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A Note to Luisa, and a Midnight Snack

Dear Luisa,

It’s the middle of summer, and it seems that most families I know are on vacation, just coming home from vacation, or getting ready to go on vacation in the next few days. I admit I’ve been jealous – filling up the kiddie pool and smearing on sunscreen and eating frozen yogurt sticks in the backyard isn’t as much a summer vacation as it is extra work. Two young girls far from being self-sufficient still require constant supervision.

The walls around this house are feeling more and more restrictive as the summer slowly crawls by, and being somewhere (anywhere) else for a little while, breathing air that I’ve never breathed before and eating meals I’ve never eaten before, all in a setting far, far way from the suburban landscape I see every day sounds like paradise.

For the past few days I have felt a little bit sad in the afternoon; when the incessant chatter of two small children is put on pause for a few short hours, I’m usually eager for the quiet reprieve. Not this week. This week the quiet feels like isolation I can’t escape – suffocating, when really all I want to do is break out of the tedium that comes with staying in the same place all the time. I just want to leave, you know?

Wait – let me explain. I don’t want to leave, leave. Please don’t misunderstand. What I mean is that I am filled with that complicated feeling my husband describes so often, the one that makes him long to jump on a plane and get lost as he explores a faraway place, to be able to get up and go and do and be in a world without structure and schedules and responsibility – all while not for a moment wanting to trade in the life he has for the freedom he gave up when he chose this.

In times like this, I do what any normal person would do (right?): I open up a book, purposing to get lost in stories, in the landscapes and people and flavors and smells and beauty they hold within those magical pages. This week, My Berlin Kitchen has been my guidebook, and you have been my travel companion, the sort that has all at once been both interpreter and friend.

I was so moved by the first few pages of your book a few nights ago that late in the evening, when I ought to have been been brushing my teeth, I practically flew off the couch to whip together eggs and milk for what I must describe as the fanciest late night snack I had ever made. And for those few minutes, sharing a bit of it with my husband, I was transported out of my everyday and into a world I hadn’t known existed. (Eggs and jam? Really?)

Your beautiful, complicated memories of that warm Berlin kitchen and the people you loved there fill me with hope that the things I do in this cramped, less than perfect kitchen that so often fills me with frustration will still somehow help establish a deep sense of home in my own tender little girls. I hope that someday, when they think of home, they think of the warmth of our kitchen and of me, of my hands offering them something familiar and comforting and my heart offering them more love than they could imagine is possible to give.

Thank you, Luisa, for inviting me into your memories of your childhood Berlin, for sharing your secret for the perfect Omelette Confiture, and for helping to ease the ache for elsewhere and reminding me that home is a place so many long for, and I am very lucky indeed to be there. Gaining a little perspective yields so much peace of mind.

Love,
Rachel

Omelette Confiture (slightly adapted from My Berlin Kitchen)
If you are reading this and are feeling a little bit blue – especially if it’s late at night – go, now, to the kitchen. Get out an egg, some milk and butter, and your favorite jam. Take your time, be methodical, and enjoy the fruit of your effort. It will make you feel a little bit better about life.

Ingredients:
1 large egg
1 T milk
pinch of salt
1 T unsalted butter
a scoop or two of jam (I used Marionberry, but any good, fairly tart jam would be delicious)
a bit of powdered sugar, sifted

Method:
1. Separate egg white from the egg yolk. Mix the milk completely into the yolk. In a clean bowl, add a pinch of salt to the egg white and whip it in a clean bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the beaten egg white into the egg yolk.
2. Melt the butter in a small, nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and cook, undisturbed, for 3 minutes. Don’t let the bottom of the egg brown. Flip the omelette and cook the other side for an additional 3 minutes.
3. When the omelette is cooked through, slide it onto a plate, dot the jam down the center. Roll it up and sift the powdered sugar on top.

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