a flash of light. a cluster of timed explosions, white then blue then white again. shouts and cheers; a moment of absolute silence. somewhere far away an accordion floats in and out of earshot.
his shoulder blade peaks for a moment and pauses; a streak of light appears briefly to illuminate an eyebrow, a cheekbone, an arm. suddenly it’s dark but we don’t fumble. the noises are getting closer: a hum of slurred shouts, laughter, a glass breaking, a motor churning through the water. a swift hand appears above my neck and makes contact; gentle and warm for two breaths, hot and heavy after the third. we sink further down and amidst the sudden explosion of light beyond the window i can see him clearly for what he is.
Omnom. This is so good. You need to make this now. Organic smooth peanut butter whipped with coconut cream and honey until it’s super light and fluffy. Then amazing Kitten & the Bear strawberry + elderflower jam. Then local strawbs. NOM.
I luuuuuuurf summer. Warm nights, glorious sunshine, long afternoons sipping lemonades on patios, sticking your toes in dewy grass – so good! But one of the greatest – if not the absolute greatest – rewards of summer is all of the fresh produce spilling out of market barrels and into the hands of wannabe gourmands like me.
Long story short, amongst one of my recent hauls: bananas, strawberries and currants. A strange combo, but a delicious one. So I decided to whip up some hearty, healthy muffins.
My one and only big sister has been living far away in New Zealand for awhile now, and I miss her dearly every day. Over a text conversation last week we agreed to an ongoing challenge - partly to keep us connected while so far apart, partly to put our restless creative energy to good use. Naturally, all paths lead to food, and so we agreed to an ongoing ingredient challenge. First up: cheese. After an unnecessary amount of time collecting recipe inspiration, I settled on a cheese-packed breakfast loaf.
Waiting patiently to be dipped in the big pot of Boeug Bourguignon simmering on the stove.
I am always anxious about something. I would guess that this is partially inherited and largely self-fabricated. As soon as I figure out how to cope with one thing, three more explode - and so I seem to find myself in a constant state of coping. Over the years my coping tactics have evolved, but one that has stood the test of time is simply just puttering around the kitchen. While anxiety totally annihilates my appetite, I can still find relaxation in the simple tasks of measuring, mixing, baking, cleaning, scraping, repeating. I’m sure this is largely influenced by all my sunny childhood food memories, primarily: dangling off my Nana’s kitchen counter as she made batches of meatballs, biscotti or preserved peaches (plucked from trees in her own backyard.)
So this morning, looking for a way to rest my racing mind, I set out to reinterpret one of the manfriend’s childhood recipes: orange muffins. I hope his grandmother would approve of my take on things. And I hope that one day I too can be remembered (in part) by the handwritten recipe cards I leave behind.
I’m inclined to believe that everyone has some sort of innate skill or sense – like my magical (or ‘creepy’, depending on who you ask) ability to just know when a cat is close by. It often happens as I stroll the neighbourhood – my head suddenly whips around of its own volition as my eyeballs zero in on a small corner of a house’s third-floor window where a tiny cat sits, staring back at me. If this were a skill I could cash in on, I would be so rich. But it’s not, and it brings me to something I’ve been thinking about lately: not every skill is effortless. Like, let’s see…baking!
Question: is ‘effortless baking’ a thing? Is there anyone out there who can naturally just forego the measuring cups and the step-by-step instructions and end up with flawless flans every time? Because most of the talented bakers I follow certainly make it appear that way. Meanwhile I’ve been beating myself up every time a crust is too crumbly or a filling too mooshy, cursing my natural proclivity for making things up as I go. For all of us who know what it’s like to spend hours hunched over a recipe to ensure we don’t miss a single thing, only to pull our creation out of the oven in a sorry state, perhaps the art of baking isn’t meant to be an effortless one – but is that a bad thing? I like to think it’s the failed attempts – all the collapsed soufflés, runny pies and gooey-on-the-inside-but-burnt-on-the-outside muffins – that make us more industrious, creative, stubborn bakers. Hooray for that!