I sometimes feel like a broken mould. A fish that feels out of the water. A unique character that is looking to be told that she is okay, or perhaps, okay is what she is? Life can take us in many directions; one way may not necessarily be better than the next, and that way, not necessarily worse than the last. Life’s paths are often twisted and sometimes it is hard to steer them straight. Many years ago, I seemed to have lost touch with a piece of my family, one that I never really knew all that well since our connection was lost through the early death of my natural mother. Sadly, despite my adopted mom’s attempts at keeping us all in contact (she was the one who raised Scott and I from a very young age and is the only mother we ever really knew). As kids we traveled every summer to California to visit them, until we didn’t. Another path.
I have always thought it would be fun to have a twin, an identical twin like my mother had, but I would have settled for a sister. I have two brothers who, don’t get me wrong, I love very much; one slightly older, one younger, and all of us quite different from one another, but then in some ways, not too much. Through the years I always wondered if my cousin Julie, daughter of my mother’s twin sister, would be like me? I heard about her on-and-off through the years and although we had similarities, we didn’t seem to be the same.
Yet, I met a version of myself last week. A version that felt familiar, yet one I didn’t know. She was different enough, yet strangely quite the same. Her hair was longer, a bit lighter (perhaps because this version lives in the sun), her jawbone more pronounced, and without that bump in my nose (Tom was sure she’d have it too!). A version that was possibly more articulate and perky, more humble and less vain. This version, was my cousin Julie. I had only seen her once since childhood. She was only one and a half years older, but when you are under the double-digits in age, that year and a half is much grander than it is when the decades begin to multiply.
So here we were this past weekend, talking and carrying-on about family, memories and life. Looking at her I realized that time goes by fast and we better take care not to let another 30 years slip by! Generously, she brought me a handmade year book that my natural mother had made, filled with black and white pictures and handwritten captions that I had never seen. When I opened the brown, rabbit-eared craft-paper pages, I thought I was looking at photographs of my young self, but realized they were photographs of our twin mothers.
Julie also brought me a silver hand mirror that our mothers were each given for their sixteenth birthday. I picked it up in my hand and felt the weight of the silver, saw the tarnish and crazing of age and understood the irony it implied. We are only versions of ourselves and in life, nothing is ever just the same, but sometimes objects are closer than they appear.
Lemon (goat) cheese cake
Makes 5 mini and 1 small cake (or would likely make 8 mini cakes or 4 small cakes)
The name of this cake might immediately turn my brother, Scott, away from this blog page. Not because he wouldn’t be interested in letting me finish my thought, but because he saw the title and felt he need not read more. I hope he does (read more that is).
Dinner, the night that Julie and her charming (and unknowingly witty) husband, Joe came for dinner (a mere three hour plane ride and 30 years later); my brother Scott also joined. My week at work, well, let’s just say it was challenged. My best laid plans had not been laid. I came up with a menu based on, well, unlike me, not much other than… just because. I didn’t know what Julie and Joe liked, or didn’t like (something I pride myself on knowing of my dinner guests).
Julie called me the night before our dinner. Having gotten only the polite response that “they were easy and ate anything” via email to my inquiry of their culinary discerning, I felt compelled to ask, “really, what don’t you eat”?
Mistake? No. Challenge? Maybe. I had just the night before braised a pork belly, in red wine and rhubarb for our first course. “We are easy” she replied. “Oh, well, there is just one thing”, she said, “if you must ask, I don’t like pork”.
Okay, so I could adapt. I bought her fresh scallops to replace the pork. The other diners would now get both because I decided they go well with pork belly too. I mentioned this casually as I was prepping our plates and Scott chimed in, proudly describing my knack for choreographing the food based on individual preferences; how his two dislikes are cilantro and goat cheese and if serving either, I always provide him a version without. Yes, that was true. I began feeling guilty because, well, for obvious reasons, if you remember the title of this cheesecake. I did have a back-up carton of ice cream ready to step in, but in the end, he ate every bite without mention. I’ll let him chime in again and tell us if he noticed?
Next visit, no pork for Julie, no salmon for Joe (especially not rare). There will be cosmopolitans (and/or Italian cocktails with Prosecco); most importantly, Scott, I promise, no goat cheese for you (even if you admit to having liked the dessert).
8 oz chèvre (goat cheese)
1/3 cup natural turbinado sugar
Juice of 1/2 small lemon plus zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TB whole wheat pastry flour
4 eggs separated
Ramekins wiped with butter on the inside and dusted with turbinado sugar.
Fresh strawberries and lemon curd for garnishing (I use purchased “Thursday Cottage” lemon curd).
In a large bowl. Using a hand mixer, combine the chèvre with the sugar, lemon/zest, vanilla and flour. Add the egg yolks, one at a time and beat well.
In another bowl (smaller), beat the egg whites until stiff. Add these to the yolk mix and stir to combine.
Pour the mixture into each of the prepared ramekins. I like using the mini ramekins but found that I was either short of them or long on batter. It doesn’t really matter what size you use as long as you can cook them in a pan filled partly up of water. Like I mention in the title, this particular batch made up 5 “mini” and 1 “small” ramekin.
Set the ramekins in a pan of water filled 1/3 (-ish) way up the ramekin. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes or until cooked through so a toothpick comes out clean (you know that ‘ol trick) and slightly golden on top.
Let them cool in the water bath. Remove from the water and set the ramekins aside until ready to serve (keep refrigerated if made a day in advance).
Carefully run a butter knife around the edge of each ramekin and turn them out onto individual plates. Top with a thin layer of lemon curd and garnish with fresh strawberries (as artsy or bohemian as you see fit).
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
Happy Mother’s Day to Linda, Lois, Talita, Doris, Cousin Julie (Barb & Bev), Irma, Christine, Laura and Beth