Food For Thought What Not To Say

lemon thyme madelaines

Lemon Thyme Madeleines

Does your mouth ever work faster than your brain? The words cause “a stir”. Too late to take them back the inevitable pain and confusion is regrettable. It takes courage to own the wrong and recognize the only appropriate response: “I’m sorry”.
Addressing someone who is in mourning is always difficult. The right words are often hard to come by. The truth is there is nothing you can say to make the bereaved person feel better. When in doubt about what to say a simple, heartfelt, “I’m sorry” is all that’s needed along with the touch of a hand or a hug….make that a big bear hug, please!
Here are a few examples of WHAT NOT TO SAY. These cliches can do more harm than good.
  • He’s in a better place   (nope–alive and well next to me is a much better place)
  • Heaven needed an angel  (nope–I need him/her here)
  • Be brave  (nope–I need to experience this pain if I am ever going to be normal again)
  • God has a plan  (nope–we had plans, too)

madeleine pan

Here is more food for thought. Madeleines. Don’t call them cookies. In certain company you will regret calling them that as they really are a little bite of heavenly buttery cake. They can be sweet or savory. Lemons are very inexpensive this time of year and a sure sign of spring. A staple in my kitchen, lemon is one of my favorite flavors. Fresh and tart it adds balance to any dish and wakes up your taste buds. Next time you want to comfort someone set out a plate of these lemon thyme madeleines. You won’t have to say a word.


like a delicate bite of poundcake

Lemon Thyme Madeleines

  • Servings: 3 to 4 dozen small or 2 dozen large
  • Print

½ cup cake flour*

¼ teaspoon salt (use fine sea salt or table salt not kosher salt)

1/8-teaspoon cream of tartar

¼ cup sugar

½ tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

Grated zest of ½ lemon

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 oz cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

1-teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Powdered sugar

Heat oven 375F. Spray the molds of a 12 to 20-piece madeleine pan with no-stick baking spray. In small bowl, whisk flour, salt and cream of tartar; set aside. In food processor, pulse sugar, thyme and zest until uniform. In a medium bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until light and creamy. Add sugar mixture; blend well. Add eggs and lemon juice: blend well. Add flour mixture; mix just until blended. Spoon batter into molds until even with rims. Tap pan a few times to level the batter. Bake 8 to 10 minutes for small madeleines (10 to 12 minutes for larger ones) or until edges are just golden brown and cakes feel firm when touched with the tip of your finger. Immediately invert madeleines on to a cooling rack. Cool pan before repeating with remaining batter. Cool madeleines completely before dusting with powdered sugar.

* To make cake flour: measure out ½ cup of all purpose flour then remove 1 tablespoon of flour from that half cup and return it to the flour sack. Add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to your measured flour, whisk and presto you now have cake flour.

Survival with Ants On a Log


Fight or flight survival mode kicks in pretty much immediately with the news of  a sudden death.  There is an explosion going on in the brain and devastation in the heart. How does one pick up the pieces and move forward?  How can one think or do anything? Does one take cover or run away? One can’t breathe as the heart races for answers. Inability to make a decision turns me into a robot. I am happy to hand the remote control to whoever will take it. Being a robot is how I survived the first week.

Thankfully, certain extraordinary friends took the remote and led me around. This is another key way to be helpful when one just doesn’t know what to do.  Don’t be afraid to simply ask, “what do you need right now to survive this?” Then spring into action with whatever talents you can offer. Food, yard work, babysitting, running errands……..

Jason, the navy chaplain who delivered the blow offers to plan the funeral, but Dennis, a friend and pastor who knows William doesn’t hesitate to collaborate. Dennis goes above and beyond traveling from his church in Massachusetts during Easter week.  My friends, Carol, Ann, Bev and Diane, spring into action offering their homes to any marines and sailors coming to the services.  They know it is important to me to have these special visitors feel like family. My friend Lynn flies in from TN and never leaves my side. She helps me get dressed, tells me where to be and makes me eat. She is watching over my husband and daughter, too.

When Maria, whose daughter is a close friend and schoolmate of William’s, calls to be helpful my only response is, “I think I need to have a party after the funeral. I always do all my own cooking for parties, but I don’t think I can do this. Can you please recommend a caterer?” Maria takes care of it. The next thing I know we are having a wake on William’s 23rd birthday and a funeral and a party at The Taft School that honors my son like I never imagined.  Between six to seven hundred people show up to celebrate him. He is clearly “more bad-ass today (even in death) than he was yesterday”. So many to thank! Yes, help me keep up with correspondence.

That “bad-ass” phrase is one of William’s favorites and one he often uses to describe his learning of survival skills in the woods. I remember him wanting to read everything about marine, Scott O’Grady who was shot down in Bosnia in 1995 and survived 6 days in enemy territory before being rescued. Will, age 7,  is fascinated by the fact that O’Grady evades detection by camouflage and survives by eating ants.


apparently no one could find him hiding in the tree that day

Fast forward to the teen years. One of my all-time favorite Will Keys stories involves Pastor Dennis’ daughter Abby. William and Abby are long-time friends and spending the summer together life guarding at the local lake. One day Abby comes home from the lake and asks her mother, “Mom do you know that ants taste sour? Her mother responds, “no, and how do you know?” Will got me to try some today.”  My boy had some kind of charisma and loved a girl who had a taste for adventure! So, Abby, this recipe is for YOU! It might be a fun little appetizer for your Thanksgiving feast.

Deconstructed Ants On A Log

15 Athens mini fillo shells

1/3 cup whipped cream cheese

¾ cup small dice celery hearts including the tender leaves

3 tablespoons raisins (black ants) or dried sweetened cranberries (red ants), chopped

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon bottled poppy seed salad dressing. Fill each shell with about 1 teaspoon cream cheese. In bowl, toss celery, raisins or cranberries and salad dressing. Spoon on top of cream cheese.