Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A balm for March


A cold March morning summoned me to the kitchen for something comforting.  I reached for Ruth's recipe box and found three different recipes for rice pudding.  I chose the one with the most eggs, six.  I had never tried this recipe, which is made in the oven, not the stove top.  That would be nice, I thought, not to have to skim away the skin that forms as the milk boils.  Out came a nice quart of milk, a retro glass bottle I had bought recently, thinking of Ruth and how she must have bought her milk.  I was feeling cozier already.  

As I made my way through the shorthand recipe- cooking the rice till firm, separating the eggs, beating the yolks till thick and lemony, I felt confident in my ability.  I beat the whites until foamy.  Maybe I over beat them, yes I think that's where I went wrong.  Combining the whites with the rice and yolks, I found they would not fold in properly.  They ended up sitting, floating on top of the pudding.  This is stupid, I thought. Why couldn't Ruth have been more explicit? Should I have used a whisk or a spatula? Just how foamy did she mean?

I was not about to waste organic eggs and milk.  I would eat the pudding myself but just not share the recipe.  For the rest of the day my thoughts turned deeper, from this kitchen mishap to what I've missed the most in the two and a half decades or more without my mother and grandmother.  Tangible things like visits, phone calls, letters, one of those hugs. Advice on cooking, advice on child rearing and relationships.  Anecdotes of how to get through the day to day.  Stories of their pregnancies, their childbirths.  Intangibles like knowing that a source of support exists, pulling for me. 

Then I realized that having an incomplete recipe is just a metaphor for that missing link to my past, that hole I've felt all these years.  "Figure it out" is basically how her recipes are written.  Figuring it out is what I've been doing all these years.  When you don't have someone to spell it out and guide you, the result must be resilience.  

-For Lisa and Alexandra, the most resilient of all.
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