3.24.2018

Saying Goodbye

Do you know how there are some people who seem always to have been part of your life? You recall approximately when you met them, but somehow cannot remember when they were not part of your life.

My friend Bunny was like that. Although I know the exact day I met her, I can’t fathom that she wasn’t with me all my life before that.

Bunny died on December 7 and, while I know she is physically gone from this mundane world, I know she will be with me until I pass, and perhaps then some. Friendships don’t die; they are forever, with no end... and perhaps no beginning.

Over the long course of our friendship, we shared mutual loves of music, art, theater, books, travel, family - and, of course, food.

It was music that first brought us together. Her husband, Fritz, was on the board of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, for which I was principal bassist. Their box seat for the Friday night series was right above and behind me. She asked me to house-and-dog sit at their beautiful home overlooking the Hudson River. I was honored, and said yes. That is how our friendship started.

Her home was a light, airy, and welcoming space. It was filled with art - works by her sister Edna Sara, her friend Madeline, and numerous other artists. We often drove off to Williamstown, Massachusetts, to visit the Clark Art Institute, or the Williams College Art Museum, where we marveled at their respective collections. Bunny was very supportive of my work and gave me many little sketchbooks made by her sister..

For many years we subscribed together to the local theater company. It was through this part of our time together that my world opened up to plays and playwrights I might never have known: Lanford Wilson’s poignant Fifth of July, David Stevens’ dramedy The Sum of Us, or Christopher Durang’s hilarious Laughing Wild Amidst Severest Woe.

When I look at my home library, I can’t find a shelf that doesn’t include a book Bunny shared with me... The Language of Flowers, Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, Toni Morrison’s Beloved (we went to hear her speak), and any number of children’s books, as we both loved a good story and a wonderful illustrator. My favorite of these is Silver Pennies, a collection of poems for children by Blanche Jennings Thompson.

Bunny and Fritz had traveled extensively around the world. They were the epitome of Mark Twain’s famous words, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness...” They were open to all the peoples of the world. Bunny even had a special gallery in her house she dubbed, “All the World Washes,” with photographs she had taken of laundry from around the world. I delighted in having taken a few she found worthy of display.

I grew up with three brothers. As soon as my friendship with Bunny started, I found myself with the three sisters I had never had: her eldest, Jenny, a healer; her middle daughter, Sara, who is my age and a professional storyteller; and her youngest, Liz, a teacher and writer. We all have so much in common - I love my honorary sisters, and my heart is with them in their sadness.

Then there is food. While my mother is fully responsible for my love of food, Bunny opened my palate to things I would never have had growing up. She introduced me to arugula, shad roe, and Virginia peanuts... to tabbouleh, gazpacho, and spoonbread. And it was around her table that I attended my first of many seders. She was a marvelous cook, and her favorite recipe was “Inspiration du Jour,” which simply meant she cleaned out the fridge.

Naturally, we shared recipes... I have many in her distinctive handwriting, and even a small cookbook of family recipes. Today, in Bunny’s memory, I am sharing her White Chocolate Mousse with Strawberry Sauce. It’s perfect for spring. It was one of her favorite seasons, and I know many of you are yearning for it now. I hope you enjoy it.

~ David

White Chocolate Mousse with Strawberry Sauce
Elsa Gerst “Bunny” deBeer

12 ounces white chocolate, broken into pieces
4 eggs, separated
1 envelope gelatin (1 1/2 teaspoons)
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt


2 pints strawberries
sugar to taste
Grand Mariner or Chambord to taste (optional)


Place 1 1/2 cups of the cream in a saucepan; sprinkle with the gelatin and let stand 10 minutes.

Place the saucepan on medium heat and add the chocolate. Cook, stirring with a whisk, until the chocolate is melted.

Add egg yolks and beat well. Remove from the heat and refrigerate for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Beat remaining 1 1/2 cups cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. Fold into the cooled custard.

Using clean beaters, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, while beating, until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the custard and stir until fully incorporated. (You may use a whisk for this step.)

Place mousse in a large, decorative dish and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight. 


For the strawberry sauce, place the washed berries, sugar, and liqueur (if using) in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and chill until serving time.

Before serving decorate the mousse with fresh strawberries, mint leaves, violas, or Johnny Jump-ups, if in season.

To plate, spoon several tablespoons strawberry sauce onto the plates, and top with a dollop of mousse.

Serves 16. (Can be halved for a smaller crowd.)

Note: this can also be served in individual goblets or small dishes.




39 comments:

  1. Such a wonderful tribute to my mom.Thank you, David.

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    1. Not sure why my photo's not showing up but I'm shrugging my shoulders and moving on.

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    2. I will never understand the blogger format, Sara. Half the time MY photo doesn't show up! Thank you for all your support in writing this... I think of Bunny often.

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  2. This is a lovely tribute to a lovely friend. I have to admit I've been playing around with a strawberry and rhubarb "soup" recipe and now believe a white chocolate mousse is just the thing my concoction has been missing. GREG

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    1. I think that would be a lovely combination, Greg!

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  3. So lovely for you to share this with us, David. As Greg wrote, such a tribute. Love the white chocolate mousse recipe, too. So sorry for your loss.

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    1. Thanks, Christina - I truly appreciate your condolences. I was so lucky that she was part of my life for so long.

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  4. What a beautiful story, and woman, you had the honour of knowing. This is so touching and sorry to hear of her passing. At least one of her recipes can now be kept alive. Thank you.

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    1. Many of her recipes are alive and well, John. I am very fortunate that she will always live on in my kitchen.

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  6. lovely post + lovely recipe. thanks. stefano

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  7. A remembrance full of love for a beautiful lady and an unforgettable friend. Thank you for opening your heart and memory banks to share . . .

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    1. Thanks, Eha - the hardest part of this post was all the things I had to leave out. She was a very big part of my life.

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  8. A beautifully decorated mousse to commemorate a beautiful friendship.Thanks for sharing this with us.

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    1. Thank you, Frank - my pleasure to share the story and recipe.

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  9. What a wonderful way to begin a day by reading your heartfelt post. Food, literature, art, music, and travel— the bonds of a lifelong friendship. Thank you for sharing the story of your dear friendship. - Susan

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    1. Thanks, Susan - there are so many more ways she touch my love and those of others.

      PS - I am sorry you had trouble posting!

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  10. David what a wonderful way to celebrate a true friendship. Although, we never met Bunny we thank her for introducing you to exotic flavours inspired by travel. Our thoughts are with you and Bunny's family.

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  11. David - What a loving tribute! I can tell that Bunny was a very special lady. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and this yummy recipe.

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  12. What a touching and heartfelt post David. Thank you for sharing this with us and the wonderful recipe .

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  13. Such a loving tribute to your friend. Sounds like knowing her enhanced your life greatly.And with so many common interests, she'll be with you in so many things you do and see. I'm sorry for your loss.
    The recipe sounds delicious, and your photos of it are so pretty look like paintings.

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    1. She will, indeed, be with me for all time, Valentina... through her recipes, books, and other things we shared!

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  14. Thank you. This is just beautiful!

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    1. Thanks, Denise - it is so nice to hear from you! I hope all is well - and I just sent you a friend request on Facebook.

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  15. Beautiful.

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  16. What a lovely tribute David! I will have to give her mousse a try with last summer's frozen berries...

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    1. Thanks, Inger - frozen berries make a wonderful sauce!

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  17. David, I'm very sorry for the loss of your dear friend. I understand completely about certain people that you can't remember when they weren't in your life. I'm sure this has been a tough loss. Beautiful post in her honor and her recipe for white chocolate mousse is a beautiful dessert for spring. Thank you for sharing about her! :)

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    1. I am always amazed, Marcelle, how people live on in our memories - letters, photos, and even recipes.

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  18. Such a touching story and a beautiful tribute to her kindness. Your dessert is very delicate and these drawings are well executed :)

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    1. Merci, Romain. When I got out those travel journals (the flowers were from Giverny), it reminded me that I need to draw more.

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  19. What a beautiful recipe to remember such a dear friend. I smiled when you spoke of your friends favourite dish being 'Inspiration du Jour'. My Mother-in-Law from the Orkney Islands has a very similar saying 'a mixture of mercy's' basically use up what is in the fridge. It's amazing what sticks with us in life. Lovely story David.

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    1. Oh, Emma - I love a "mixture of mercy's" - isn't that the truth!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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