Today is International Women’s Day. “What’s that?” you may ask. Well, it’s a day to celebrate women; particularly working women. Although it started more than a century ago in New York, IWD is far from top of mind. Gift shops and pharmacies haven’t put up special racks of IWD cards. It will be business as usual at the post office and the banks. Don’t expect your male colleagues to organize a special lunch, drinks after work or even a cake. Although, this international holiday is celebrated all over the world, you’ll find little if any hoopla in this country. Too bad, there’s a lot to celebrate.
Anyway, fifteen thousand garment workers, many of them newly arrived immigrants, launched the first International Women’s Day. They marched through the Lower East Side and rallied at Union Square on March 8, 1908. Their goal was equal economic and political rights. By today’s standards, their demands seem more than reasonable. Days were long and life was tough for garment workers. They spent sixty, eighty or more hours per week in crowded, poorly lit factories with no heat in the winter and no air conditioning in the summer. In spite of the long hours and awful conditions, women earned $7 maybe $8 per week; about half of what men earned. On the political side, suffragettes had been asking for the vote for more than fifty years. In 1908, the Nineteenth Amendment was still more than a decade from ratification.
I don’t plan any demonstrations or marches today. Instead, I’d like to celebrate some of the women in my life. First, there is the great grandmother who built and ran her own business. Nana Grant was an immigrant with a few years of elementary school education when she moved to Boston. Widowed at a young age, she had a three-year-old to provide for. She opened a tiny store and sold penny candy, buttons, ribbons, needles and thread. She sold enough buttons and bows to send her daughter to private school and college. My niece Gillian must take after her great-great grandmother. She too runs a small shop but she sells wellness in the form of herbs and tinctures.
Then there is my mother, who battles late stage Alzheimer’s disease. Every day, she provides a lesson in resilience and grace. Quite simply, Mom is the kindness person I know. In spite of her disabilities, and they are significant, she greets everyone with a smile. Her laughter and smile are wonderful medicines. They won’t cure her Alzheimer’s but they always makes me feel better.
Another niece, Michaela, begins her first post-college job this week. It’s not as if she’s never worked. She’s weeded gardens, babysat, served beer in a sports bar but, with this new adventure, she starts her career. And an admirable one at that; Kaela will be working in alternative energy.
Whom will you salute today? What acts of courage and determination, what achievements will you celebrate? Perhaps you will toast women who have risen to the top of their field: powerful CEOs and politicians, talented athletes, actors and musicians or brilliant authors and artists.
Or perhaps, like me, you will raise a glass or word of praise to someone closer to home. The sister who helped a generation of children learn to care for the earth along with their letters and numbers. The grandmother who made jam tarts with you and sparked a lifelong interest in cooking. Our lives are filled with family, friends, teachers and neighbors. They offer support, all kinds of lessons, hugs and reality checks. Some stay a short time, while others are, at least in spirit, with us forever.
Young and old, here and gone, I raise my glass to my women friends and family, may you each thrive and revel in a life well lived. Bon appétit!
Mini Tarte Tatin
While this recipe has its origins in French baking, I’ve made it my own by combining the spirit of my Nana Nye’s jam tarts with my mother’s apple pie. Enjoy!
4 tablespoons butter
8 tablespoons sugar
2-3 pounds apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8ths
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Sweet Pastry (recipe follows)
8 (6-8-ounce) custard cups
Make the Sweet Pastry dough (recipe follows).
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Put 1/2 tablespoon each butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in the bottom each custard cup. Toss the apples with spices. Arrange the apples in the cups, packing them tightly in concentric circles. It’s okay if the apples stick up above the rim of the cups.
Put the cups on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes (the fruit will settle slightly). While the apples bake, roll out the dough and cut in rounds about an inch larger than the custard cups. Refrigerate the rounds until ready to use.
Remove the tarts from oven and lay a pastry round on top of each. Return the tarts to the oven and continue baking until the pastry is golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer the tarts to a rack and cool for 10 minutes.
To serve: place a plate on top of each custard cup and using potholders to hold the cup and plate tightly together, invert each tart onto a plate. An apple slice or two might stick to the cup; carefully unstick them and place them on the tart. Serve warm with vanilla or ginger ice cream.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, cold
2-4 tablespoons ice water
Put the flour, sugar and salt a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and shortening and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.
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One Year Ago – Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette
Two Years Ago – Potato & Cheddar Soup
Three Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Four Years Ago – Guinness Lamb Shanks
Five Years Ago – Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Six Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Seven Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
How will you celebrate International Women’s Day? Feel free to share!
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016