That’s my nephew, Greg Gavin. He is a poet. A good poet. Here is a link to his Blog and poetry: The Viscous Somniloquy. I speak as someone who has studied, written a lot of, published a few, and at one time wanted to teach writing poetry. We have our own little mutual admiration society going on. It has been such a pleasure for me to discover a kindred soul in my extended family.
He and I have been having some interesting conversations about writing on Facebook’s Instant Message thingie. A few nights ago we were discussing where our gift to string words together in pleasing and wondrous ways comes from and he asked if I thought the ability to write well was genetic.
I do. Both of my kids are fairly good writers. Particularly my son who actually writes in connection with his present and past jobs as an educator. He wrote all the training manuals for the people he trained at his last job. My brother Michael writes very well. I’ve been getting emails from him lately and I can “hear” him talking while I read. He writes just like he talks.
But what I find most interesting is that my Dad, Bill Gavin, wanted to write when he was a young man and had, in fact, written at least one mystery/crime novel. Greg was unaware of this. Sadly, that doesn’t surprise me. My father is a taboo subject back there at the family of origin’s homestead.
My mother told me years ago that there were some manuscripts in a trunk down in her basement. For whatever reason, I never asked to see them. I wish I had. I worry that she cleaned out that trunk and destroyed those manuscripts out of a desire to erase all traces of my father from her life. Not that I would really blame her but I really, really want to see those manuscripts.
I know my Dad was a good writer because of a very few letters I got from him over the years that I didn’t keep. I wonder if he ever wrote poetry. It would be interesting to find out if anyone else in hthe Sinner-Gavin family had aspirations to be a writer. Especially a generation or two back. Grandma Gavin, Iola Sinner Gavin, was the word person in Dad’s family. She used to do the New York Times crossword puzzle every Sunday and loved to play scrabble.
It would be even more interesting to discover that the Hoyt-Fate family line had some aspiring writers in it. I know they were avid letter writers. My Gramma, Della Fate, encouraged me to have pen pals and even bought me stamps and stationary to encourage me to write letters to my cousin Linda who lived in Japan where her parents were missionaries.
But yeah I do think the ability to write has a genetic component. Just like the color of your eyes, the shape of your nose, your hairline, health issues, and even your personality quirks and a lot of other things are genetic. The neurons in our brains are composed of DNA. Where nature leaves off and nurture begins to produce that passion to write is a mystery. Hey, we could have (and actually have, at least in my case) inherited worse things from our family.
Greg has inspired me to pick this blog back up and write. He has even inspired me to write some poetry again. I wish I was rich because I would love nothing more than to be his mentor and a patron who could send him off traveling the world and writing about his experiences. He’s an intelligent, gifted, and talented young man and he’s an old soul with a wisdom beyond his years.
Today is National “Have a Brownie Day.” I think I will make Greg some Brownies just because. These are the brownies I used to make my kids every Friday night for a few years when they (and I) were young. They had to help beat the eggs and sugar until they were just right. This recipe comes from the Joy of Cooking Cookbook by Irma Rombauer. Thanks, Irma! Four generations of women in my family have had one version or another of your cookbook in our kitchens. It’s my go-to gift for Bridal showers and wedding gifts.
*Cockaigne? I’d forgotten that this recipe has that strange word in the title. I had to look it up.
Quick definitions from WordNet (Cockaigne) ▸ noun: (Middle Ages) an imaginary land of luxury and idleness.
Imagine that while you bake.
Preheat your oven to 350*
Melt in a double boiler*:
½ cup butter
4 ozs of unsweetened baking chocolate**
Cool this mixture to room temperature. Irma says that if you don’t your brownies will be heavy and dry. I trust Irma. *Nowadays I would skip the double boiler and melt the butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl on low or even defrost for a couple of minutes. How did we ever manage without microwave ovens? Then stir it and nuke it on low again for a couple of minutes, more. Lather, rinse, repeat until the butter and chocolate can be stirred together. Be careful, chocolate scorches easily and that’s not nice. Trust me, you don’t want scorched chocolate in your brownies.
**If you don’t happen to have baking chocolate in the house you can substitute 3 TBS of cocoa or carob powder and one TBS of butter for each square or ounce of chocolate. Irma taught me that too. So total butter for this recipe using cocoa would be 1 cup. Melt all of the butter together on low in the microwave oven and gradually stir in 12 tablespoons (or ¾ cup) of cocoa or carob powder a couple of tablespoons at a time until there are no lumps. You might want to sift the cocoa or carob powder. Cool it to room temperature.
In a large bowl beat until light in color and fluffy:
4 room temperature eggs*
¼ tsp of salt
That room temperature note on the eggs is important. Your eggs won’t get nice and fluffy and the sugar won’t dissolve unless your eggs are about 70*. If you decide to make these Brownies on the spur of the moment, you can warm your eggs up by putting them in a bowl (with the shells intact please) and running hot tap water over them for a minute or so and then letting them sit in it until the water is room temperature. That will take anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour. I learned that from Hints from Heloise. Heloise had a daily column in the newspaper for years. She taught me how to be a better housewife. <grin>
Add gradually as you continue beating the eggs until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and creamy. This takes awhile. If you are doing it by hand you should invite a friend to share the work and the brownies, your arm is going to get tired! Preteen boys enjoy doing this for some reason:
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Quickly fold into the eggs the COOLED (I cannot stress this enough) chocolate and butter. Do this by hand. Before the mixture is uniform in color quickly fold in with as few strokes as possible.
1 cup of all-purpose flour
Before the flour is completeluy incorporated, add
1 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts*
*The nuts are optional. Bake in a greased (use some canned and pressurized oil aka cooking spray) 9” X 13” cake pan about 25 minutes for moist chewy brownies. If you prefer them more cake like then use a 9” X 9” cake pan.
Here’s the hardest part of the recipe:
Let the brownies cool to room temperature cool before you cut them.
We always put the pan on a cookie sheet and stuck them in the freezer to speed this process up because we were greedy piggies who needed our chocolate fix. You can eat them straight from the oven but they won’t be pretty and they won’t taste as good. Anticipation adds a lot of flavor to almost anything.
Listen to Carly Simon while you’re waiting!