I knew I’d be traveling to my mom’s cabin in Upstate New York long before Sam and I started dating. But a few months ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted to share this place with him. So I wrote a letter with my flight number and a few lines. Something to the effect of: Family is important to me. You’re important to me. I’d love for you to be here. A few weeks later—after having not seen each other for five weeks and after coming to terms with the fact that Sam was swamped with work and wouldn’t be able to make it to the cabin —weeks that had started to feel like months as the reality of tight hand-holding, knee-cap cupping, and the sexiest neck on this side of the Mississippi became more of a memory than I was all that comfortable with, I too got an email with a flight number. It wasn’t my flight number. The passenger’s name was Sam.
And so it was: we would travel to the cabin together. And it’d go a little something like this: Sam would make fun of the size of my suitcase (it was a little overboard, I’ll admit) but would also be the first to lug it up curbs and staircases. He met my aunts and uncles, grandparents, a few cousins and significant others and settled right into the fine art of porch-sitting with comfort and grace.
He sang along to “America the Beautiful” after a few Negronis at the dinner table on the 4th of July (this is, for the record, the first time we’ve done this. I swear.) He flipped blueberry pancakes like a champ for a gaggle of brightly-chinoed and loafered men and cousins gearing up to get in a run in before the mosquitoes descended.
He beat me at tennis after I’d boasted that it could never happen. He helped me quickly lick the too-big soft-serve cone I mistakenly ordered just so it wouldn’t drip all over the hot car. He volunteered to always drive and point out landmarks so I could easily find my way around the country roads if need be.
Sam entertained himself while Zoe and I whipped up banana pudding in the kitchen and had earth-shatteringly important conversations such as how to best relay tone in text messages or the average price of a studio apartment in Manhattan.
In the late afternoon, Sam would disappear on the kayak around noses and bends and row back after what seemed like hours as if it were nothing. He’d ask my grandmother how she and my grandfather met and tell me things about the two of them I’d never known before. We’d stay up late reading in overstuffed arm chairs while everyone else was tucked into bed, taking turns refilling the one glass of bourbon that we passed back and forth. The whirring upstairs fan, the clanking of ice cubes, and the turning of pages the only sounds disrupting the hot, still night. He’d study maps of the area surrounding the cabin and read old books on local history strewn throughout the bedrooms. And chat with men on ferries.
Thinking back on the past week and a half, I feel a sense of calm. A calm that is so common after a good vacation where the days are punctuated only by meals, swims, occasional tennis matches, and chapters of whatever novel you’re reading.
Days stretch on and on and you begin to feel farther and farther from the stresses of your business or rent checks or finding a decent parking spot outside of your apartment. So it’s that calm, certainly. But it’s also a calm that has stemmed from a certain kind of knowing. A knowing that, despite the distance and the time that inevitably must pass before we see each other again, things are just right. We’re doing things just right. And I know the future will include many more drinks, walks, morning runs, early evening swims, airplane trips, talks about books, and pancakes.
So I leave you this morning with a recipe for the blueberry pancakes we made up at the cabin. Pancakes have been written about before, for sure. In many ways, there’s nothing revolutionary to discuss—there are only so many ways to do a new kind of pancake. So you won’t find that here. But you will find a rock-solid recipe adapted from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook that has a likeable (and not all that common) splash of melted butter in the batter itself—a recipe that you can whip up in moments to feed a hungry morning crowd gathered around your dining room table.
A recipe your grandpa might talk about the next day. As with most pancake recipes, feel free to add your favorite fruit or little bits of chocolate. You can easily turn these into fluffier pancakes (referred to as griddlecakes in the book) with a trick that Sam taught me and that The Fanny Farmer Cookbook mentions, too: whip the egg whites and incorporate them separately.
The amount of milk you use here determines the thickness of the pancakes, so start slow.
Slightly adapted from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook
Beat the milk, butter and egg lightly in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt and add them all at once to the first mixture, stirring just enough to dampen the flour. Add blueberries and stir to combine. Lightly butter a griddle and over medium heat, pour about ¼ cup (for larger griddlecakes) of batter to form each pancake.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)