A hazy sky today. The wish for San Francisco’s Indian Summer sun — or fog, whichever — is particularly strong. Fall in the city by the bay with its deep blue sky, the sand of Baker Beach warm underneath feet, the wind whipping as it inevitably does. Two years ago we walked the trail at Land’s End with the newly born babe and watched as tanker ships sailed under the bridge and out into the vast Pacific. A breeze whistled through the cyprus trees, she slept on, and it seemed impossible we were in our last days in that city. It is a rare a day passes that we don’t think of it, or miss it, or long to be back.
But after all these are small, safe, ordinary wants and hardly worth remarking upon. The world feels more tumultuous lately even than it typically does: To the north, babies die because of chemical bombings; to the west fathers and toddlers are killed in hospital; to the north west boats laden with those fleeing conflict sink or survive depending on not much at all beyond luck or a rescue ship. Europe is closed or welcoming, depending on country. Morocco, disappointedly, is jailing journalists and activists. And this is just the tiniest tip of the sure-melt-soon iceberg. Sometimes it seems too impossible to be real.
And sometimes it feels so foolish, so very naive, to write about food, this most basic of needs that so many lack. Is my morning cup of coffee worth documenting? Or my flaky pastry? Perhaps … or perhaps not. Or perhaps holding on to the little daily rituals, which in my household so often involve food, we are able to recognize how fortunate we are to have a home in which to make the coffee, a refrigerator that runs smoothly and contains all sort of nourishing and healthy things to eat, a pantry stocked with pumpkin seeds and quinoa and brown rice and whole grain flours. We must not forget that these things are not a given. They are not an expectation. The opportunity to feel homesick, to indulge in a freshly baked cookie, to dream and plot a future life in California I do not take for granted. I do not ever want to take comfort for granted.
When my husband and I were dating – if you can really date one of your oldest friends – he emailed me from North Africa and included a saying that has always stuck with me: shway asal shway basal, loosely translated as life is a little honey, little onion. On days when the news is even grimmer than usual I hold on to those words (though it’s true if you’d told me then I’d be living in Saudi Arabia a few years down the road I would have laughed in disbelief).
Each year to celebrate our wedding anniversary I bake a small version of our wedding cake ; it always includes jam (this year I swapped a last jar of my strawberry-rhubarb jam from California for the blackberry) and homemade lemon curd. This time I used honey in place of the sugar and after I put down my digital New York Times for day and sighed most heavily over the reality of the world at this moment that saying came back to me. For that is life, isn’t it? The balance of the sharp and soft, the bitter and the sweet, the honey and the onion. We have just a few short years on this earth to hug our children and pick apples and make some sort of positive mark on the planet.
As I stand in my desert kitchen that strangely reminds me a bit of my old apartment kitchen in San Francisco – it’s probably the outdated cabinets and formica countertops that does it – with my girl sleeping upstairs, a bowl of lemons and a jar of honey open before me, I choose, this day, to focus on the sweet. It is the only way.
Makes about 1-1 1/2 cups
3 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons) – note: I do not like Meyer lemons for this recipe; I do not find them to be tart enough
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, honey and lemon juice until blended.
Cook, stirring constantly to prevent from curdling, until the mixture becomes thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps.
Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Let cool.
The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.