Meyer Lemon Curd with Cardamom

There are some kitchen activities that lend themselves to metaphor. Even if you are not a cook, you will likely know what I mean if I tell you about someone getting roasted at work. Or how I steep in the silence of the early morning before anyone else is up. Or how I have an idea percolating on the back burner.

But then there are other activities that only come to mean more through seemingly endless repetition. Whether specific recipes, chores, or rituals, these processes tend to become very personal symbols that are hard to communicate to anyone else. It goes beyond dog eared cookbooks and even beyond consciously recalling a recipe from memory. The process becomes some kind of psychic extension of yourself. You do them not just to have food in the fridge but because the making  feeds your soul.

Making lemon curd is like that for me.

Every winter I not so patiently wait for the email notice from Local Harvest that meyer lemons and blood oranges are in season. I quickly order several boxes, always afraid that my favorites from Beck Grove will be sold out before I get any. It’s how I imagine the people camping in line for the newest tidbit of technology feel. About a week later, I hear the boxes thud by the door. For the next several weeks my time is spent processing 20 pounds of meyer lemons and another 25 pounds of blood oranges. Dried orange and lemon rings, citrus vinegar, “bloody” marmalade, limoncello… each year I seem to run out of fruit before I’ve finished preserving.

I love everything about preserving these fruits. From lining them up on my window sill against the steely winter sky to the blood red stains on my counter.This year I had the privilege of sharing that joy with one of my favorite people. Theodore helped me haul the heavy boxes up the steps and into the kitchen. He helped open the boxes and wasn’t the only one that squealed when the glowing yellows were revealed. It was with a small sense of loss that I let him carry one around the house, knowing that it wouldn’t be salvageable for any recipe after he was done with it. But the loss was recuperated as I got to watch his curiosity lead him to knead, squish, poke, roll, and taste that lemon. Now whenever he sees the lemons sitting on the counter, he insists whoever is at home come smell them, even the cats. I hope to be the kind of parent that will protect and foster that pleasure into his adulthood. Someone who sees such a gift in just the scent of a lemon would truly be a gift to the world.

But the part that speaks to my soul is making lemon curd. Somehow, I become the eggs that break. The lemons that are squeezed so hard they bleed. The butter that finds itself melting away with no way to come back. And I feel the whisking. Endless whisking. As I stand over the pot, I feel the flame a little to close to my hand, but I keep whisking. I feel the disturbance in my soul. Beaten to a froth and then beaten some more. Constant constant motion. Never reaching equilibrium. Ceaseless whirling. I begin to wonder when it will end. How long? How long? I don’t know how much more I can take.

Suddenly.

There’s a thickness that wasn’t there before.  The whisk moves more slowly, disturbing less with every stroke.  Things become still in the center of the pot. I can see the tracks of where I’ve been. The heat is removed. I can almost hear the curd take in its first breath. And I breathe more deeply too.

Is it any wonder that the result of this process is a food that I can’t seem to get enough of? Though it may be possible to point to all the good fats in the butter, the selenium in the pastured eggs, or the vitamin C in the lemon juice, I think there is more going on here than mere nutrition. It is soul food of a different dimension.

Meyer Lemon Curd with Cardamom
makes 2 pints

6-8 Meyer lemons
6 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1 stick butter
2 tsp ground cardamom

Zest the lemons and reserve the zest. Juice them into a measuring cup until you have one full cup. If you are on the cusp of 1 cup, go ahead and juice another lemon. It’s better to have a little too much than too little. Whisk the eggs and honey in a medium pot. Pour the lemon juice through a fine sieve into the mixture and whisk until it’s the color of the first sunny day in spring. Slice the butter into pats and drop into the mixture. Turn the heat to medium high and whisk in the melting butter. Keep whisking almost constantly to avoid the eggs cooking up into chunks. When it suddenly thickens and coats the back of a spoon, turn off the heat and stir in a generous pinch of zest and the cardamom. Pour into jars. Eat one jar straight with a spoon. Tell your family the recipe only made one pint. The curd keeps in the fridge for at least a week and freezes well, though it looses a bit of it’s satiny texture upon thawing.

Posted 4 years, 8 months ago at 10:15 am. 1 comment

the itsy bitsy spider: a last minute kid’s costume that’s easy and cheap (and no sew!)

Last year’s Halloween costume was a disaster. I won’t go into the details because I don’t want any of you to attempt such a thing, but let’s just say it involved sticking a highly unwilling infant in a fruit basket surrounded by vegetables.

This year had to be better as last year was pretty much rock bottom. In the quest for the perfect costume that was easy, cheap, homemade and darned cutie-pa-tootie, I was quickly running out of time. But that turned out to be okay because this costume only takes about 30 minutes to put together once you’ve gathered the supplies.

So, without further ado….

introducing…..

The Itsty Bitsy Spider
aka Baby Octopus (with minor adjustments)

To make this DIY costume you will need:
a warm black shirt or sweater
warm black pants
6-8 black knee socks
a pile of fabric scraps
6-8 black saftey pins
60-80 small size furniture pads (opt for octopus variation)

To make this costume:

Decide if you want to make six or eight stuffed spider legs/ octopus arms. I suggest doing six if your baby is not yet mobile and will be sitting; make eight if you little one is a toddler that will be standing and walking around, thus obscuring his own legs. You want eight total legs to be visible.
Stuff the socks with all manner of rags. I used washcloths, cloth napkins, cloth wipes (clean I promise!), other socks, and even some old underwear. You aren’t going to see it, so it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Stuff them to about the height of your little one’s legs. If you make them too long, she might trip on them. For the octopus variation, attach two rows of furniture pads on each sock. If you have a baby that loves to pick at things, you might want to attach these with a hot glue gun.
Attach the stuffed socks to the black pants with saftey pins. Stuff any extra sock inside the pants.
Dress your little one in the black shirt and carefully pull on the pants.
Step back and admire. Do a victory dance for making such a cute costume at the last minute. Maybe sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider song.

 

Posted 4 years, 11 months ago at 10:42 am. Add a comment

Milestones: the first balloon

Like all first balloons worth their helium, after it played awhile it slipped away unnoticed into the sky.

Posted 5 years ago at 9:49 pm. Add a comment

Milestones: the first splinter

It happened somewhere between the slide and the changing table. That’s all I know. The little trooper didn’t even cry when it happened.

The tweezers were a no-go. He was too interested in the new “toy” to let me use them effectively at all.

Any tips on how to get a splinter out of a toddler’s hand? Or do you just leave it there and hope for the best?

Posted 5 years, 1 month ago at 8:42 pm. Add a comment

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from Soule Mama. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Posted 5 years, 2 months ago at 8:43 am. 3 comments

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from Soule Mama. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Posted 5 years, 2 months ago at 1:21 pm. 2 comments

Milestones: Helping

Ever since Aunt Rachel and Tiffany visited and showed him where the silverware goes, he’s never let a dishwasher-door-open moment pass without helping put away something. His favorite are the spoons. Dirty ones.

Posted 5 years, 2 months ago at 8:12 pm. 1 comment

My quotidian dilemma

So in the realm of parenthood dilemmas, I recognize that this is small potatoes. It doesn’t even rank compared to having to explain what death means or where babies come from. But still, the question I face nearly three times a day is:

Where do I start?

If I start with his hands, they immediately get re-gooed on his tray. If I remove his try first, he will not be dissuaded from getting down. If I start with his face or hair, he gives himself another avocado facial as soon as I’m done.

So, you more experienced mothers out there, where would you start?

Posted 5 years, 2 months ago at 11:42 am. 8 comments

Milestones: Ordering food just for him

After several eatings out where I was left slightly peckish due to a certain Little Man picking off my plate, it was clear it was time to start ordering some food just for him. Though in typical baby form, when we ordered him this bowl of fruit, he decided he wasn’t hungry. Or at least had more of an appetite for spoons and napkins than he did for fruit.

Posted 5 years, 3 months ago at 8:43 am. 1 comment

The prince of spring

To beat the midafternoon blues, Babytidian and I have been tossing the I Spy quilt in the yard and settling where ever it lands. Well, I settle at least. Babytidian never seems to quite settle anywhere anymore these days. He’s happiest when exploring, whether that’s in front of the bathroom cabinets, in the compost bucket, or behind the couch. Being a bit like a baby Cortés, however, he’s mostly conquered all the inside frontiers (except the compost bucket, that’s still gleefully undiscovered territory). And I suspect he gets bored of the stillness of the house. Outside, on the other hand, is always moving. Birds swoop and sway on branches. Old leaves continue to float down while new ones unfurl. And there are always new flowers to see and grab.

On our most recent expedition, we discovered that the clover was blooming. Almost without thinking about it, I began making a clover chain. It was as if something deep in my brain registered all the stimuli, and that was the only acceptable response. Like how you automatically reach out to pet a cat when it brushes against your legs. Or how you lift a flower to you nose even if you know it doesn’t have a scent. It’s just what you do. So, when seated in a blooming clover patch, you make clover chains. In this particular patch, there were just enough flowers to fashion a baby head sized crown. When Babytidian trundled back by, I set the crown on his head. To my very great surprise, my hat-hating baby left it there and continued on his quest to touch the highest heights. Though his regal glory did become a bit lopsided, it remained on his head for a good thirty minutes, not even faltering during a fierce tickle battle with Daddy. I found the crown later that night, finally discarded on the kitchen floor.

Posted 5 years, 6 months ago at 9:37 am. Add a comment