Calling Buckwheat

IMG_9845I first ate these in France – la belle Bretagne to be exact – where this type of really thin Crêpe-type pancakes go by the name of galettes. I loved the nutty flavor the buckwheat gives them but never really tried to make them myself. However, since having forgone wheat, I’m always intrigued to find substitute grains, and one day I just felt like experimenting.

Now the downside of buckwheat is that it doesn’t contain gluten (duh, you say) and therefore, you need other ingredients to make the batter hold its desired shape in the frying pan. To accommodate that, I use both buckwheat and spelt, and I use more eggs than I normally would, which works really nicely.

This impressive stack up there was made over the Easter break, for 4 children and 4 adults who returned from an afternoon of canoeing. I went a little over the top with the measurements, but the leftover 10 or so were just as good the next day, so no complaints.

Perfect Buckwheat Pancakes

750 ml milk

3 eggs

200 g buckwheat flour

200 g spelt flour

1 TSP salt

4 TBSP sugar

Vegetable oil for frying

Mix the eggs and milk, add sugar and salt, then whisk in the flours. I find that the buckwheat soaks up a lot more fluids than regular flour, so it could be that you may have to add more – I use tap water, spoonful by careful spoonful. You use too much, you need to add more flour, and that can ultimately lead to way too much batter (see above). Anyway. The consistency you’re aiming for is quite thin, somewhere between Crêpe batter and regular good old German Pfannkuchen batter. If that means nothing to you, you want it to be the consistency of a slightly thawed, intensely slurpable milkshake ;-).

A flexible spatula is an asset for these – and a decent, not too heavy, flat frying pan is key. As you can see, I used two different pans so the whole process wouldn’t take me all afternoon. One of them was a proper Crêpes pan (top right), unfortunately, not mine, but I can definitely see the appeal. (Not a fan of buying each and every kitchen gadget I see, normally I’m all for down-scaling rather than amassing clutter, unlike others in this house, naming no names. But that pan I like.)

So you pour a very small dash of oil into the pan, heat it (but not to smoking point), ladle in your batter and swivel the pan so your batter forms a thin, even layer on the bottom of the pan. Once the batter starts to curl away from the edges (I think this takes about 1 minute, but you’ll just have to see what your batter and your stove and the frying pan you’re using are doing). Turn the pancake over and fry from the other side, half the time. Repeat until you’ve used up all the batter.

Eat with: Jam, Nutella, grated Parmesan, smoked salmon and cream cheese, salad, stir-fried vegetables, tomato sauce, mozzarella Caprese, pesto sauce and cheese, asparagus, ham, cream of spinach and Gorgonzola, lemon juice and sugar or apple sauce … there’s literally nothing these don’t taste absolutely awesome with, as the batter is neither overly sweet nor too salty.

The last few weeks were more eventful than you’d expect from a sleepy two weeks of no school in the country. We had astonishingly gorgeous weather and enjoyed the magic early spring light, bees buzzing and orchard trees blooming. There were lazy afternoons in the hammock, walks through the millions of shades of green in the forest, cooking, baking and playing board games, grilling and toenail painting. I finished up a book on craft beer brewing, and started on another cookbook – Italian cuisine by a prestigious London restaurant owner. We had a wonderful couple days over Easter, hosting my girl J. and her husband who are about to become new parents – effectively making me and my husband great-aunt and great-uncle :-))). We’re very happy for them, and they seem in a really good place, the right mixture of chill and excitement, and humor – the most important quality of all when it comes to parenthood, in my opinion.

Welp, and finally, from the looks of it, I’m about to become a dog owner – meet my new buddy Charlie, who’ll be moving in end of the week:

IMG_9771He’s the little fellow I wrote about in one of my last posts. It took his current owners a while to make up their minds, but in the end we met up after Easter, and that was that. I’m alternating between freaking the f… out and being over the moon :-). IMG_9870Here’s an old picture that may be an indication for the origin of my love for Dachshunds. These were my parents in 1967, my mom beaming, proud of her new baby, and my dad grinning and holding their dog. Teehee. Early childhood conditioning all the way …

I hope he’ll be happy with us. I hope my kitty won’t lose her shit. I hope I’ll be patient and chill enough even if things go a little sideways. I hope for so many things – please help and send good vibes, my friends.

There was not a lot of time for stitches these past two weeks, but there was some. This is part of my contribution to the upcoming summer fayre at my son’s Waldorf school: Potholders in nice, summery colors :-). img_9872.jpgI’m feeling a bit nostalgic this time around, as it’ll be one of the last events I’ll be responsible for, probably. My daughter may not go to the same school, probably. Also, I have a dog to think of now. Won’t be able to put in the time like I used to, probably.

So, from this mental place of being unsure about just about everything, I’m wishing you all a pleasant start into the week, and some of that serenity we can see in this picture:IMG_9742

Werbeanzeigen

Loaf My Way

There seems to be some interest in my bread recipe, thank you for asking. It’s as simple as it gets: 3 types of grains, yeast, salt & sugar, water, the end.

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See the interesting shape that bread has? That happened because I don’t knead, so there’s a lot of air bubbles in the dough, and it rose to this weird mountain-top shape in the oven. I know we’re always taught the exact opposite when it comes to yeast dough, as in knead, knead, knead. After reading a recipe for no-knead artisan bread online, however, that called for min. 9 hours of rising and explicitly advised against kneading, I just kind of stopped doing it. And what do you know, it works really well, even with just 1 hour of rising and nothing crazy like overnight.

My bread baking career started out in the country. Contrary to what you might think, they mostly have supermarket chains and the affiliated bakeries there, and very little in the way of quaint village bakeries like you may know from France.  Anyway, I never loved the bread you can buy there to begin with, and when I quit eating wheat last year, and couldn’t get spelt flour bread, I had to get creative. Adding oats and millet seeds happened one day when I didn’t have enough flour. Now, I’m pretty much making the same type every time, because everybody enjoys it.

Crusty Spelt, Oats and Millet Bread

500 g spelt flour

100 g oats

50 g millet seeds

1 P dry yeast

2 TBSP salt

1 TBSP sugar

0,5 l warm water

Using a spatula, combine ingredients to make a smooth, moist dough. Dust with some extra flour and cover with a clean cloth. Set aside in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 160 °C. Oil a bread pan, dust it with flour, scrape the risen dough (which should have doubled in size) into the bread pan and put it in the oven.

After 30 minutes, turn down the heat a bit and bake for another 20 or so. Any minute now :-)! The bread should be a pleasant, light brown color and it should sound a bit hollow when you rap on it with your knuckles.

Take out the bread and let cool until it comes out of the bread pan. Let cool completely before you slice it.

The last weeks I’ve been quiet, because I was working and micromanaging my kids – joking, I’m joking. I’m really not that bad. Or so I hope. It’s just hard for them, keeping track with all the stuff they need to remember, and since I’m the one with the iCal, I remind them. For it has been proven empirically, over and over again, that they’ll forget to see their orthodontist, or their standing weekly French tutoring session, or homework, or hockey practice. And the appointments keep piling up.)

Also, I have a confession to make… I may have met someone online. He’s very young, and he has the most gorgeous eyes you can imagine. I haven’t met him in RL yet, but I will, soon. He lives close to where our cottage is. I’m not yet fully committed, but he’s very, very intriguing. His name is Charlie, and … he’s a Dachshund :-)). Teehee, did you actually for a second there think I was going to post on my blog about a secret online affair? If so, that’s hilarious. Nah, I’m just thinking about getting a dog, for the first time in my life, and the thought makes me happier than I’ve been in a long time. There’s a lot to be said about realizing what we really wish for, isn’t there? I mean, even if Charlie won’t end up coming to live with us (another family have expressed interest, before us, so we’re only second choice), finding him and truly giving this serious thought made me realize it’s what I want. And that’s something, right?

This weekend, I’m hoping to make some more progress on the Stripy Sweater. Here’s how far I’ve gotten, and I’m looking forward to finishing it soon. Thanks to my math genius friend P., the raglan went easily enough, and hate it as I might, it was smart to actually count stitches and do the math with this delicate yarn. I may have gotten the sleeve right at the first go, so I have reason to be pleased ;-).

I’m also looking forward to more of this:

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Magic early spring evening light in Brandenburg at its best. Have a lovely spring weekend, everyone.

Let Them Eat Waffles

I would have thought everyone has their own favorite waffle recipe. Some may use store-bought mixes, others have their handed down for generations way to do it. Some swear by buttermilk, others use yeast instead of baking soda, and I have heard of people who separate eggs and fold in the stiff egg-whites into the batter.

I grew up in a completely waffle-free household. Maybe my parents weren’t keen, maybe waffles have no tradition in Romania, I don’t even know. It is fair to say waffles are, for me, an acquired taste. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started noticing waffles were a thing, but I do remember they became somewhat of a tradition when I met my husband who first introduced me to the concept of homemade baked goods (also not something that happened on the regular at our house when I was a child).

One secret ingredient I use for my waffles is grated orange zest, which adds a fruity zing, and the other is some sort of ground nuts, which gives them a bit of crunchiness. I’ve made and served these waffles, to great success, at countless kindergarten parties, birthdays, school bazaars – and just this past weekend, at the hockey club, too.

I had signed up for waffles, as I always feel better behind a counter doing something useful than just standing around and making small talk (I wrote about this recently). So I was on waffle duty, and of course I had brought my own batter. 2 hours later I was told I absolutely needed to make those waffles again, like, for all occasions to come. It would seem the way to hockey people’s hearts is, just like to other people’s, through their stomachs.

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Waffles for a Crowd

8 eggs

250g butter

0,5 – 0,75 l milk

250 g sugar

1 p vanilla sugar

Zest of 2 oranges, grated

3 tbsp cinnamon

pinch of cardamon

2 pinches of salt

2 p baking soda

Flour (I used spelt), min 500 g, 1 kg if you have it. I needed to improvise as I’d run out, and used

300 g potato flour instead, as well as

200 g ground almonds (hazelnuts work beautifully, too)

All ingredients should have room temperature for smooth mixing and results.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add grated orange peel, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and cardamon. Beat in eggs one by one. Add 0,5 l of the milk. More may be needed after you put in the flour. First, add the almonds. Then, add the flour and beat until you’re happy with the consistency (a little thicker than (US) pancake batter, smooth and creamy).

You may add more milk and flour as you go, as needed. The 8 eggs can certainly accommodate more, and you want this recipe to feed the masses.

Add the baking soda at the very end and vigorously beat for another minute before letting the batter sit for a bit.

Fire up the waffle iron and pour in as much of the batter as needed (depends on the size you have.) For mine, pretty much the regular German round-shaped waffle iron with heart-shaped sections, I pour in 1/2 ladle.

Top with powdered sugar to taste. (This is why the batter itself isn’t very sweet. Kids always want powdered sugar, and this way they don’t overdose right away.)

Go nuts with the toppings – not for a finger food occasion, but if you’re making them for a sitting down to eat setting, you can serve them with whipped cream, fresh berries, jams or warm cinnamon cherries, sprinkles, Nutella … anything sweet that makes you happy is allowed. And now, go spread some sweetness ;-).

As for crafts, it is as I feared with the stripy sweater. Good news is that I’m happy with the new design (left side). Bad news is I get to unravel the first attempt (right side), as neither the proportions nor the width of the stripes please me, so it needs to go. I already vented about frogging mohair yarn, but I can’t not do it because I need all the yellow yarn I have. Sigh.

But: I’m really pleased with how it’s coming together. I’m aiming for a sort of a Swinging Sixties vintage look. Bless those who are able to just put what they have in mind into practice at their first attempt. I am not one of them, that’s for sure!

Have a happy week, everyone!

Knit, Frog, Repeat

IMG_9193Have any of you ever unraveled mohair yarn? It’s a b…, let me tell you. It had to be done, though, because I was dead set to use up yarn from my yarn stash, and there was this random back piece I had knitted ages ago, that had the most hideous armholes you can imagine, also it was ribbed and frankly I don’t even remember what the heck I had in mind when I made it. It needed to go.

Slow progress doesn’t begin to describe the frustrating hours that followed, and had it not been for the fact I got to re-watch Moana with my little squirrel while I was frogging, I might have thrown out the whole thing. First world problem you say? How exactly is my recycling yarn not sustainable? It’s the very definition of being mindful with my stuff, and _not_ toss anything I’m tired of right away.

IMG_9334After I was done unraveling, getting started on my stripy sweater was my reward. So I did, and in the meantime, I have figured out, with the help of my lovely mathematician friend P., the raglan sleeve, and finished the front piece:

IMG_9333.JPGMy daughter named it the bee sweater – and she has a point, it’s exactly what it looks like. Unfortunately, the longer I look at it, the more I feel I got the proportions wrong, sigh. It needs to be less wide, and the rib at the bottom needs to be longer. If it weren’t for the rib, I could live with the sweater being a little baggy. But that rib needs a few more centimeters, and if I pick up the stitches at the bottom, you’d see it. I’ll either have to live with imperfection or buckle down and unravel once again – not sure what I’ll do yet.

Knitting aside, I had a busy beginning of the year. I translated a cookbook, which was fun and lovely. I helped a bit with my son’s school workload.

And, with somewhat mixed feelings, I just submitted the translation of a mediocre romance novel that the author tried, imho, to stuff way too many things into (love story, middle agers, teenagers, murder mystery, genre picture and gender). She’s also introducing too many characters, she has a knack for using weird metaphors, and the love scenes seem a bit generic, carefully scripted to tick off the usual tropes. Kiss, check. Hand job, check. Oral, check. Full-on penetrative, check. True love happening somewhere along the line.

I know that the art of romance writing is to make every story that meanders from meet-cute across some sort of conflict towards the happily ever after captivating, and I’m sure it can’t be easy for writers to stay away from the clichés. That said, I can name a good many examples (not to bore you, but I really could ;-)) for stories that pull this off, excelling at it even. Let’s just say that this wasn’t one of them. As a translator, you can only do so much – if the story sucks in the first place, it will suck after translation, and try as you might, you can’t really help that. I won’t be getting a lot of favorable mentions for this one, that’s for sure.

Moving on, I next get to translate a few chapters of a book on micro-brewery. Not that I even like beer, but what I’ve read of the book so far sounds fun. Also I’m dipping a careful toe into copywriting again; an old client whom I have a lot of respect and affection for asked me, so how could I say no? It’ll be a change of pace, and that is a good thing, always.

It’s almost mid March now, and we’ve had a few spring days already. Of course, in our neck of the woods, this means nothing. Temperatures dropped again, we’ve had a doozy of a storm over the weekend, and it even snowed a little last Sunday. But the days are getting longer, and being on the third floor, we do get our share of sunlight. IMG_9189.jpgThis was the other morning when we were getting ready for school. A good way to start the day – I find myself being highly susceptible to lux as I get older.

To top off this post, I’d like to mention a recipe I’ve been honing for a few years – it’s a classic cheesecake, which may sound a bit boring, but I assure you, it’s anything but. If things go well, this is what happens when I make it:

IMG_9098.JPGIt’s a creamy, fluffy heap of gorgeousness with a hint of vanilla and distinct lemon flavor – think of a soufflé rather than of your regular American cheesecake (no disrespect to the spectacular New York cheesecakes I’ve had, but this is just more my bag).

In my baking book, the caption literally says: This is a cake you get proposed for. I only discovered this way after I’d gotten married, so I can’t confirm or deny. What I can tell you is that my son has been asked for his mom’s cheesecake recipe :-), so high praise from the teenage front.

Cheesecake for Champions

For the crust

50 g sugar

100 g butter

150 g flour

1 yolk

pinch of salt

Make a shortcrust, wrap in foil and put in the freezer for 30 minutes to rest (if you’re not in a rush, you can put it in the fridge for 1 hour or longer). Take out and carefully roll out the dough to 3-4 mm thickness. Place in a spring-form pan lined with baking parchment and bake for a few minutes. Whether you want the crust to come up to the sides is up to you. If you want to be anal about this (I’m not), place a second piece of parchment on top of the dough, add a handful of dried beans or peas and bake in the oven at 160 °C for 15 minutes. Let cool for a bit and start on the filling in the meantime.

For the filling

500 g full fat Quark (could be substituted with cream cheese, but you should add 1 egg white if you do, as it’s heavier than our German variety)

150 g sugar

1 p vanilla sugar

2 lemons, peel grated

1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp cornstarch

7 eggs, separated in yolks and egg whites

50 g sugar

pinch of salt

Place Quark, 150 g sugar, lemon peel, vanilla, flour and cornstarch, egg yolks and salt in a large bowl, and I mean large. With an electric mixer, beat to a smooth paste. Carefully clean the whisks before moving on to beating the egg whites with a pinch of salt and 50 g sugar very, very stiff. Then place on top of the Quark mixture and gingerly fold in with a spatula. You don’t want any more air bubbles to escape than is absolutely inevitable, so please be gentle.

Spoon the mixture onto the cooled crust and immediately place the cake in the oven for about 40 minutes. Do not open the oven as your soufflé-like cake may collapse if you do.

Serve warm. If you want to be really fancy, serve with fruit puree – strawberry, raspberry, or mango.

It should make an impression.

 

Luxury Problem

IMG_6672I _almost_ feel bad because of what I’m about to do: lament the summer vacation’s being over. Gone are the days of daily swimming, crafting whenever I felt like it, no parents rep responsibilities, actually no responsibilities period, beyond being with the kids and catering to everybody’s culinary and recreational whims. Sigh.

It sounds like a lazy time, reading through that first paragraph, and some days were certainly slow-paced enough to call them lazy. Not that we actually did _nothing_ that much. There was swimming, playing, reading, cooking and baking, and I actually managed to finish sweet A.’s sheets, check ‚em out: IMG_6659Doing the math makes me realize what took so long. I was going to have the project finished by mid July, and I was done with the crochet part by then. But: Darning in threads in 60 crochet flowers (4 apiece) takes time, and is extremely tedious work. I was done with that by early August. Then there was the color sequence to figure out. Thankfully, I had help with that:IMG_6638Once that was done, the flowers pinned to the sheets, there was the step I dreaded even more than darning in threads: stitching the flowers to the bedsheets.IMG_6691I don’t know why I don’t mind knitting or crocheting for hours but find sewing so painful – but it is what it is. Some days, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I guess that qualifies as lazy all right ;-)). But in the end, the flowers were in place and the pins back in their glass jar, so. IMG_6731Now all I need to do is pack up the sheets and send them on their way so A. and her husband can have sweet dreams in them :-).

I saw less of some friends over the vacation weeks than I would have liked, and more of others than I would have thought, and, oddly, I did not miss the city one bit. I’ve been back for a couple days now, and although I appreciate the restaurant and organic foods situation, as well as being able to hit the stores for my kids who managed to grow over the six weeks like you wouldn’t believe, I can’t help wishing I was back at the cottage and packing up the swimming gear,IMG_6676goofing around with my baby girl

or baking with my boy

Instead, this morning my husband took the red-eye, the kids trotted off to school heaving long-suffering sighs at having to be up at the ungodly hour of 7 a m, and I have a translation to sink my teeth back into. I also am really and truly all by myself for the first time in weeks.

Although the heat called for a lot of fruit and salad, cooking did occur. For instance, I made a somewhat unorthodox quiche-like affair with store-bought puff-pastry dough:IMG_6441Leeks, chanterelle mushrooms, cashews, cheese, eggs and cream, and no crust to prepare – that was one easy dinner right there.

My new favorite salad is this:
IMG_4868It’s boiled green beans, blanched and seeded tomatoes (great for using up tasty, over-ripe ones that have become too squishy for regular salad), a chopped shallot and olive oil. Salt and pepper. Lovely as a side dish for barbecuing, or with a pasta dish, or all on its own.

Also worth mentioning because it’s such an old favorite of mine I had all but forgotten about: the Taco Salad :-). Our friendship stems from my healthy-diet-be-damned, happy-hour-after-work-heavy advertising days in the Nineties. Every once in a while, it’s a very happy Tex-Mex indulgence, even though I wash it down with iced tea instead of Margaritas, these days.IMG_6207.JPGIt’s easy enough to make, if you want to try.

Tempting Taco Salad

1 head iceberg lettuce, cut into strips

5 tomatoes, cubed

1 can chili beans

1 can corn

1 store-bought salsa

1 bag corn chips

large handful of grated cheese

1 container sour cream

200 g ground beef, browned in olive oil with a chopped shallot, a handful chopped cilantro, seasoned with chili flakes, cinnamon, cumin, salt, sugar and pepper

After browning and seasoning the meat, layer (in a glass bowl for a better visual, if you have one) from bottom to top:

shredded lettuce

meat

chili beans

corn

salsa

sour cream

tomatoes

cheese

one half of the chips, crumbled

Decorate with a row of whole tortilla chips all around the rim of the bowl and sprinkle with pepper. Serve with extra chips & salsa, queso if you’re so inclined, and guac.

There. Now my lunch-break is officially over, and I’m hungry. Go figure!

Have a great week everyone, and smile at a picture my kids took after I failed to clean up after myself like I usually scold them for doing:IMG_6671No worries though, my legs are still their regular shape :-).IMG_E6727To Berlin-based readers, happy first day of school, and to everyone, enjoy another week of this spectacular late summer.

 

Summer Appreciation Post

IMG_6363Welcome to serenity;-).

This is what I see when I spread out my blanket at ‚our‘ spot by the lake. Isn’t it beautiful? I’m always astonished at how few people come here, but of course I’m not complaining. To the contrary, I’m deeply thankful we get to have this place to ourselves more often than not.IMG_2394As you can guess, we have moved our life out to the country cottage for the next few weeks, and so far it’s been pretty chill. We’ve done the things we usually do when we’re here: Walk in the forest, swim in the lake, find mushrooms, cook, grill, sleep in, play games, sit by a fire, gaze at the stars at night. Our lazy routine is punctuated by the kids‘ sudden cravings for favorite foods, or certain things that need to be eaten because nature or the garden supply them.

When we found chanterelle mushrooms after the rain last week, we made the best fanfuckingtastic grilled cheese from them, see above. Pimped with green onions and fresh rosemary, yum.

The above are plum dumplings, one of my childhood favorites. I learned how to make them at an early age, since they were one of my Dad’s specialties. It’s not difficult, albeit a messy process. Consisting of a mashed potato, flour and egg gnocchi dough wrapped around a plum and boiled in salt water, they’re breaded in buttered breadcrumbs and eaten with a bit of sugar. The kids just like to roll ‚em in the stuff as you can see above, and depending on the type of plum you use, it may be necessary too.

Other Parents Have Time to Cook foods are: lasagna, pancakes for breakfast, as well as, notably, my husband’s Jewish pizza topped with chanterelle mushrooms, what a treat that was! I was going to take a picture but the pizza was gone so fast I didn’t have a chance. So sorry, maybe next time. But you get the idea – thin, crisp pizza dough topped with sour cream, onions, mushrooms and cheese – very good stuff.

IMG_E6285The above was my adaptation of a classic Arabic basbousa cake; I was inspired to make one myself when I read about it on Cleobuttera’s blog. Her recipe sounds very good, but that particular day I was dying to know whether it isn’t possible to add dark chocolate to the orange flavor, and use spelt semolina instead of the called for wheat. And what can I say? It was certainly a worth-while experiment.

As of late, I’ve become quite the home-made syrup buff, check out the flavors we made for the school fair in June (yellow is elder flower, red is raspberry), so the orange syrup part didn’t scare me.IMG_5955We ended up with a lovely melt-in-mouth dark chocolat-ey concoction soaked in sticky orange bliss. Nice with a glass of milk, black coffee, and (I was told) with a glass of fruity champagne. Not drinking much myself, these days, as my body does not appreciate it anymore. Who knew I’d end up becoming such a health nut??

We have a sweet four-legged visitor for a couple days who is making puppy dog eyes at me, urging me to leave the hammock I’ve been typing away in and take him for his midday run:IMG_6375Cooper is an Australian Shepherd, and he’s a very cute bundle of activity, this one. Since we also brought the cat, it’s an interesting experiment. So far, they’ve been giving each other the evil eye, and the kitty needs to be coaxed to come out of the house at all:

IMG_6369That hammock has become a favorite place to do favorite things in, here’s my new couch blanket coming along nicely, on DC row at a time.IMG_6297Have a beautiful summer, wherever you are and whatever your favorite seasonal activity may be. I’m off to the woods with a strapping, woofing young fellow now.

Detachment Part Two, and More Heat Eats

IMG_6111When I stumbled across this piece by André Aciman in the New York Times a while ago, it resonated with me, not only because of the example he gives (his boys have moved out…), but because it made me realize that I, too, tend to try and anticipate what bad things are going to feel like so I’ll be prepared when they happen. But while this type of emotional rehearsal may seem like a valid strategy to any constructive pessimist, it may ultimately prove futile. For despite all anticipation, there will always be stuff you hadn’t reckoned with: Life can and will whack you over the head with Unexpected Things.

Mr. Aciman advises to be thankful and enjoy the good things as they happen. It’s sound advice, too, for these precious moments of joy are the piggy-bank for coping with the times life will give you lemons and throw you curve-balls. img_2907.jpgRemember your first heartbreak? I’m sure you do. One moment you feel loved and happy and secure, and the next you get dumped, and realize that the person you cherished, relied on, and trusted in is yours no more. Long story short, apparently my son’s ex-girlfriend (bizarre consecutive words right there!) has fallen out of love with him over the course of her 3-month exchange in the UK, and ended their 2 1/2 year relationship. He didn’t see it coming, all seemed fine when he went to visit her over Easter, but that’s how it goes with still waters. I also remember how much can change over the course of such a long time. She’s made her decision, and he needs to accept that.

But boy, do I feel for my boy. He’s being very mature about it, for now. He says he’s sad, he certainly seems subdued, but he doesn’t want to talk about it much, not to me anyway. There’s a solid support system of friends. Maybe he talks to them, or he simply lets them take his mind off things. They got him to join a gym, which we support, and of course we also have his back. His baby sister makes him laugh, his cool daddy took him to the Long Night of the Sciences, and we’re going to have more mom and son dates again. Yesterday we cooked, and watched 2 episodes of vintage television, Deep Space Nine, which I can only hope he didn’t just do for my sake. He seemed to enjoy it.

Also, we’ve begun checking out our boxed up old vinyls, and of course I have a back story to each and every one! (The Cure’s Head on the Door album (went to see them live on stage for that tour, and Robert Smith said nothing at all to the audience other than hello, good night, and announcing one song with the words ‚this is the Kyoto Song, I’m sure you wouldn’t understand‘ ;-))! What do you think? Was he always like that on stage, or was he in a particularly weird mood that night? We found The Sonics‘ first album that opened my mind to garage rock with an unforgettable BANG, just listen to this: Psycho; and of course, courtesy of my music lover of a daddy, this hauntingly beautiful Étude by Alexander Scriabin. In the YouTube link, Vladimir Horowitz is playing – the recording my dad had was by Svjatoslav Richter, different but equally sublime. I could go on and on, but I’ll save that walk down memory lane for RL, I think.

So, the detachment business. Here’s what I’m doing right now:

a) Allow my boy to be in pain – I’ve passed on Prof. Pearlman’s advice from ‚Call Me By Your Name‘ (don’t snuff it out, let yourself feel it); who knew I’d need to quote this to my own kid so soon? And what a good thing I just read that wonderful book …

b) Get used to not having sweet St. around any longer, friend-zone or no friend-zone, things are probably going to be awkward for a while now.

c) Trust my son to cope with this by himself, and with a little help from his friends.

I don’t know if it’s even possible for a parent not to grieve by proxy, I don’t know how not to anyway. I know my son will be miserable for a while, but I also know he’ll learn something from this. And of course there will be quite a few who’ll happily console him if he lets them!

And since even heartbroken people need to eat, especially when they’re 16, how about a little comfort food that’s heat wave compatible? Have some

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Gigantes Bean Salad

Usually, I would use a can of tuna for this, but since I had run out and it was the weekend, here’s what I used instead. Sun-dried tomatoes, lemon stuffed Spanish olives and because this is me, capers;-), make for a lovely Mediterranean combination. Olive oil, dash of lemon juice, oregano and black pepper – and you’re done. No cooking required, always a plus when its more than 30 °C.

You will need:

Canned Gigantes beans, cooked

1 small shallot or onion, sliced or chopped

Handful of sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips

Handful of green olives, lemon stuffed and sliced

2 TBSP capers (recipe also works without these if you dislike the taste)

3 TBSP olive oil

A few squeezes of lemon juice, to taste

Very little salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 TBSP oregano, dried

Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl, season and let steep for a bit. Enjoy with or without crusty bread – from a nutritional point of view, it’s certainly unnecessary, but if it makes you happy, by all means, have some.

Thank you for reading, everyone, and have a good week!