I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Monday, 26 September 2011

on guilt and looking forward

Eight years ago, JB left us. I still miss my nephew, my friend, my kindred spirit. And more than a few times in the intervening years, I've heard "won't it be good to see him again someday?" more often than I care to count. Yes, it's true. Yes, it's well meant. But selfish me wants him here, now - not there, later.

But it's true. I hold on to that hope. So I got the picture of getting to heaven and seeing Jesus, and seeing JB. And I will confess the latter had me more excited.

Enter a little good old-fashioned Sunday School type guilt. Shouldn't I be looking forward to seeing Jesus more? I mean, He is my Saviour, He died for me and makes this future reunion possible. It's Jesus I want to be more like: loving those society deems unlovable, caring for people - really caring - like He did, bypassing hypocrisy and religion for real, true life that makes a difference. The "correct" answer is, it's Him I should be looking forward to more.

Then I remembered something. My parents were coming to visit one time. And our daughter R, about 4 or 5 years old, was bubbling with excitement to see them. The window was covered with hand (and nose) prints as she strained for the sight of them. "When, Momma, when?" I was excited too, of course, but kept my excitement below her frenetic level as we watched and waited.

There! The car pulled in at the end of their long journey. My little one's bouncing echoed that of my own heart as she ran and threw open the door. We both went out and I smiled as she ran ahead, chatting and laughing as she hugged and was embraced in turn.

I stood back, myself so happy to see them, but rejoicing in the love of my daughter for her grandparents and they for her. I paused to capture the vignette in my mind as I moved forward for my own hug. I'm so glad you're here, we said, with a strong hug that was no less full of love for my daughter's usurping of that first contact.

It is that happy union that I look forward to. And someday, when I arrive home at the end of my own long journey and the door is flung open, I look forward to both hugs. R is a lot like her cousin JB, after all. Maybe, like her, he'll run ahead for that first hug. The first of many.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

daring cooks, september

I'm late in posting this, and with my camera continuing to be disagreeable, it's lacking in pictures. Which is too bad, really, because this month's challenge had some very good visuals of before and after. The challenge was to make stock and soup, with the option of making a consommé.

Peta, of the blog Peta Eats, was our lovely hostess for the Daring Cook’s September 2011 challenge, “Stock to Soup to Consommé”. We were taught the meaning between the three dishes, how to make a crystal clear Consommé if we so chose to do so, and encouraged to share our own delicious soup recipes!

A word on consommé. I have a history with it. When a child of around 11 or 12, I opened the fridge one day to see a drinking glass of clear, dark brown liquid. "Coke!" I thought, "someone poured it but didn't finish it. A little drink? Don't mind if I do!", and proceeded to take a healthy swig of the stuff.

Beef consommé. Cold.

I wouldn't recommend it. I do recall a mad dash to the kitchen sink to spew out the surprise, and shuddering at the thought for some time after.

But, years pass, taste change, and consommé gets warmed up (much better than cold, trust me). Or in this month's case, made.

I make stock all the time. If any sort of poultry is roasted, the bones, skin, and some herbs and aromatics get tossed into a pot with some nice cold water, then simmered for hours to make some stock for soups or stews or risottos. Waste not, want not, right? The stock is strained, and used right away or frozen for later use. It's usually flavourful, reminiscent of the original meal: sometimes rosemary and lemon, sometimes sage and savoury, sometimes a hint of smoke and spice from the grill. 

But it's always cloudy. So, this month's challenge to make crystal-clear consommé was an intriguing one; accomplished through some simple kitchen chemistry, it appealed to the science-loving side of me too.

The cloudy particles in the stock, too small to be taken out with my sieve, could be caught in strands of albumen. So, egg whites (yes, really) were whipped up into a froth, then stirred into the warm stock. This simmered for about 45 minutes, the whites floating on top in what is aptly called a 'raft'. 

Sure enough, the liquid under the raft clarified and at the end of the time I was able to spoon out beautifully clear, delicious liquid. Care must be taken not to disturb the raft (or the particles will get back into the soup), but all in all it was a technique I'd definitely use again.

We enjoyed the chicken consommé simply, with fine shreds of carrot and chives floating prettily in the bowl. It's a beautifully elegant starter to a meal. Herb biscuits to go with? Of course! 

Monday, 12 September 2011

inspiration is a funny animal

Writing is a funny thing. And I don't speak here of those who craft plots, who create characters who draw us into their lives, their struggles, failures and triumphs. I am a pathetic failure at trying to do that. I am eternally grateful to those who do; to live among their pages for a moment is a rare and precious gift. Then again, maybe writing is funny to them too, but I just don't know about it.

I'm talking about the kind of writing I do.

For me, in my limited experience, some comes immediately, and some comes slowly and carefully. It reminds me of cooking sometimes, a thought I've already visited. Today, just now in fact, was a strawberries-and-balsamic moment (this will make sense upon reading that link). A lyric has been flirting with my mind lately, teasing it and jumping around just out of reach. I finally caught a couple lines of it yesterday, so sat down to type it tonight.

I wrote a complete song having nothing at all to do with that lyric. Not a bit. Not even stealing the concept and re-applying it. A complete new song sprang out of nothing more than a thought I had while I was hanging a shirt on the clothesline this morning (really, doesn't inspiration strike at the most mundane moments, sometimes?).

It's new, it's darker than some of mine. It's not an emotion I live with but one I visit from time to time. A complete song. Well, a lyric. Musically? I have no idea except to tell D "heavy, and minor."

And of course, the other lyric went skipping happily away, having eluded me for another day. I can hear it giggling.