Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Hi there. I'm going to be your mom. That is, I already am your mom. I'm writing to tell you that I'm looking forward to meeting you in February.
I don't know if you're a boy or a girl, so when I picture you, I just picture Love giggling. (Does that make sense? You can always tell me if you don't understand what I'm talking about.) I also imagine your little fingers, your dimpled knees. Sometimes when I breathe in, I think I can smell the scent of your brand new skin, warm and pink and perfect.
I've never been a mom before. I hope you'll think I'm good at it.
I sing to you in the car every morning on the way to work. I do the harmonies, too, so you can hear how music works. That's my favorite thing I know how to do -- being able to sing harmonies. I'll teach you how to hear the extra notes, if you want. It's okay if it doesn't interest you, though. You'll probably like different things.
I'm not perfect. I mess up a lot. I can feel it happening when I do it, and I don't like it. I'm working on that. I'll always be working on that.
I love you already.
I know the moment you came to be. I felt you, before any of the tests could confirm it. I kept getting chills, not from the cold, but from the purest touch of happiness. I even wrote it down on a piece of paper, "I just felt you." I still get those chills, from time to time, like you're blowing me kisses from inside.
You're going to love your dad. He's a lot more fun than I am. When I'm not around, he'll probably sneak you junk food, and let you watch TV for hours on end when you're supposed to be cleaning your room or reading or playing outside. He doesn't like eating vegetables much, so you'll probably have that in common for at least a few years. And he'll make you laugh during dinner. And during breakfast. And pretty much all the time. He's going to be your hero. He's my hero.
He knows all the best movies. Let him show you the black and white ones. Those are some of the best, even if they're not in color.
Don't worry when your dad beats you at Scrabble. He beats everybody at Scrabble. (If you win, it's because he let you. Don't tell him I told you.)
I love your dad a lot. I'm relieved you'll be able to grow up seeing that.
At some point, you will eat your first peach, its fuzzy, funny skin sticking to your tongue, making you laugh. You'll bite into your first fig, turning it inside out to see the colors, and the little seeds will pop between your teeth, reminding you of strawberries. You'll whack the back of a pomegranate to loosen the tangy pearls, your fingers and lips stained. When you see something red, you'll shout out, Pomegranate!, and I'll smile at how clever you are.
Or, maybe you won't like any of those things. Which I promise is fine, too.
I have so many good books for you to borrow! I do kind of hope that you'll like to read.
But if you don't, that's okay.
Your dad and I, we haven't done this before. So we might not get the little things right. But the big things, we'll be really good at. We'll love you more than anyone has ever been loved in the history of all loved children. We'll let you be you, even when it's hard to understand who you are. We'll give you the peach, the paint brush, the pages, the calculator, the atlas, and let you choose your way.
I have so many things I want to say.
You sure do like to kick me a lot. You've been kicking me, over and over as I write this to you, as if you're trying to have your say.
I wonder what your voice will be.
I wonder what your life will be.
Did I tell you that I love you already? You, who were once the size of a pea, and then a peanut, then a lemon, and a grapefruit, and now you're almost a banana. You, who keeps your dad and me up at night, the two of us talking and wondering and imagining, while you kick, kick, kick in my belly.
I have so many things I want to say.
But, mostly, this:
I love you already.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I spent three years packing my suitcase, forced to evacuate one life for another, and then another, and another. Just me and that suitcase, terrified beyond measure, without the luxury of giving in to the fear. I was in an emergency, I can see now, which involved a lot of job changes, boyfriend changes, plane tickets to and from last-minute solutions. Maybe if I move to New York I'll find my place. Maybe if I get out of television I'll be better. Maybe if I just go home I'll find my way.
So I packed, over and over, never convinced that where I was going was really the right place, but going just the same.
Until the last time that I packed.
Finally, at long last, I know I am where I'm supposed to be. And being here has made it worth the road it took to get here.
For one thing, there is the man by my side. This man who makes me laugh, makes me breakfast, makes me family.
For another thing, there is this baby growing inside of me, this wonder of all wonders, this tiny and tremendous thing that makes me sing in the car on the way to work and has me crying at every commercial.
But mostly, there is me. This now-woman who knows how lucky she is, and knows what she's done to get here, who knows better than to ever take this for granted. I am grateful for myself, that I made it through the packing and unpacking and let myself arrive here, in this imperfectly perfect place, where I can finally put down my suitcase for good. It might sound weird to say that I am grateful for myself, but that's how I feel. I feel lucky to be able to feel this lucky. To be able to look around and recognize it. To know it when I see it.
Now that I'm here, this doesn't mean there won't be surprises: in fact, I expect there will be many, for good and for bad. It's just that for once, I know that the next time I pull down my suitcase from its place in my closet, it will eventually be returned to it's same safe place.
And of course all of this -- this reflection, these thoughts, this gratitude -- makes its way into my kitchen. Suddenly, every recipe I make seems more important, more relevant, sends me into daydreams of my future: Will this be the cake I make for that first birthday? Will these be the pancakes requested every weekend? I've started wondering (now that I can imagine what my own life might look like), which foods will end up on the list of family favorites.
These scones are a shoo-in.
Marilyn, my beautiful friend from Simmer Till Done, offered up these Double Chocolate Ginger Scones on her blog recently, and I made them myself (with her expertise guiding me) this morning. And as the cocoa powder and sugar swirled in front of me, I imagined small, future hands reaching up to the counter, reaching for another, and another, feeling safe and secure, and certain that there would always be something delicious on the counter to reach for. This is what home is: knowing you're in just the right place, wherever that may be. When I bit into the warm, gooey and crumbly triangle, and imagined tiny hands with melted chocolate on them, I knew that I was home. And, man, it feels good to be here.
Double Chocolate Ginger Scones
by Marilyn via Simmer Till Done
These were my first attempt at scones, and thanks to all of Marilyn's wisdom, they were miraculously perfect. I chopped up a bar of dark chocolate instead of using chocolate chips, but only because my pregnancy-induced need for darkest chocolate made me. She has a wonderful tutorial on how to make the dough here which will help any scone novice. I am leaving her recipe completely unaltered -- why mess with perfection?
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 oz. cold butter, cubed (12 tablespoons)
1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet (or darker) chocolate chips
1/2 cup roughly chopped crystallized ginger, in chunks
extra sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl.
Cut in butter. You can do this one of two ways:
Electric stand mixer With the flour mixture in the stand mixer bowl and the paddle blade attached, turn on the slowest speed and slowly add butter chunks, mixing to a coarse meal texture, with only a few remaining large flour-butter crumbs.
By hand Using a sharp-bladed pastry cutter tool, or two knives, “cut” the butter pieces into the flour mixture until you have a coarse meal texture.
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, and vanilla.
Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients by hand or with stand mixer on low, using “on-off” mixing. Stop just long enough to add sugar, chocolate chips, and crystallized ginger, then continue mixing briefly to form a soft and sticky dough. Scrape dough onto lightly floured surface and turn over a few times to combine, adding flour if necessary.
Form scones You can divide dough in half, form each piece to a 1″ thick round, and cut into equal wedges, or you can pat to 1″ thick and use floured cutters for rounds or triangles.
Transfer scones to cookie sheet pan, preferably lined with parchment paper.
If desired, brush the top of each scone with a small amount of milk or cream. Sprinkle the extra white sugar thickly over tops. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until set and tops are golden brown. For the chocolate-ginger variety, watch the bottom of the scones for darkened color. Cool on baking sheet a few minutes, then transfer to racks, and serve.
* For a look at scone-mixing process (same method) visit this post: Scone, Scone on the Range
Note: use the best cocoa powder you can find for a rich chocolate dough. Cocoa tends to dry out baked goods; these hold very well for several days wrapped at room temperature, but after 1-2 days are best briefly reheated in a microwave, for just a few seconds. This also gives you the added, insanely pleasurable bonus of gooey chocolate chips.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Well, kind of.
Where I am, between two rows of mountains in Los Angeles, the heat lingers well into October, perhaps a little bit meanly, making a dramatic, drawn out exit. Labor Day is a tearful goodbye; summer waves her hankie from the train, only to return a few days later, hotter and angrier than ever.
Maybe where you are, summer leaves a little goodbye note and tiptoes out quietly, gracefully, almost so you don't notice the transfer between seasons: the nights get a bit cooler, the air becomes crisp, the light slanting through your kitchen window in the morning changes hues and next thing you know you're reaching for a sweater and raking up leaves.
Where I am, summer claws and kicks its way to the bitter end, igniting fires like a jilted lover, sending heat waves, raining ash over our city. She's a drama queen, and, honestly, kind of a vengeful bitch.
Still, goodbyes are never easy, even when you know it's for the best. And summer's end always leaves me feeling a little sad, even a little mournful, and this year is especially difficult. Between work and morning sickness, the good days of summer seemed to pass me by without notice. Other than a couple of weeks spent floating on a lake in New Hampshire, this summer came and went, uncelebrated.
So forgive me for putting on my summer dress and floppy hat and breaking out my sparklers long after the party has ended, but I refuse to let this summer go by without a perfect summer recipe.
And boy do I have one. I might not have had much to offer you over this not-quite-summer, patient readers, but I assure you I'm making up for it with this one.
It's a tomato and corn pie. Tomato and corn: two quintessential summer ingredients, and if you live near where I live, still delicious and available at farmers markets for the next few weeks.
This recipe reminds me of my all-time favorite, my much beloved Mom's Onion Pie, and though nothing will ever come close to mom's pie, this one is in the running for second place.
The crust is made out of biscuit dough... BISCUIT DOUGH! Not wimpy, flaky pastry dough, but nimble, soulful, biscuit dough. The corn is sweet, the cheddar cheese is sharp, the tiniest traces of lemon and mayonnaise are tangy and surprising, and the tomato keeps it all grounded with its earthy tenderness.
It satisfied my deep and urgent need to feel this summer, with each sweet and savory bite.
This may not go down in my history as the summer of picnics and BBQ's, of endless days of beaches and hammocks. But it will be The Summer of Tomato Corn Pie.
And, for those of you who are wondering, all is bliss on the baby front. We've been busy growing, and when I'm very still at night, I can feel the not-quite-so-little one tossing and turning. So besides being The Summer of Tomato Corn Pie, it will also forever be The Summer Paul and I Started Our Family. Not so bad, after all.
Tomato Corn Pie
One thing to consider as you make this pie - depending on how juicy your tomatoes are, you run the risk of a very soggy pie if you aren't careful. I seeded my tomatoes quite diligently to remove any extra juice, and my pie turned out perfect - juicy but not soggy.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 2 teaspoons melted
3/4 cup whole milk
1 3/4 lb beefsteak tomatoes
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups corn (from about 3 ears), coarsely puréed in a food processor, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil, divided
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
7 oz coarsely grated sharp Cheddar (1 3/4 cups), divided
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 3/4 tsp salt in a bowl, then blend in cold butter (3/4 stick) with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until mixture just forms a dough, then gather into a ball.
Divide dough in half and roll out 1 piece between 2 sheets of plastic wrap into a 12-inch round (1/8 inch thick). (Or roll out on a well-floured surface, instead.) Transfer to 9-inch glass pie plate, patting with your fingers to fit (trim any overhang).
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
Cut an X in bottom of each tomato and blanch in a large pot of boiling water 10 seconds. Immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to cool. Peel tomatoes, then slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick.
Whisk together mayonnaise and lemon juice.
Arrange half of tomatoes in crust, overlapping, and sprinkle with half of corn, 1 Tbsp basil, 1/2 Tbsp chives, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper.
Repeat layering with remaining tomatoes, corn, basil, chives, salt, and pepper, then sprinkle with 1 cup cheese.
Pour lemon mayonnaise over filling and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Roll out remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round in same manner, then fit over filling, folding overhang under edge of bottom crust and pinching edge to seal.
Cut 4 steam vents in top crust and brush crust with melted butter (2 tsp).
Bake pie until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes, then cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
What I'm struggling with most is having limitations. Realizing that I can no longer do every single thing I want to do every second of the day is not going over well in my brain, and asking for help is almost worse than not getting something done. I don't even like asking for help to get my heavy suitcase up and down from its place high up in the closet. In fact, rather than ask for help in putting the suitcase back up after my recent vacation, I actually decided to find a new place to keep it, a spot where I wouldn't need assistance the next time I need to retrieve it.
But here, my dear readers, is the biggest lesson I've learned over the last three months: fighting my limitations doesn't help at all. The only thing I can do is surrender to them, accept them, and give in to where I am today. After a grueling ten-hour work day, it's okay if dinner is leftovers, and instead of getting to the laundry, I can surrender to sitting on the couch so I can feel the baby moving inside me (I can feel the little miracle of life stretching its limbs now, which feels at once both thrilling and slightly unnerving, let me tell ya).
But as I said, I've been forced to learn as I go, and I've been an awfully slow learner. I've beaten myself up a few times over not getting as much done as I would like. But these days, I'm doing my best to just surrender, let myself feel what I'm feeling, be where I am. And where I am is pretty damn good, so it would be smart of me to enjoy it.
I'm telling you these secrets, because I do not have a recipe for you today. This, it seems, is one of my new limitations. I've made some especially delicious, simple foods recently, and I'll share them with you soon. But today, I want to close up my computer, and join my husband in the living room so that he can rest his hand on my rapidly-expanding belly. I want to sit right in the middle of where I am, and take a good look around, take it all in, enjoy the view. I want to surrender to the force that is telling me slow down, enjoy this, THIS is IT, and IT will be over before you know it.
And in learning this lesson, I've learned something else. Surrendering is one of the most empowering things I've ever done. I'm giving myself permission to stop fighting myself. And that, it turns out, is a recipe for happiness.
And that, I suppose, will just have to be the only recipe I share with you today. (But I can't wait to tell you about the grilled herbed potatoes I made the other day, of which I ate approximately seven pounds, enough to feed about twelve little miracles of life.)