Saturday, May 4, 2013

My Birthday...cooking through emotions both savory and sweet




We had a birthday weekend in our family. It was mine.  I'm pleased to say that my fourth decade on this earth is one of the happiest and most fulfilling of all.

The weather here was near perfect over the weekend, cool, windy, and sunny... and for that, I am so grateful.  

To be honest, my birthday is a day that leaves me melancholy and quiet.  For years, I worked fervently to keep these dismal feelings at bay. I would act festive and jovial throughout the day as if life was brimming with memories of birthday bliss.  However, I knew that behavior was merely my attempt to slip on a mask in order to hide a truer pain that sweeps over me on this day each year.



Basket of freshness from the farmer's market


I wrestle with the annual desire to wallow in self pity and to delve mournfully into  what has been lost in my life...or perhaps what was never truly had.

On my children's birthday, I wrap my arms around them, tell them how much I love them, bake delicious cakes and meals for them...because I do love them very much and cannot imagine acting any other way.  It is how I envision all parents should feel towards their children.

But, sometimes I wonder if the giving, the baking, the loving...is an attempt to provide self-love on some other parallel plane.  If it is, then I welcome the relief and the solace of creating a meal filled with beauty and sentiment.




Clementines, fennel, and thyme - unexpected flavors that work together beautifully

Going through all the stages of parenting and watching my children grow, gives me such profound insight into my own stages as a child and the experiences that accompanied it.

The way I am as a mother, the way my husband is as a father, and the way my children are all interweave together to sew the many colors, textures, and patterns of our unique patched family quilt.

Each stage of triumphs and failures of my own family offers  glimpses into the decisions made in similar circumstances by the people who surrounded me growing up.  It gives me much to dwell on, to ruminate, and to deliberate.

And, yes, this day often leaves me fighting great waves of melancholy as I realize through each stage of my upbringing, the decisions that were made by others...were so unlike those that I have strived so terribly hard to make.



Pernod, a luscious french liqueur with strong notes of licorice

So, we all move through our separate lives carrying our many baggages filled with savory experiences as well as sweet ones.  We all realize we have choices to make or that were made and learn from then on that they have everlasting consequences.  

And as we move through our adult lives, now as parents, the parallels are joyfully, as well as painfully, reflective and revealing of those choices made so long ago...but often feel like were freshly made just yesterday.




For those of us with artistic inclinations, we write, we draw, we photograph, we dance, or in my case, I cook in order to work through, discover, and demonstrate my feelings and emotions.  I think my time in the kitchen has meanings far deeper than my attempt at simply following directions or merely gathering ingredients.







So I spent a quiet weekend doing quiet activities.  I kept off my happy mask and gave myself permission to apply a balm of gentle soothing to everything around me.   I was off to the farmer's market early to enjoy the cool weather and quiet air that would accompany me.  I prefer the early hours of the market as everyone is softly bustling about and getting ready for the robust crowds that will soon follow.  I slowly began to fill my basket with delicious choices that either caught my eye or intrigued my senses.  

I used to wish my birthday away...hoping it would sweep by without having to tackle the wave of emotions that would ensue.  For me, the beauty of being in my 40's is the release from looking outward for the unconditional love that everyone needs and craves.  Realizing that I am often my own best friend, my best champion, and my most nurturing companion is a mid-life gift that I  whole heartedly accept and appreciate.






Whereas my husband loves to get in the kitchen and prepare something special for me, I had a recipe in mind that I couldn't resist pulling together for this birthday weekend. I needed to be in the kitchen.

It is a recipe from the cookbook "Jerusalem: A Cookbook" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  I never quite know what will strike my fancy so when my eyes passed over Sue's photo of this dish, "Roasted Chicken with Clementines"  from her wonderful blog "A View from the Great Island", I knew it was meant for this weekend.

I rarely buy cookbooks.  I know, a food blogger who rarely buys cookbooks.  I don't even own this "Jerusalem" cookbook, but it might just be one that I will have to seek out and flip through the pages.

This dish pairs chicken with clementines, fennel, pernot (a french liqueur), and thyme.  It is baked in the oven until the skin is caramelized and crispy.  The sauce is poured over until it is shimmery, sweet, aromatic, and complex.

I enjoyed every bite of this sumptuous roasted chicken dish.  I am definitely curious about delving deeper into the two authors and their experiences growing up on either side of Jerusalem.  Ottolenghi and his friend Tamimi explore the vibrant cuisine of their home city--with its diverse Muslim, Jewish, Arab, Christian, and Armenian communities. 







And then there is the sweetness in life that soothes not only the heart but the palate too.  This "Gateau Basque" recipe has become a favorite choice for its simplicity.

Gateau Basque is a pretty cake with a simple look but lovely taste.  The smooth creamy layer of cream filling is rich but punctuated by sweet blackberry jam that gives just the right touch of sweetness to the cake.






At the market, I was chatting with one of the vendors who sells me my creamed honey.  He mentioned that he also had some fresh eggs.  Fresh eggs were on my list but I wasn't ready for the lovely pale green shade of eggs that he put in front of me.  He had a  wide grin on his face because  he knew I would be impressed and appreciate his lovely eggs.  

The type of chicken that lays this pale green shaded egg is called an Ameracauna.  I bought a dozen of these interesting eggs, tucked them in my market bag and looked forward to admiring them at home.




Thank goodness birthdays only come once a year.  For all sorts of reasons, I'm sure many might agree.  I move through mine as if under a pool of blurry water.  Each year I search for understanding, holding my breath and focusing on the surface so that I can come up and gasp a breath of air.   

Everyone copes with trials and tribulations. We all try to snuff out the burning and the stinging that prevails.  I think it is great comfort to  know that in each person's pile of baggage, there can be found a mixture of balms and salves that heal those wounds and give relief to pains.






So for this birthday, this meal was a gift on so many levels. I celebrate the deliciousness of new dishes discovered, birthdays that come and can then be let go, and the welcome gift of self-love and appreciation and that my being on this earth is very much mine to celebrate.



















43 comments:

  1. Sarah, wishing you a belated happy birthday. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings so openly. Indeed everyone has trials and tribulations... Sometimes I think that perhaps life might be very ordinary without them? Other times I simply shake my head.

    These are beautiful recipes, you know I too am a fan of Ottolenghi and Tamimi. I think I will find comfort in a slice of this cake.

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    1. Lizzy, if there are more recipes as delicious as this baked chicken one, I might need to slip in one more prized cookbook into my limited but loved collection.

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  2. Lovely brithday!
    Wonderful mood.

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  3. love the quote and the vine glass :)
    xx

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  4. Such a lovely, reflective post. I find myself visiting similar themes almost all the time these days. The aging of my parents, their needs, and our histories; the journiwa of my young adult child - they all make for many, many thoughts! Such is life!

    Happy birthday Sarah!

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    1. That is so right Tracy, "Such is Life!". And I think that simple sentiment is so important to moving ahead in a positive direction.

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  5. Lovely reflections -- my birthday makes me contemplative, too, more and more as the years add up. I'm so glad your celebration was delicious and lovely.

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    1. Isn't it odd and wonderful how we all become more reflective as the years add up. Thank you, my husband and children know how to make me feel so special.

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  6. A beautiful and well written post Sarah. Your first photo of the vase full of roses speaks volumes. I am sorry that your birthday picks at the wound that seems to never heal. I hope that as you have more birthdays, those thoughts and feelings fade away and make way for happier times. Great photography and lovely recipes. Hugs to you!

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    1. I do get better with handling events that were beyond my control...age is a wonderful balm for moving on with a more beautiful life.

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  7. What a wonderful post! I can't wait to try the recipes! Wishing you a very happy new year. Each birthday offers a new beginning...a time to celebrate life itself. All the best to you Sarah!

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    1. Thank you, I read some wonderful passages of wisdom on your sight. I am thankful you left these comments.

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  8. I love your pictures and recipes. I'd like to inform you of a great new website www.foodieportal.com. I would like to invite you to come and join us and share your wonderful pictures with us. We are simply foodies and we are not photography snobs, so picture perfection is not important, all we care about is delicious food. We're pretty new so give us a chance. :)

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  9. A very happy birthday to you my friend, a lovely post :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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  10. Happy birthday Sarah. Thank you for such an insightful post. I totally understand about birthdays. Lately, I am finding mine hard to celebrate. Your photos are excepetionally beautiful today.

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    1. Thank you Loree. I'll have to stop by and see how Spring is panning out on your beautiful island.

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  11. Happy Birthday! I do hope the smiles outweighed the tears! I think we can all relate in some way. I've taken the hurts and pains inflicted on me from my parents and turned them into a lesson in how I don't want to be....for myself or my spouse or my children. But I also don't want them to rob me from happiness, joy and celebrations. Hard, I know.

    Your birthday dinner looks just wonderful! Yum!

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    1. I hate to say it, but knowing others go through similar emotions really does help move forward with deeper awareness.

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  12. A belated birthday wish that the day in future would bring no qualms, no problems . . . My birthdays almost from childhood on have been days to 'giggle' that you were one year older, days that you could ask your family and friends for 'something outrageous': I have never taken mine seriously and still don't at an age above yours: they are fun! enjoy! But thank you for your honesty: perhaps the open expression of your feelings will also do away with some of the negative ones . . . Oh, the recipes are lovely of course!

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    1. What a wonderful fun loving "giggly" attitude that you have. I love it.

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  13. I loved this post- on so many levels. You are incredibly talented my friend and I don't tell you that near enough. Wishing you a year ahead filled with the love of your loves, loads of laughter and grace. Lots of grace.
    x

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  14. Happy birthday to you! Your post is beautiful, great reflections. And food, I love your recipes. And pictures as well.

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  15. A belated happy birthday. I can feel your sadness through your words and images. Take solace in the fact that your upbringing has made you into the wonderful caring mother you are today. You have swung the pendulum the other way. and your children have benefitted. It's interesting to think about how we start looking back a little more as we grow older but it's so important to also keep our eyes firmly on the future. Lovely food, as always.

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    1. Thank you Suzanne. It has taken a great deal of effort to swing that pendulum on some days. Life is a wonderful and mysterious thing...but determined I am to make mine a good one.

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  16. Happy birthday - beautiful post.
    I often ponder on how differently I am with my children than my parents were with me and constantly hope that my differences are for the better.
    I have found a great amount of insiration in both Plenty & Jerusalem. YOur orange chicken is stunning

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    1. Thank you Cher. This dish was wonderful on so many levels, the appearance, the aromas, the complex flavors that were new to us. Pernod is a liqueur new to me and it is very strong, but I loved it.

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  17. Happy Birthday Sarah! You have so beautifully explained your emotions. It's nice that you find cooking as a way to deal with it and we all need such things in life. Don't let go off that smile from your pretty face Sarah :)

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    1. Thank you Kanana. I enjoy stopping by your site for lovely inspiration.

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  18. A very Happy Birthday to you Sarah!!
    Not only this post is beautiful but it is full of precious emotions.... we all find ourselves sometime sorrounded by memories good n bad both.. it is a littlee reflection of us. But future is what is unseen n ahead of us n I wish you a very gorgeous m beautiful future filled with love n happiness always! :)

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    1. Such a good point Reem. A dish is like the future. You can grab that recipe and really determine how the future meal is going to happen and taste. It is a bit like shaping or reshaping the future around us.

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  19. Such a heartfelt and beautifully written post.
    I remember when I was under 10... each birthday was just a determined step up the ladder to the double digits. I couldn't wait to be in the double digits. Birthdays were so simple then, and so anticipatory. Funny how as we mature through life, they become rich with memory and fill us with all kinds of conflicting emotion...so much more complex.

    I loved this part: For me, the beauty of being in my 40's is the release from looking outward for the unconditional love that everyone needs and craves. Realizing that I am often my own best friend, my best champion, and my most nurturing companion is a mid-life gift that I whole heartedly accept and appreciate.

    This is what I will come back to later this year.. I am turning 40, and funny enough, I was thinking about this when I woke up this morning, just before I turned my computer on and visited you. The angst of one little number! I crave that release you speak of. Actually, I crave the release of a great many things.

    Wishing you a very happy birthday, my friend... may this be a wonderful year ahead for you, brimming with all kinds of new memories, new culinary delights and a whole basketful of love.
    xoxoxo

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    1. Thank you Jaime...you will be o.k. when that 3 turns to 4. You know the saying "I am woman, hear me roar". Indeed, that saying must apply to all of us in our 40's because along with the melancholy that comes with reminiscing past pains, the strength and vitality of being wiser and calmer is certainly a 40's gift!

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  20. Sarah you are so kind and admirable for sharing your genuine thoughts and feelings. Little by little life helps us heal our bruised souls and memories. I think it's wonderful that you've allowed yourself to feel those feelings and try and work them out. Keeping it inside would be much worse. A very belated Happy Birthday to you! I love both of the recipes you've shared and of course your photos are always breathtaking. Hugs:)

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    1. Oh, it's very interesting to express childhood happenings as one gets older. Unfortunately, society desires to quickly sweep truths out of eyesight and take a harder tack on one's struggles. Thank you for your kind words Nancy.

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  21. My dear dear Sarah! You continue to humble, inspire and delight and I can think of nothing more but many more years of that from you.

    I chuckled when I read the bit about "a food blogger who does not buy cookbooks". I'm like you, I rarely do. What an incredible meal.

    I am certainly making the chicken in the next few weeks! The gateau - alas! I cannot allow myself such sins anytime soon :)

    Hugs my friend and please continue in your idyllic ways. You are someone I so look forward too.

    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

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    1. You'll have to let me know if you like the complex flavors of this dish. You make such wonderful dishes and always have an assortment of "new to me" flavors so I think you will be so intrigued.

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  22. happy birthday Sarah! great job as usual, the cake is awesome

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  23. Happy Birthday Sarah! Mine was Monday the 6th. What a beautiful meal and post. Funny how certain days in the year dredge up things one would prefer to erase. As I read, I could feel the melancholy and quiet of your mood, almost as if whispering so as to lessen the pain. For me it's my b-day being sandwiched between my parents' deaths in 2000. Yes, still haven't gotten over that. Memories have amazing power despite the time elapsed, even as in your case since childhood. You should be very proud of yourself for providing your children with so much love and memories that they'll cherish, rather than needless personal baggage. Perhaps it's the way it was meant to be so that patterns wouldn't repeat themselves as so often happens in families. May the coming year bring you great joy!

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    1. Well Happy "belated" Birthday to you too Christine! I'm so sorry that your day of birth brings pain to you in a different way. It must be a day of savory and sweet, for sure. I have had many conversations about the issue of "breaking patterns" through personal strife and I, too, wonder if that is the "way things are meant to be" in order for dramatic change to happen. Rather sad, isn't it? I have so many thoughts on this topic.

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  24. Wow...I read the first post and then onto the next..and I thought..I missed your birthday!! So sweet happy birthday wishes Sarah..belated as they may be. I am just loving your photographs..and recipes..and stories...and the list goes on. They are all so enchanting..

    This paragraph really resonated with me...

    "For those of us with artistic inclinations, we write, we draw, we photograph, we dance, or in my case, I cook in order to work through, discover, and demonstrate my feelings and emotions. I think my time in the kitchen has meanings far deeper than my attempt at simply following directions or merely gathering ingredients."

    What you think is true Sarah..your time in the kitchen has far deeper meaning..and we get to enjoy it all. Keep creating..it is so much fun to follow along.

    Jeanne xx

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    1. Jeanne, I am so happy that you enjoy following along because I am right "there" with your "Collage of Life" in New Hampshire and Ho Chih Min...and all of your adventures in between!

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  25. I was thinking a lot regarding this topic, so thanks for bringing it up here. You certainly have a good writing style i like, so will be subscribing to your blog.

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