Blackcurrants and black oxen

Blackcurrants

School’s out for the summer! This was the last week (well, 2 short days) of school. As Isaac said, we’ll be together every minute from here-on-in. And I’m genuinely happy about that! Last week was a funny week. The boys had field trips and mostly goofed off during the day, but they were wound up. They were exhausted. They couldn’t fall asleep on the light-late nights. They woke up through the night thinking they were late for their field trips. They were fragile. David and I agreed to give them plenty of space, and recognize their status as volatile substances. Malcolm had a few meltdowns. You’d ask him to tie his shoes. He’d give you a (ridiculously, unfairly adorable) sticken look, and then he’d lie on the floor and wail that nobody liked him. I never react well in these situations. I get impatient and yell, and worry, and make everything a thousand times worse. One evening we decided to cool down by picking blackcurrants. I have one blackcurrant bush. I’ve had it three years, and it’s just now starting to produce lovely lovely fruit. It’s laden!! I’m so thrilled. Malcolm was still in a serious, reflective mood, and as he picked the fruit he said, “starry night.” “They look like a starry night?” I asked, in my slow way. “A galaxy somewhere in space that you could never go.” Malcolm replied. “Doesn’t space seem awfully dreamy?” He asked. And then we talked about space for a while, and darkness, and dreams. And we both felt calmer and happier.

One thing I love about Malcolm is that he’s game. If you want to go for a walk, any time of the day, he’ll pop on his shoes and come along with you. If you have to go to the grocery store, he’ll push your cart, and only ask for two or three treats you wouldn’t ordinarily buy. If you want to go for a jog, he’ll come with you, and you’ll discover a secret path on the other other side of the towpath, and running along it will be like flying with ewoks, and he’ll chant “fun fun fun fun,” the whole time you run. And if you want to go take photographs of oxen you’ve been admiring for months – he’s your man! There are these oxen that live in a field up the road. They’re gorgeous! There’s a black one, a grey one with a white face, and a blue roan, which is the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen! I’ve had a crush on them for some while, and I’ve nearly driven into oncoming traffic innumerable times, trying to get a better look at them. ONE OF THEM HAD A BABY!! THE BLUE ROAN DID!! Holy smoke! (They look like holy smoke!!) On hot days they wander in this little wooded section of their pasture, and the sight of three giant oxen in a lovely dapply little patch of trees just kills me. And then there’s the baby!! Phew.

Blue roan &baby ox

Another way that Malcolm is game is that he’ll try anything I make. He really loved this blackcurrant, white chocolate, dark chocolate chip ice cream. It’s kind of a frankenstein ice cream. I picked a bowl of blackcurrants – a scant cupful, and I couldn’t wait to try them. So I cooked them with plenty of sugar (probably equal parts to the currants, in the end, I kept adding more) to make a syrup. I strained it, mixed it with some leftover white chocolate pastry cream, stirred in some chocolate chips and some (unwhipped – Malcom’s idea!) heavy cream and froze it in the old donvier. It turned out a lovely texture, but the blackcurrants do have a little bitter kick – even under layers of sugar and cream.

Here’s Jurassic 5 with Monkey Bars, because Malcolm likes them and he’s such a little monkey!

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Strawberry tart with white chocolate pastry cream & hazelnut cocoa crust

Strawberry white chocolate tart

According to family legend, my mother ate a quart of strawberries each day when she was pregnant with me. One of the nice things about a June birthday! To this day I love strawberries, and so do my boys. I could bring home two quarts of strawberries, and they’d eat them before I even had a chance to wash them, if I let them. So I don’t get to make fancy strawberry desserts very often. There’s something so plump and rosy and youthful about strawberries, that it’s no wonder Ingmar Bergman employed them as his time-travelling device in Wild Strawberries. I’m fascinated by the idea of food as a trigger of memory, and I love films that explore memory and dreams, so this scene is one of my favorites. I love his quiet, gentle voice. He’s telling his own story, so he can slow time, and move through it with dream-like ease. And with the odd logic of dreams, he can’t speak to the people that his memory conjures, though he can witness scenes he missed in real life. I love that he’s dressed in dark clothes, and stands in a quiet, darkened hall, but the glow of whitewashed memory washes over him from the bright, busy room he’s looking into. Beautiful! Perhaps this tart is one they might have made for somebody’s name day, on a lovely summer day by the sea. It’s quite simple…a cookie-like crust with dark cocoa and hazelnuts (nutella combination!) is filled with white chocolate pastry cream, and fresh, unsweetened strawberries. It’s like a white-chocolate covered strawberry in tart form. It was fun to watch the boys eat this – the pastry cream is soft and slippery, the crust is a little crunchy, and the strawberries plump and ripe. An alternative preparation would be to fold some unsweetened whipped cream into the pastry cream before you spread it into the tart shell, which would make it like the pretty pavlova cakes I used do dream about as a child!

Strawberry tart

Here’s Shuggie Otis with Strawberry Letter #23
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