Thursday, November 10, 2011



I've been a linguist since the time I learned to talk.  Over the years I added foreign languages: one, two, even three at a time until there were 5, or almost 6; the words all dancing around in my head.  There are so many in there, with deep intonations, bright tones, and guttural vibrations.  Often a word will get stuck in a synapse, playing itself over and over like a skipping record.

Sometimes the word that gets stuck is there for its sound, other times for it's meaning. These days, the word is ephemeral. "Lasting for a very short time." 

Like pain, pleasure, life itself.

If relationships, things, tasks, achievements, everything is ephemeral, that's a reason to care.

If taste is ephemeral, then that's a reason to savor.

Then there's another word nestled in that gap between cells, begging to be spoken:  ethereal. "Extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world." 

Chocolate mousse, tiramisu, my meringue cookies.

I had 4 almost-forgotten egg whites in my refrigerator -- leftover from a double batch of this chocolate pudding (to which I added a shot of espresso, which took it to a new level of decadent).

We had a difficult morning that involved a series of life's petty annoyances, adding up to a bad mood and a lump in my throat.  While Roman napped, I sought out the familiar refuge of the whir of my electric mixer. I knew that my knotted-up feelings were ephemeral. They would pass, as all things do.

So I gently whipped my egg whites to soft peaks, then slowly poured 1/2 cup of caster sugar (superfine cane) in a stream along with two capfuls of vanilla extract.  I sifted 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 of dark cacao.  I carefully chopped some walnuts and folded them into the gooey batter with the last of the very dark chocolate chips from the refrigerator.  I baked them at 300 for about 20 minutes. The result was 24 soft, chewy meringues: not at all chalky; pleasant on the teeth.

As soon as I pulled the tray from the oven, I ate four.

Yes, four.

My meringue cookies were both ethereal (but the walnuts grounded them) and ephemeral (they were all gone in 24 hours).

The cookie recipe is here (although I made a few changes, as I described above).
They are called brutti ma buoni, "ugly, but good," light, delicate, short lasting, and a good remedy to life's petty annoyances, which are indeed ephemeral...


  1. Another beauty Nicole! I always learn here and to me (like I've said 10X before) that is what makes a blog worth visiting! Thanks! :) xo

  2. I love how both these words, ephemeral and ethereal, are Greek :)

    Hope you're feeling better, Nicole. I'm sure those meringues did the trick.

  3. Carolyn: Thanks, as always, for reading :)

    Magda- I love that they are Greek, too!

  4. Anything that is "effimero" and "etereo" (just to tickle you with one of the languages you know) automatically becomes special, because it goes so quickly, it is hard to grasp. I am not on good terms with meringue, it doesn't work for me. I tried a couple of times and haven't ventured down that road again. In this case, I would call your cookies Belli e Buoni!

  5. "elated" (me in reading this). I know we would make good scrabble buddies! :)

  6. Love: ephemeral and ethereal! han't thought about their origin, but the Greek is lovely. (I'm a foreign langauge nerd myself, though these days it's feeling that some of that was ephemeral, jettisoned...but am curious what you have studied!)

  7. They are beautiful words, ethereal and ephemeral. And I think the cookies are gorgeous and good!

  8. Nicole, you're always making something that I want to eat, make, share. As a side note, Ruth's Nut Thins are amazing. They were devoured quickly. In fact, we miss them so much I'm probably going to make another batch on Sunday. Thanks, again :)

  9. I thought the looked like brutti ma buoni! Those cookies are so good and they feel so light they are like a little baked cloud.

  10. Good solution. Baking does have its healing properties. Brutti ma buoni, "ugly, but good," -- love the name of these cookies.

  11. Love these ephemeral cookies/meringues! With the addition of nuts and cocoa, not too sweet ; the neat thing about these words is they are the same in French/ephemere, etheree, except you got to put the accents!


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