Today, a recipe and a poem – all in one place.
THIS GIRL 11.6.16
For the few moments each day
when this girl is not thinking about smoking a cigarette,
when she is not overcome with the reality
of cancer running amok in her family,
when she feels slightly stable
and the dizziness temporarily subsides,
ideas pound the brain of this girl.
Unexpectedly becoming a caregiver to a loved one is like landing a job you actually never applied for. I hesitate to even write about my experience over the last eight months, for I am not looking for pity, and I most definately do not want to upset my mother. (Mom – please don’t be mad!)
Yet, I believe what I have to share has the potential of being more helpful than harmful. A rhyme and a recipe…how can one go wrong? It’s a risk/benefit I’m willing to bet on.
They knock on the door, loud at first,
then timid from being ignored.
Ideas of stories to be written,
words to be recorded,
magical herbal remedies to concoct,
money to be made doing the things this girl loves.
Since March, everything has changed with my mother’s diagnoses of stage 3 pancreatic cancer. Obviously, her life has changed the most as she has practically given up her full time job to take on chemo, radiation, major surgery, then more chemo.
Her kids’ lives changed too. But the days of whining are over. My brother, twin sister and I have rotated, making sure my mom is hardly ever alone. Our aunts and uncles lovingly provide us with respite as well.
Then, my sister’s husband had to go and complicate matters by coming down with AML (Acute Myloid Lukemia) a month ago. Moving from their West Virginia mountain home, they get to live indefinitely at John’s Hopkins, or its vicinity, until his treatments and bone marrow transplant deem him “in remission.”
(Hang in there, the recipe is coming.)
So what do I do when I find myself actually at home, with my daughter and husband? Well since I work from home and live in the vacation capital of New York State, the Catskill Mountains, I take walks in the snow, sit by my fire, write and cook.
Returning home after days or weeks of caregiving is like going on a retreat. And I retreat. Except for social media, I rarely make an appearance.
And this girl, more than life, wants to have fun with her child.
But by the time the evening chores are done,
she will collapse,
her ideas will deflate,
dirty and damp like the dish towel in her hands.
Anything she started will become a sad and lonely project that some other girl,
a girl with more energy,
a girl with less cancer in the family,
a girl who never smoked,
will pick up and run with.
That other girl flies right by her,
forgetting to even wave.
Today, the day before Thangsgiving, I had an idea, and I went with it. An entire day in the kitchen, even if I am not the host of the big dinner this year, will zap me out of my funk. The holidays will feel almost normal, even if just for a day.
So here is the recipe for Lemon Curd, Ina Garten style (I just love me some Barfoot Contessa). I believe this recipe would impress even the Queen.
Lemon curd inspiration
OH! You are probably wondering where the hot toddy comes in. Well I have access to some amazing tea…I love this Earl Grey by Traveler’s Tea
. Also, just five minutes down the road form here is Union Grove Distillery
, and I use their Vly Creek Vodka as a base for my homemade vanilla extract, so I had some on hand.
Which I needed, for my three year old black lab decided to run away whilst my eight year old daughter was sledding, so that was an entire blood-pressure raising fiasco. A cig was not an option, as I am almost four weeks nicotine free, so a hot toddy was just in the cards.
Back to the LEMON CURD RECIPE:
Makes about 4 1/2 cups
- 6 lemons, scrubbed (for zesting and juicing)
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 stick + 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp.
- 6 large eggs
- 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- generous dash of salt
- Zest all 6 lemons with a carrot peeler, avoiding the white pith.
- Place zest in food processor (steel blade) and pulse until very finely minced.
- Add sugar and pulse into minced lemon zest.
- Separately, in a stand-mixer, cream the butter.
- Beat the sugar zest into the creamed butter.
- Add the eggs, one at a time.
- Add lemon juice and salt, mixing until combined (mixture will have curdled appearance).
- Pour mixture into large saucepan and cook over low heat (gas stove) or med. heat (electric stove).
- Stir CONSTANTLY for about 15/20 minutes. Mixture will thicken.
- Remove from stove when temp. reaches 170F, or just before simmering. (If you pause from stirring and see bubbles appearing, take off heat)
- Pour into glass jars, allow to cool, cover and store in refrigerator up to 3 months. (You may strain over small mesh if the zest bothers you)
The citrus oils that will dress your hands and your countertop will seep into your soul and cleanse you from the inside out
Over heat, the curdled mixture will become as smooth as glass
Despite Ina’s claims, this recipe is not in the “Easy” category, nor does it take 20 to 30 minutes. Plan on a good 1 1/2 to 2 hours, including cleanup. I attempted timing this recipe, but my dog ran away as I was zesting the lemons…
That stated, the buttery yellow outcome, gleaming and shiny in filled jars, will fill your heart with simple glee. The finished product is insanely perfect for a tart, spreading on crackers, icing a pound cake or spicing up your morning English muffin.
Lemon curd is damn sunshine in a jar
Completing this recipe was only the beginning of my pre-Thanksgiving bake-a-thon. I went on to make homemade cranberry sauce, a classic pumpkin roll and currant and almond chocolate bark. Oh, and dinner.
By the end, I was well on my way to being healed, rembering that a caregiver is also in need of care. If that care takes the form of a dessert filled countertop and a sugar-smudged apron, so be it.
I can’t wait to give a jar to my mom.
Mom’s first walk to the water, four weeks post Whipple surgery
This girl hides in the woods when she isn’t stuck in the city,
She tucks her chin and goes unnoticed.
But she has plans.
Plans that are brewing, are steeping, are simmering, deep inside.
When everyone gets better –
When she gets better –
this girl will return to her former glory.
So if you are reading this,
be sure not to forget
this girl’s name.
Check out Mountain Girl Made, where select tea blends, photos and poems are available for purchase. Shop small and support local.