A while ago, the fearless Daily Warrior Liz C. nominated me for a Valiant Blogger Award that she created. I am sorry, dear Liz, that it took me all this time to respond, and that’s not only due to my busy schedule this semester. Mainly, I kept thinking: why me? I’ve met quite a few awesome bloggers who are much more deserving, starting with Liz herself, a valiant person and a great blogger! But a meanie, nonetheless, because she stipulates only one nominee per nominator – how am I to choose? Well, she is The Creator – it’s her right, and, ultimately, I can’t say no to her, so here it is:
As a perpetual subversive element (is that why I got the award, Liz?), I am complying with the rules in the wrong order. Thank you, dear Liz, for this unique distinction! I am greatly honored to be included among those amazing bloggers in the Hall of Valor. It is a truly humbling thought that put me in a quandary. Since quandary is not a place where I stay for long, I got out of it by baking chocolate roses for my husband. But seriously, I’ve been getting an impression that you, Beautiful People, like reading my historical improvisations more than my recipes. I am happy to accommodate. As we say in Odessa, “If it’s songs you want, I’ve got them for you.”
If anyone deserves this award, it’s Frida Kahlo, a great Mexican artist famous for her self-portraits and paintings of flowers. She is the one from whose life I’ve drawn inspiration and strength throughout the years. At the age of six, as a result of polio, Frida ended up with one leg shorter and thinner than the other. Bullied by kids, she developed special closeness with her father, himself a victim of epilepsy, who gently pushed her towards sports and physical exercise. As she was gaining her strength, never letting a physical handicap get into her way, Frida pursued not only “girlish” sports, such as swimming, roller-skating, bicycling – with one short leg! – but also boxing and wrestling that were considered strictly a “guy-thing.” Not as drastic as that, but I did something similar, the only girl playing futbol (that’s soccer, my American friends) with boys in the country and at the time when it was strictly a men’s game.
As if this was not enough, at the age of 18 Frida Kahlo suffered a near fatal traffic accident that left her ill for the rest of her life. She was in constant pain. One of her friends remarked that she “lived dying.” But she cheated death by dancing flamenco with it! She requested an easel and paints, and a large mirror, and bedridden, she started painting herself. Gradually gaining strength, she also started gaining acceptance as a talented artist. She managed to get up, get married, travel, exhibit, earn a world-wide fame, and all that within twenty years of intensely active life. She was in her thirties when her health declined to the point when she could no more sit or stand for long. Confined to a wheelchair or bed, Frida went on working. Through excruciating surgeries and hospital stays, she continued painting until her last moment, or, as she called it, “exit” at the age of 47.
I was twenty one when I found myself in the hospital with an undetermined diagnosis. Illiterate nurses’ aids and cleaning ladies used to whisper around my bed,”Look how fast her hair grows! And her nails too! It’s a sure sign that she is dying – and so young!” When I realized that I wasn’t getting out any time soon, I asked my father to fashion a wooden book stand for me that allowed me to read and write while lying on my back. I would give my mother lists of books to bring me: history, philosophy, art, music, all the world culture that was accessible in communist Russia. Much of it wasn’t accessible, but my mother, may her memory last forever, managed! After a few months of the best intensive Liberal Arts education you could ever get, they finally figured out – surgery! Immediate! Stat! Without prepping! Another bout of comments from lower med personnel ensued, “Take the wedding band, earrings, and gold chain off her, and let’s give it to the family.” “No, wait ’till she dies, that’s how it’s done.” “But it’ll be harder then, and she is going to die on the table anyway – what’s the difference?”
The latter opinion prevailed. My little jewelry pieces were taken off and given to my grandmother who promptly concluded that I was not around any more, since jewelry usually is not removed from a live person. My grandmother’s shriek is the last thing I remember, until I came to in the post-op room shared by sixteen post-operational ladies. I am not counting words (sorry, Liz!), and I don’t know whether this was the greatest challenge in my life, but I remembered the words of a song:
But I don’t cry, I don’t cry ever,
Mine is a different endeavor!
And I laugh, day, eve, and morn,
Because I am Odessa – born!
For those of you, Beautiful People, who understand Russian, here is the inimitable Boris Sichkin as Buba Kastorsky – Buba from Odessa!
So I asked for my book stand again, and I started drawing. I am not an artist, by far, and certainly nowhere near great Frida Kahlo, but I got quite a few laughs drawing very not-politically-correct caricatures of doctors and nurses. So what if they were not professional; they worked better than medicine! Then I got up and started moving. And I haven’t stopped yet! A second surgery, in the U.S., was a breeze compared to that one. More than forty years later, I am here, and enjoying life!
So here are two pieces of advice, for the price of one:
- Laugh and make others laugh – it sends a surge of serotonin into your brain and gives you strength!
- Keep active and move, physically, mentally, and emotionally as much as you can, and then a little more every day – this way problems never have a chance to catch up with you!
Am I still with the program, dear Liz? You really stomped me with this “nominate one person” rule, but since I have to choose, I am nominating Terry of https://spearfruit.com/ who is right now valiantly struggling to adjust to the process of recovery after drastic surgery. Going into surgery, he had found strength to prepare and schedule posts to be published while he was fighting for his life! My heart and blessings go to you, Terry!
Frida Kahlo had painted flowers. I baked them. We don’t exactly celebrate Valentine’s day, other than a day of love that should really be celebrated every day. As usual, my husband brought me red roses – it’s not a Valentine thing with us; he brings me red roses every Friday, for Shabbos. In return, I baked roses for him – double chocolate, of course!
In my kitchen, spelt is considered gluten free, but if you have allergy or a celiac disorder, please consult your physician. In this recipe, spelt flour could be easily be substituted by gluten free or almond flour.
I use whipped aquafaba (that’s the liquid you get after cooking chickpeas or draining a can of them) instead of eggs, to avoid cholesterol, but you can use two eggs here, if you are not of vegan persuasion. Whip’em good, to a nice foam.
Add the rest of the stuff: soy milk (or any other non-dairy milk you prefer), agave, a little baking powder, and a pinch of salt, and whisk it all together. Then mix your spelt or gluten free flour into it and gently mix it into soft dough that doesn’t stick to the bowl.
This is the fun part. Dump your dough onto a floured board or working surface and flatten it. You don’t need a rolling pin – just do it gently with your fingers. Mix equal parts brown sugar and cocoa powder and spread it on top of the dough. Now roll it, like a sushi roll. Keep sprinkling flour, if it sticks to your fingers.
With a floured sharp knife, cut one inch (2.5 cm) pieces. If some cocoa and sugar spill in the process, don’t worry. Let it be for now.
Place your cut pieces on the side on a lightly oiled baking sheet and try to keep each slice in the shape of a rose. If you have any spilled cocoa and sugar, you can sprinkle it on top of the roses. It only takes thirty minutes to bake them at 350 F.
I promised double chocolate, and here it is – chocolate syrup drizzled on top of the baked rose. The cat in the background is undoubtedly playing something romantic, like Rachmaninoff’s Concerto in C-minor. That’s what I hear, anyway. So happy Valentine’s Day, Beautiful People and Valiant Bloggers! In the immortal words of Michael Jackson, “I love you, I love you, I love you all!”
- 3 cups spelt or gluten free flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup aquafaba or 2 eggs
- 1 cup soy milk or any milk substitute of your choice
- 1/3 cup agave
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- Chocolate syrup to garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly mist baking pan with oil.
- Whip aquafaba to foam, add salt, baking powder, agave, soy milk, and whisk together. Add flour, mix thoroughly but gently.
- Turn dough onto floured surface, gently flatten. Mix brown sugar with cocoa powder, spread on top of dough. Roll dough, cut across into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices.
- Place slices on oiled pan, keep rose shapes, sprinkle with leftover sugar/cocoa filling.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Remove, drizzle chocolate syrup on top. Can be served warm.