We turned on the light in the baby’s room last night and left it on until we went to bed. I’d initially turned it on to hang a watercolor before dinner and had forgotten all about it. An hour or so later, I yelled up the stairs to Sam that the light was still on but he already knew. He didn’t want to turn it off. When you’re almost a week past your due date, it’s nice to sense a little light in there.
Everyone says to enjoy it. To relish this time between the two of you. To catch up on books and movies and make foods you love. And we did this for awhile. But there is this inbetween-ness that won’t vacate the premises, a sense that we’re still firmly in one familiar world (answering work emails and raking leaves) while staring at the hospital bag that’s been packed for weeks and the empty carseat that lays waiting — signs of the next, not-so-familiar world. And yet, we are trying to enjoy it all. I go on long walks and sometimes Sam will join or I’ll meet up with a girlfriend. We’ve been preparing food for each other, seeing a few movies out, making fires, eating donuts and reading. We are ready, now more than ever. But Sprout seems to be letting us know that it’s not yet quite time yet.
The funny thing about this inbetween time (written about so well in this article forwarded by my friend, Lane) is that virtually everything feels like it’s on hold, like there’s this giant pause button that you carefully maneuver around with each passing day. Our dishwasher is broken but I haven’t called the repairman yet because, ‘what if I go into labor on the day he’s to arrive?’ I keep hemming and hawing when making follow-up doctor or acupuncture appointments, assuring each secretary that there’s no way I’ll be back so it’s really not necessary. And then, sure enough, the following week, wearing the same trusty pair of maternity jeans, I’m sheepishly strolling back in.
The more days that pass, the less comfortable I’m feeling in my body. Because I was lucky to have such an easy pregnancy, this part is certainly new and unexpected. For me, the difference between 39 weeks pregnant and almost 41 weeks is notable. My sister says this is what I get for proclaiming how much I loved being pregnant for all those months. That this is the universe’s way of saying ‘you did, did you?’ And she may be right. But I guess in the big picture of things these long, slow days will eventually become blips tumbling into one tangle of memories: lake walks, fallen leaves, coffee, baby manuals, movies, couch naps, ice cream, and doctor’s visits. Lentil stews, black leggings, squats in the shower, acupuncture needles, cod liver oil, and having Sam help hoist me out of bed in the morning. And what will replace those cloudy, tangled blips will be a tiny human that we’re very much hoping to meet this week. Until then, I have a feeling the nursery light will be on.
* * *
I baked these scones late last night in a small bout of sleeplessness. I looked at a bunch of scone recipes I’ve developed in the past and sort of joined them all together, and the result is a new favorite. They’re humble, light and fragrant — not too sweet, very lightly spiced, and really good with butter and jam. Or just warm on their own. The fact that they’re drop scones and don’t require any rolling or shaping make them a great ‘I want to bake something quick and I don’t have a ton of energy treat. And it turns out they’re a most worthwhile time filler for all of the inbetween-ness. I hope you like them as much as we do.
If you’re not familiar with sultanas, they’re really just a fancy name for golden raisins. The kind I use here look a little darker than the ones you may be used to seeing in stores because they’re unsulphered (sulpher dioxide is a preservative that makes them so pretty and golden) but certainly use whichever is easy for you to find. You could also use currents, regular raisins or dried cranberries instead.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper (or spray with non-stick spray).
In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, ground spices, salt and orange zest. Add the cubed butter and, using your hands or a pastry cutter, rub or cut it into the flour mixture until it resembles small, course peas. It’s o.k. to have a few larger chunks of butter.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, heavy cream, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and, with a large wooden spoon or flat spatula, stir until the dough gathers together in an uneven ball. Fold in the sultana raisins. Make sure all the flour is incorporated, but be careful not to overmix. Refrigerate the dough for 10 minutes.
Using a large spoon, drop 10 even mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 16-17 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Let the scones cool on a wire rack before serving.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.