Reynaud sees himself as a moral compass for his town, responsible for keeping bad influences out, and Vianne is no exception. This film also features Dame Judi Dench, Leslie Caron, Lena Olin, Carrie Ann Moss, and Johnny Depp. That’s all I will tell you, because anything more is a spoiler.

One of Vianne’s specialties is authentic Mexican hot chocolate, which includes chili peppers and whipped cream.

If it is too much to resist making your own, the recipe appears in My French Kitchen, a recipe book created by Fran Warde in collaboration with Joanne Harris.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joanne Harris is really good at creating stories of intrigue and mystery with a rich food angle. Five Quarters of the Orange, Blackberry Wine, and Coastliners were also written by her in the last decade (2000s).

NOTE TO THE AUTHOR: When I read about family rivalries and food all centered in one town, I think the South is a natural fit to follow tales about France and England. Charleston, Savannah, St. Augustine, and New Orleans are all very old and possessed with ghosts—Joanne, you’ll love them!

What is…a beignet?

It’s a ‘must-devour’ if you go to New Orleans, Louisiana, but what exactly is a beignet?

Beignet (bain-yay is how I hear it most often) means fried dough or fritter. As you might have guessed, it is a fried yeast-containing doughnut, deep fried in cottonseed oil. Once it has cooled off a little, it is sprinkled with powdered or confectioners’ sugar. It is most often eaten in the morning with a cup of coffee. Restaurants serve them in groups of three.

Unlike other American ring-style doughnuts, it is not round and has no hole in the middle.

One of the most famous places to get beignets in NOLA is Cafe du Monde. Other eateries, like Cafe Beignet, also sell them. For those of us who aren’t in NOLA, there’s a video demo on how to cook beignets at the Cafe du Monde website. Some grocery chains, like Piggly Wiggly, even carry chicory coffee and beignet mix made by Cafe du Monde.

As they say in NOLA at Mardi Gras–laissez le bon temps rouler (layzay lee bohn timps rool-ay is how it is pronounced) = let the good times roll!

UPDATE: On a related note, in Michigan, they enjoy pączki (paunch-key), plum jelly-filled fried pastry that originate from Poland. The Polish have eaten these since the Middle Ages, and French cooks brought it to them. While many Americans would think its just a jelly doughnut, native eaters say it has a richer taste and regular old jelly doughnuts are bland by comparison.

In Poland individual paczek are eaten “Fat Thursday” the final Thursday before Ash Wednesday. But in the States, this was moved to Fat Tuesday. In the States, naturally other fruit jellies, or confitures, have been used in packzi. I really enjoyed reading Kitchen Chick’s blog on this food tradition, click her blog name to visit yourself.

What is…a courgette?

A courgette is the French term for what we Americans call a zucchini. It is a dark green vegetable speckled with white spots on its skin. It is a cylindrical summer squash. While it looks like a dry version of a cucumber, the two are not related.

The term courgette is most often used in the UK, Ireland, France, New Zealand, South Africa, and Kenya. The term zucchini is used in the US, Australia, and Italy. The term used varies greatly on the peoples who live in your area, and any American or European influence that may have been present in its history.

In produce markets, “courgette” may be used interchangeably with zucchini. If the market has a vast and varied selection of vegetables, the courgette may refer to an immature or “baby” zucchini sold alongside the full grown zucchini.

Many squashes originate in the Americas, however, the zucchini is an exception. It was developed in northern Italy and then brought over by immigrants in the late 1900s.