Happy mothers’ day to all the moms of the world. And thanks to my mom, for all of the comfort and inspiration you continue to give me.
I go on and on about Proust, and being a mom, and have some pictures of my mother’s day bouquet, after the…JUMP
Here’s Goodie Mob with Guess Who. It’s about their moms. It’s beautiful!
It’s probably impossible to talk about madeleines without mentioning Proust, but that fits in perfectly with my fiendish plan, because that’s precisely why I made these! I love to read Proust – I love his oddly beautiful language, and his meandering stories, which follow the logic of dreams and memories. On this mothers’ day, I’ve been rereading the beginning of Swann’s Way, which is a childishly earnest testament to the power of his mother. He’s overcome with anxiety because his mother didn’t have a chance to kiss him goodnight. He frets and schemes, he sends her secret notes at the dinner table, he listens to her talking in the summer night-warm garden through his window, he risks all by meeting her on the stairs, his heart pounding madly with terror and joy. And he’s rewarded with her presence as she reads him to sleep. He describes the scene later as full of theater and drama, but as you read it you remember quieter scenes of your own. Small anxieties that kept you awake and seemed so awful and important, that some parental logic and a hug could remedy. It’s so strange sometimes to be a mother – to have that strange mom-power to make a hurt better with a kiss, to help someone sleep by pulling a blanket up to their chin. It imparts a heavy sort of joy, and the frightening feeling of not being equal to that power is a big part of the fear of not being ready to be a parent. It’s funny to see the power fade as they grow. My nine-year-old doesn’t want a kiss when he’s hurt, but he can’t sleep without being tucked in a couple of times. Sometimes I’m the anxious one, and he comforts me, and the world gets turned upside down. Of course, as Proust reminds us, you never completely outgrow that feeling of comfort that your mother gives you. And his magical madeleine and tea, which he accepts from his mother on a dreary winter day, brings him such joy that he no longer feels mediocre, accidental, mortal, which is what being an adult feels like, on a bad day.
It’s the tea, as much as the cookie, that elicits this memory. He calls it a magical potion, and he searches his recollections for the source of its power – it’s the lime-flower tea that that his aunt drank, that she dipped her own madeleines in, decades ago, which brings it all to life. “… the waterlilies on the Vivonne and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole of Combray and of its surroundings, taking their proper shapes and growing solid, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.” This tea has always fascinated me! He calls it a tisane, which is an intriguing word, and I’ve always wondered what a “lime-flower” is. Well! It happens to be another word for linden flowers! The fragrance of linden flowers is one of the most beautiful and intoxicating that I can imagine. And, when made into a tea, they do seem to have almost magical powers of healing. They soothe and calm you, they help you sleep, they make you feel better when you’re not well. Mother-love in a small pale gorgeously scented flower! It seems so perfect that they bloom for a short time in spring, when all around you the geese and wood ducks and foxes anxiously lead their fluffy youngsters out of your way, proving that humans aren’t alone in possessing the strange and mysterious mom-power.
We went for a nice walk yesterday, for mothers’ day, and my boys picked me the prettiest bouquet of wildflowers you can imagine. Isaac picked them with such short stems that they were hard to hold, and Malcolm uprooted the whole plant – if you knew them you’d know how perfectly like each of them this is!!
1 cup flour
1/2 t salt
2/3 cup sugar
zest of half a lemon
2 t linden tea (about 2 tea bags)
1 t vanilla
10 T butter
Preheat the oven to 375.
In a large bowl whip the eggs till they’re quite frothy. Add the sugar and vanilla, and keep whisking till it’s all nice and bright yellow and creamy/frothy. Add the flour, salt, lemon zest and linden tea, and stir till it’s all very well mixed ( I abandoned the whisk at this point, because the batter was too thick.)
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Let it boil a few minutes till it almost seems to be turning brown. Take it off the heat, let it cool a minute or two, and then stir rapidly as you add the butter in a thin stream to the batter.
Use the bit of butter left in the pan to treat the madeleine pan. Brush each shell with melted butter. Dust some flour in each one.
Put one slightly rounded tablespoonful of batter in each shell. I tried putting a huge heaping teaspoonful, but it didn’t work well – it was messy. One nice rounded tablespoonful, right it the middle, will be perfect.
Cook for about 13 minutes, till it’s rounded and golden on the top, and the edges are just starting to brown. I moved mine from the bottom shelf to a higher shelf after about 8 minutes so the bottom wouldn’t burn – but your oven might be different. Let it cool a minute or two, and then very carefully use a knife to loosen it and take it out of the pan. Fill the pan again once more – you should just have enough for two batches. Cook again the same way.
When they’re cool, dust them lightly with powdered sugar.
They’re even better as they cool. They’re nice dipped in tea or coffee.