Daffodils symbolize hope, rebirth and new beginnings. I want to share daffodils with everyone reading this because we could all use a little hope in our lives. Many people who I love are enduring various stages of grief.
One lost a father to disease after a long, complicated struggle.
Another is haunted by the death of a friend and fellow soldier. He lives every day not knowing if the latest round of mortars will claim more life (including his own). The world he has experienced for the past few years is one I can intellectualize but barely fathom. He calls it “forced enlightenment.”
A tough, beautiful broad I know grieves the loss of a stillborn child and I hate myself for not ever knowing what to say. She is pregnant again and I dream about both of her babies. Why does fate have to play such a cruel, beautiful hand?
An entire community I’ve come to be a part of is grieving the loss of its matriarch; a woman so charismatic as to have spun irretractable tendrils of stories, gatherings and words across the entire globe in her inimitable, lilting way. In reading the countless eulogies written about her in the short span of one week, it strikes me that she had the rare quality of being able to make everyone who knew her feel as though they were her best friend. I met her only twice and both times she pressed a book into my hands. Her literary legacy will touch many generations. It is no wonder she rests in the hearts of thousands.
A girlfriend is grieving the loss of a mother so admirably I’m afraid to hug her for fear that she’ll have to find room to comfort me within her pain. Over oysters, champagne and candid conversation, she mentioned how nice it was to talk through rather than around her grief. It forced me to think how adept we’ve all become at masking the undercurrent of sadness. From T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
We offer up cautious mumbles about the weather when we really want to scream “God damn it! Why isn’t this in-vitro working? Did I do something to deserve a childless life?”
The truly social media-savvy are people who give us the sense, through calculated glimpses, that we really know them. Some of my favorite blog comments come from people who say things like “I feel like we must have been best friends in a former life after reading your last post.” Those comments make me smile, and I think about them when I’m fighting with my husband or being berated by my father for never amounting to the artist he just knew I could’ve been. I seethe to myself, “there are other people who love me and don’t care if I forgot to pay the utility bill this month because I was trolling eBay for cheap Louboutins.”
But the fact is, it’s virtually impossible to let the world in all the time, and the reasonable facsimile of me is better than the reality some of the time. Do you want to know that I haven’t showered in three days and that I’ve been on my period for an interminable two weeks? Would I ask your advice if I were thinking of moving states, contemplating extended-care facilities for aging loved ones, or going under the knife for elective surgery (none of which I’m doing, currently)? Where do divorce and death fall on that spectrum? The truth is that I do cook all sorts of crazy shit in the kitchen while wearing heels and a nice dress (most of the time), but a host of other things define me that I naturally protect. Should I? In a world where best friends are most-accessible in 140 characters and simple letter-writing has become a rarified art, are the well-adjusted those who convey emotions with emoticons while snapping Instagrams of their children eating Popsicles or those who weep in silent pools, too afraid to pick up the phone?
Ultimately what I question is whether our endless quest for unlimited, constant global communication is really pushing us further apart. I was in my favorite small grocery store the other day- it sits on the shore of Lake Washington and is adjacent to the marina where we keep our sailboat. One of only four aisles total is entirely devoted to wine, which is probably why I love it. Because of boating, we’re there multiple times a day in summer and the close-knit staff has avidly-watched my child grow from womb to toddler.
I was hurriedly-tearing through the aisles on the hunt for butter and cocoa. My earbuds were in and I was on a Skype call with a friend in London. I found myself annoyed that, because I was on Skype, I could not switch my iPhone out of the Skype app and into the “notes” section where I had typed my grocery list to see if I remembered everything. I was further annoyed that the checker wanted to take that moment to chat with me about the Don McLean song we had hummed together the previous week despite the fact that I was obviously on a call.
I mouthed to her “It’s London, sorry, I’ve got to run,” then I immediately felt ashamed. This little iPhone has become a big barrier from the real world. When my child gets sick, who is more likely to give him a hug- the checker who has known him since before he was born or the dear but distant friend many thousands of miles away?
I lay my thoughts bare in this post to give deeper insight into who I am. Virtually-speaking, I want to be the same person I am in the flesh. I want YOU to know ME so that when you need a hug you won’t be afraid to ask. And I want you to know that I will always give it. I am a hugger and I’d like to think I’m pretty good at it. I am not so good at friendship kisses though; living in Italy kind of ruined that for me. I was fine when I was there- successfully mastering the dual-cheeked kiss, first the left and then the right. When I moved back to the States, everything got terribly-convoluted. Some people go straight for the mouth, some want three kisses instead of two, and it results in too much saliva and a strained neck. But hugs, if you want hugs, I am your woman. A friend told me once that I hug like a fat grandma. I knew exactly what she meant. I still remember my nursery school teacher’s hugs. She was a jolly, fat grandma and her hugs were better than chocolate chip cookies.
I also write to convey something serious. Of all things that peel souls off this earth, I hate cancer the very most. I know I’m not alone. That I served the food I’m finally getting around to discussing in this post in daffodil cups is no coincidence. Daffodils are symbolically linked to cancer-fighting. There is even a campaign by the American Cancer Society called the Daffodil Days. It is everyone’s opportunity to create a world with more birthdays by helping people stay well and get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back against cancer.
This simple, elegant dish will cement your title as Dinner Party Host of the Century. Leave the daffodils on the table as your guests arrive, and even through the first course, if you’re brave enough. You can serve this as an amuse bouche or a palate cleanser. The magic happens when you instruct diners to take up the nearest daffodil flower and drink the delicate nectar tucked inside its corona. It is thrilling to discover that the table’s décor is, in fact, part of the meal. I composed the nectar of three elements: corn cream, a quail egg yolk cooked en sous vide (you can hard boil, if you wish), and an emulsion of spring onion stems. If hope had a taste, this would be it. It happens that it is gluten-free and vegetarian, which makes it a safe dinner party choice at this point in our culinary history. After your guests have sipped from the daffodil trumpets, you might clink together the limoncello glasses steadying the petals and toast to hope, rebirth and new beginnings.
Daffodil Corn Cream Amuse Bouche
*note- Do not eat the daffodil petals. Daffodil is not technically an edible flower, though I’ve eaten my fair share and none of the hallucinogenic poison hullabaloo ever manifested.
- 8 cooked quail egg yolks (either hard-boiled or sous vided)
- 8 spring onions, green part only
- 1 tbsp baking soda
- 6 tablespoons butter
- Salt, to taste
- 1- 16 oz package frozen organic sweet corn
- ½ c heavy cream
- Salt, to taste
- 8 daffodils, cleaned (I used organic Mt. Hood variety from my generous neighbor’s garden)
- Blanch the green onions in 1 quart boiling water along with the baking soda for 40 seconds. Strain and blend in an immersion blender along with the butter until completely smooth. Optionally, you may strain the onion butter at this point for an even smoother texture, but I leave the stem particles in for more intensified flavor. Correct seasoning with salt as needed.
- Bring corn and cream to a simmer, stirring frequently until all corn is thawed and mixture is just boiling. Remove from heat and puree in a blender. Pass puree through a sieve to remove any clumps. Adjust seasoning with salt.
- Snip the daffodil stems at the right height so they sit just inside the limoncello or shot glasses you serve them in. Carefully fill each corona (cup) with corn cream, using a small spoon or baster. Spoon in a dot of onion butter. Set the quail egg yolk on top. For best results, compose the daffodils where you intend to serve them. All ingredients can be served room temperature and I had luck with my daffodil amuse bouches sitting on the table a half hour before service. You could play with longer still, if you wish.