Friday, May 14, 2010

How Special It Is.

Today you will be told a story about a beautiful girl...

...who lived in a beautiful country called France.

One day she decided to travel to America, to be a foreign exchange student in a small high school in Chattanooga, Tennessee...

...and made a lifelong friend.

Her name is Aline. She is as marvelous and beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She has poise, grace and an incredible, kind spirit. All you have to do is look at her photograph and you can see it for yourself. So I digress.

Aline and I became close friends in my senior year of high school. So close that my father gifted me with a trip to visit her in France for my graduation present. We brought along my other friend Laura and spent a week in Italy, then met Aline in Paris. This was everyone's first time in Paris (except Aline, of course) and it was magical. What can I say? To be with your dearest friends and your father on a June day in Paris... heaven.

We said goodbye to my Dad who flew out of Paris and allowed us to stay with Aline for an extra week. She took us to Strasbourg, the city where she lived while "studying." (How anybody ever manages to study in Strasbourg is beyond me.) The city will melt your heart with its idyllic, old world French charm. Cottages with bright flowers spilling out of the windowsills line every street. The air you breathe seems to be golden, filling your lungs with light.

Aline opened my eyes to so much beauty, so much charm. I know now that this little blog of mine would not exist without having known her or having seen her world. She introduced me to red wine, green olives, black chocolate; to peppermint Schnapps, to bikes and baguettes. She welcomed me into her home and introduced me to her lovely family, her life and her unspeakably picturesque world. So much beauty! (Again I must digress.)

Life went on. We kept up a little bit here and there. We passed information to each other whenever we could. Of course it was never quite enough, but we managed to keep in touch. She called to congratulate my engagement (and marriage), and I often flip through old photographs of our trip to France with a sigh... (I really miss her. And France.)

Then one day out of the blue, she wrote me to tell me she likes my blog (of all things!) and informed me of the devastating news that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

At this point of the story, I think it's best that you read a few of her words:

"...Now I'm trying to think about my life and what direction I want to take... Because one thing is sure: it is not worth it to work too hard and to spoil my health... Life and health are too precious!! And now that I have time to live, I go to the small producers markets to buy most of my groceries... I agree with you that the quality of locally grown food is not comparable to any grocery store food! I live right in the centre of Strasbourg and it is very unique to be able to go to the small butcher, the markets, the cheese store and buy only quality food!"

Months passed and we fell out of touch, until one day I wrote her expressing the desire to tell YOU about her. To my complete surprise, after many months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, I learned the news that she was in full remission. Again, her words:

"For my part, I am doing much better than in my last email!!!! Difficult times seem so far away...I had my last round of chemo just before Christmas then radiations between January and March, and then nothing more!!! It was such a great sensation to feel life coming back in my body! Day by day, I could feel a little better: no more headaches, no more sickness, no more strange feelings in fingers, no more bleeding nose, no more pain in bones and joints, no more dry mouth, no more excessive tiredness...I can feel that I get my strength back day after day, my hairs are growing again (very very curly, it is terrible!!!), my cheeks are naturally pink again (by the way Guerlain's Terracotta is the best), I may have plans and think about the futures without "if", I can wear Mascara again!, I can exercise...I can live quite normally!!!!!"

Aline and I put our heads together and decided that even though we live very far away from each other, we can still celebrate her wondrous, blessed recovery. And what better way to do that than... (you guessed it...) chocolate? She has graciously translated and converted a very special and phenomenal French dessert recipe, one she made for me back in the day. (Lucky me!) Now it is yours! My hope is that you will take a moment to make and enjoy this recipe, and when you do so, think of amazing Aline and her wise words about life and health and how precious it all is.

Bon Apetit!

Moelleux au chocolat

Makes 4 “moelleux au chocolat”

4 Ounces of bittersweet chocolate chips

¼ Cup butter, cut into pieces

3 eggs

½ cup sugar

¼ cup flour

In a bowl over simmering water, slowly melt the 4 ounces of chocolate chips. Add ¼ cup butter and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and ½ cup sugar on high speed for about 5 minutes, or until thick and light. Stir in the melted chocolate and ¼ cup flour in the egg mixture just until well combined.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Coat 4 ramekins with butter and flour.

Spoon the cake batter into the ramekins and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes (up to 48 hours).

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The cake must be firm to the touch but still melting in the center.

Run a small, sharp knife around the inside of each ramekin to help remove the cake. Serve with fresh strawberry and raspberry and a spoon of vanilla ice cream.

[P.S. All photos are of Strasbourg, France and the surrounding countryside of Alsace which was voted into the "Ten Most Beautiful Places to visit in the world by Lonely Planet for 2010.]

Also, if you would like to leave a comment, the easiest way to do so is "anonymously" but please, please sign your name! Thank you!


Anonymous said...

Lovely pictures! Very touching story with a happy ending! And that Moelleux au chocolat look divine!


Joanna said...

what a sweet post! this looks DELICOUS.

Bea said...

Wow, what a great story. Let's have some chocolate and maybe a little red wine in a week?

Mariel Torres said...

what a beautiful post!!! and the pictures and recipe are the cherry on top. Love it!

Anonymous said...

This blog brought tears to my eyes. Never will I forget Aline. She is as beautiful as ever, this dear, sweet Girl. Thank you Annie, for sharing her new found health, as well as her wise thoughts.
To celebrate all that has transpired, I will definitely make this recipe.
Love you much,

jcalvinward said...

Annie, you have such a thoughtful and articulate blog! Keep it up, and I'll try to share it with other fb friends. Hope you are well.

James Ward

Lenore said...

What an inspirational story, thanks so much for sharing. I'm glad she is doing well and I am once again reminded of all that's precious in life.


mistyeyed said...

Wonderful story! Thank you for so much for sharing this. I've recently heard about so many people losing their fight against cancer that I love to hear someone that beat this dreaded disease. And, thanks for the recipe as well!

A.Kelley said...

Thank you all for these wonderful comments! I'm so pleased to know her story is circulating! She's an inspiration (and so is that recipe!) :)

anna j said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Annie: thank you again for putting this together… You made something beautiful!!

And thank you all for your kind thoughts and comments!


Tacy & Stephen said...

love, love, LOVE this post!!!! Thank you for writing this. And you are right- Aline is beautiful.

anna j said...

Merci, Annie, pour la belle histoire . . . au sujet d'une tellement belle fille aussi!
It was uplifting to read about Aline, and you gave me happily bittersweet longings to return to France :-)
~Anna J.

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