bittersweetbaker

Pink Lemonade Bars (Communist Tart)

In Brownies and Bars, Fruits, Tarts/Pies on August 21, 2013 at 1:01 pm
From Summer 2013

When my father suggested writing a guest post after having watched “The Manchurian Candidate” with me,  I thought he was kidding. But a few days later, the first draft of his post lay in my inbox. In a discussion of the politics of fear, he wittily ties my raspberry lemon bars to an insult (“communist tart”) heard in the movie. 

When I was little, pink lemonade was believed to be a rare and exotic flavor. It was my favorite Jolly Rancher flavor, worth its double of green apple or watermelon. Precisely how pink lemonade differed from yellow lemonade seemed never to be a point of discussion. Perhaps we assumed the lemons were pink as pink grapefruit are pink.

A disconnected memory comes to my mind of some young girl acquaintance my own age then, somewhere in the eternity between 6 and 11, shouting her excitement that a particular stand at some fair we were attending had pink lemonade. All I can remember is a single scene:  her shoulder-length, straight, strawberry-blond hair, the late summer sun, the dirt below, and my complete acceptance that pink lemonade was in the pantheon of flavors, worth the shocking price typical of carnival fare.

From Summer 2013

None of us even tried to describe the flavor of pink. We were satisfied simply to be connoisseurs in the know. Many years later, a friend, by no means little, not a girl, having short, brown hair, jaded and worldly, during the mere epoch of college, responded to my interest in pink lemonade dismissively, claiming it to be common lemonade with pink dye, and told me I could simply add a spoonful of frozen Concord grape juice concentrate if I thought pinkness would make it better. I should have known better than to have asked a chemistry major, and a home brewer besides. The color was good, but it did not taste pink to me. It reminds me of recipes for Rote Gruesse requiring red fruits. It seems that is interpreted as red currents, raspberries, strawberries, and cherries, an apparent domination of the aesthetic by color, rather than by flavor.

We visited the grandparental town this summer during the middle of berry season. Strawberries were done, blackberries were still flowers, blueberries were abundant, and every fruit stall at the farmers’ market had raspberries. I was not the only one to notice the profusion of berries or to realize their transient nature:  a little boy, perhaps five, was there, straining on his mother’s arm as if it were a leash exclaiming “Berries! Berries! Berries!”

From Summer 2013

My daughter made a raspberry-lemon tart this summer that had both a remarkable color and wonderfully balanced raspberry and lemon flavors. Definitely blogsworthy, thought I, as the last piece disappeared into her little cousin’s mouth a few minutes after the tart was placed on the table.

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My daughter had an assignment on McCarthyism last spring. Though those events were long before I was born, my fascination with argumentation, intrigue, conspiracy theories, and ideologies all got pinged. I thought to try to continue her education at home. My rock and roll homeschool lessons were easy thanks to YouTube, but I realized for the more serious subject of the politics of fear, my homeschool would need a more substantial medium, such as Hollywood. The first two assignments were recent documentaries addressing, in part, aspects of the political exploitation of fear: Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911″ and “Bowling for Columbine.” Already in adulthood and having followed these stories closely in the news from great geographical and cultural distances (Berlin and San Francisco, respectively), I felt I could provide sufficient background, criticize, indicate missing arguments, keep some distance, and explain some of the controversies engendered.

From Summer 2013

The next assignment was intrigue using the 1962 version of “The Manchurian Candidate.” I first saw this film when it was re-released in 1988 at Cinema 21 in Portland (just down the block from where I lived). The absence of showings for so many years itself elicited a conspiracy theory that it was suppressed. I tried to find the Kindle version of the novel. Available not at amazon, but at amazon uk, yet not available to US Kindle users. Suspicious, I searched for information about the book. I found an article written by the author (“‘Manchurian Candidate’ in Dallas” 1963) in response to the accusation that the author was responsible for John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The article is very well written, and it presents some of the same themes as “Bowling for Columbine” does decades later. The politics of fear are powerful and enduring.

The DVD cover of “The Manchurian Candidate” highlights the actors Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, and Janet Leigh. Note that the familiar Angela Lansbury, who has a far greater role than Janet Leigh, is not. At first, I was surprised, because I knew who Angela Lansbury was from her roles in “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” and “Murder, She Wrote,” and I had no idea who Janet Leigh was (this indicates my age), but the cover is about selling, and beauty and glamour sell better than honesty. The magnificently intertwined intrigue skirts between realism and satire. The anti-communist senator rants, sounds as if he is drunk, and every time claims a different number of communists in the Department of Defense. Is it a simple thriller, a criticism of the gullible populace, a satire of campaign politics, or fear-mongering? Or all of them together?

From Summer 2013

Two scenes struck me in the film. One was when the evil mother (watch out for allusions to Greek tragedies) is puppeteering her ranting anti-communist senator-husband as he crashes a hearing by making wild allegations about the communist infestation. She is in the hearing room, watching a television showing the hearing live in order to judge when to signal his outburst. That was 1962. It immediately recalled an episode in the Iran-Contra hearings of 1987. I was working as a research assistant at a Veteran’s Administration Medical Center (without pay or benefits, but that is another story) when I had the worst ‘flu I had ever had. I took an entire week off to spend in bed in the throes of fever. The Iran-Contra hearings were broadcast live on radio, and with my delirium to help me interpret, I listened to many, many hours. At one point, the radio commentators discussed how some reporters would bring televisions into the hearing, because what they saw with their own eyes seemed to give a puzzlingly different impression of what was seen on television. In particular, it was noted that the credibility of Oliver North was far better on television than live (and radio). Of course, it is all about show. Thus, the next assignment was “Wag the Dog,” where the concept of show is elaborated fully in the context of scandal and re-election, and eerily preminiscent (I know this is not a real word, but it is apt) of the Lewinsky scandal.

From Summer 2013

Bear in mind my fascination with these themes and belief in their pedagogical value. I have a colleague who is an endless source of conspiracy theories about the Middle East, usually contradictory to themselves, his last, and his next. At first, I was so naive as to disregard all conspiracy theories, especially the self-contradictory variety, but after a few years, I realize that they are often more likely to be all true, and the more contradictions, the more veracity, just like people.

The other scene that triggered my mind in “The Manchurian Candidate” was when the evil mother refers to her son’s love interest, the sweet blond (strawberry blond?) daughter of the other senator, a political rival, as a “communist tart.” That, I thought, is a perfect name for the raspberry-lemon tart. It is not a pinko color sympathizer:  it is the real thing with true raspberry flavor.

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To be served on red china:

 Pink Lemonade Bars

from Smitten Kitchen
Makes one 9″ tart

For the base:
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup (125 grams) flour

For the lemonade layer
1 cup (about 5 ounces or 140 grams) raspberries
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice; this should only require 2 lemons
1/3 cup (40 grams) all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and line an 8x8x2-inch baking pan with parchment, letting it extend up two sides. Butter or coat the bottom and sides with a nonstick spray and set the pan aside.

Make the base: In a food processor, pulse together the sugar, zest and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it is evenly dispersed in the dough. Add the flour and pulse the machine until it’s just combined and the mixture is crumbly. Press the dough into the prepared pan and about 1/2-inch up the sides. Don’t worry about making this perfect; mine was an uneven mess and nobody can tell. Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly browned at edges. Let cool on a rack while you prepare the filling (though no need for it to be completely cool when you fill it). Leave oven on.

Make the pink lemonade layer: Puree the raspberries in your food processor until they’re as liquefied as they’ll get. I don’t even bother cleaning mine between steps, but I’m also probably lazier than you. Run the puree through a fine-mesh sieve, trying to press out all the raspberry puree that you can, leaving the seeds behind. I ended up with 1/3 cup strained puree; don’t worry if you get a smidge less.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of raspberry puree. Stir in flour. Pour into cooling crust and return pan to the oven, baking the bars until they’re set (they’ll barely jiggle) and slightly golden at the edges, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into rectangles. (You can speed this up in the fridge.)

I intended to cut mine into 32 2×1-inch rectangles but actually cut them into 28 2×1-ish rectangles. I like lemony bars small but you could also cut them into 16 2×2-inch squares. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Store in fridge for up to a week.

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