waves

gougère

Saturday mornings can be a time when the week catches up with me but I haven't yet caught up with the week. I spent this one at the kitchen table with coffee and a pile of cookbooks.

The wind is still roaring in from the sea with force, still slamming against the house and rushing through the trees. Our front lawn is littered with branches and the only birds I've seen out are seabirds and waterbirds. Today I was introduced to a Victoria tradition: the breakwater on a windy day. On one side the huge waves rolled in and on the other, wind devils danced across the water. Spray crashed over the boardwalk and the high whine of the wind funneling in towards shore filled our ears. There was a log-jam at the appearing-and-disappearing beach and gulls and cormorants climbed against the wind to stay motionless above the roiling water. We walked and staggered our way out along the breakwater, laughing and shrieking as the wave-spray crashed over us. I had my arm up when the spray from one wave arced above, and was immediately wet to the elbow as the wind and water found their way down my sleeve. Our rubber boots were filled to their tops and I was wet from head to toe, through three layers of raincoat and wool. We shared a salty kiss in the lee of the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. On the way back to shore the wind was in our faces and the drops of spray pelted hard as hailstones. We exchanged wild grins with a few folk as delightedly crazed as ourselves, and arrived, shivering and sloshing at the café on shore, where we tipped bootfuls of ocean at the door. I poured out my boots again on our front porch, and wrung out my socks and am now quite warm and dry and ready to do it all over again.

Here is something warm and delicious:

Gougères Savory choux-pastry cheese puffs, adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan baking sheets, lined with parchment

1 c water 3 oz (6 T) butter 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper pinch nutmeg pinch thyme (crumbled if dry, minced if fresh) 3/4 c AP flour (all-purpose) 4 eggs 2/3 c grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring water to a boil with the butter and seasonings and boil slowly until the butter has melted. Meanwhile, measure the flour and make sure the cheese is grated.

Remove from heat and immediately pour in all the flour at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for several seconds to blend thoroughly. Then beat over moderately high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until mixture leaves the sides of the pan, forms a mass, and begins to film the bottom of the pan.

Remove saucepan from heat and make a well in the centre of paste. Break one egg into the well and beat into the paste for several seconds until it has absorbed. Continue with the rest of the eggs, beating them in one by one. Beat for a moment more to be sure all is well blended and smooth. Then beat in cheese.

Drop the paste onto the parchment-lined baking sheets with a spoon (a full tablespoon, perhaps, blobs approx. 2" across) Leave blob-sizd spaces between the blobs as they will grow! Alternatively, for neater puffs use a piping bag. You can make smaller puffs: reduce baking time to 20 minutes for puffs 1" across. Option: for shiny puffs, brush with beaten egg before baking. You can also sprinkle more grated cheese on top if desired.

Bake, depending on size, for about 25-28 minutes (less for smaller puffs). The puffs are done when they have doubled in size, are golden brown, and firm and crusty to touch. Remove them from the oven and pierce the side of each puff with a sharp knife. Then set in the turned-off oven and leave the door ajar for 10 minutes (this stops them from collapsing). Eat. Or cool on a wire rack, and then eat.

swells

This morning I dragged my inner self kicking and screaming to the office. I was almost late and all but my physical self clung to everything beautiful and calm that I passed along the way. Dreams like kites burst out of me, tethered by longing. One day I will find myself spending days how I choose. However, I swam in the ocean this afternoon, which makes up for a lot. I splashed around at a place where the water is cool and clear, and angled rocks make a small tucked-away beach at the end of a winding rural road. There were big swells coming in; they lifted and lulled me as I tilted my head back to take in the wind-tossed treetops. Small blackberries at the top of the beach trail. Home, and dinner, and tea. Summer is sliding by quickly.

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July 8

Somehow when I think of summer I tend to picture lazy days spent reading novels in a hammock or bare feet sun-browned and barnacle-toughened padding along dry forest paths. This summer has not been that. It's been full, hectic, busy, the kind with too many workdays. Last month was my high school reunion, which I emphatically said I would avoid, but a chance encounter, a random comment, and all of a sudden we had tickets. An afternoon at the lake with old friends was just as good as it ever was, and felt so overdue. The reunion itself was both incredibly awkward and far more fun than expected. It was interesting the way people looked like themselves, but more, or less, or different than back then at any rate, everyone wearing ten years differently. To my great frustration, I spent the whole next week wishing I had worn my polka dotted dress instead. Ridiculous. This past Sunday morning we slept late and stumbled around the house confused and unsettled. The sky was an eerie sepia-orange-pink, the inside of our house at midmorning was dark as evening. We hoped that a storm was rolling in, and would bring rain, but it just brewed and brooded until we couldn't take it and drove across town in the muggy heat to the lake my husband swam in as a child. I had to turn on the headlights in order to see the console.The sun was a red disk in the smoggish sky and a faint taste of smoke told us what we had begun to expect: this was forest fires. The winds had shifted, bringing to our awareness to what's going on in much of the rest of this province, and it was like a mild version of the July I spent up north last summer.  At the lake, the green of the trees was almost fluorescent in the twilight-zone kind of light. The water was refreshing, normalizing, and we returned home in the afternoon able to pick up the threads of tasks we had scattered in the morning.

The reach-tug of the waves along the shore this morning while I walked home from my job in town was validating and soothing to some piece of me that wants freedom and creativity above all, that struggles to meet the schedules of the mundane and hopes pockets of time would open when wished for and treasures would show up on the most drudging of days. I did see a northern flicker and a host of robins though, so that is something.

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