A Wrinkle in Thyme

I work as a nanny for four French children between the ages of two and six, which can get a bit exhausting at times. The four and six-year-olds are inquisitive (to say the least), constantly asking me, “Where are you going? When are you coming back? Why are you reading that? Will you come play with me?” The two-year-old twins, just learning how to express themselves clearly, ask “Quoi? Quoi? Quoi” while pointing to various objects throughout the house.

The children’s questions are pretty easy to answer, but questions from elsewhere are more difficult. For example, a recent exam for my culinary science class asked about the properties of gelatin, and why in a panna cotta the structure could stay firm in its mold but also spread so well on a cracker.

I must admit, though: at times it gets tiresome, and every once in a while I wish the children (and my culinary science professor) would just stop asking questions. But two weeks ago, as I listened to the children’s mother on the phone with family in Paris, I realized the importance of being able to question. The journalists and cartoonists who worked at Charlie Hebdo were murdered because they questioned extremists through word and art. They were robbed of their expression, which robbed them of their lives.

Though there may be times when I don’t feel like answering the children’s questions, I realize it is important to encourage such curiosity, even if only in a small way, so that they may always feel the freedom to express themselves. In Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, give the children hints and direction throughout their journey. Their names alone represent the importance of questioning as a way to illuminate darkness. An inquisitive mind and a childlike curiosity are great powers, and they make finding any answer an exciting adventure, as Meg discovers in L’Engle’s beloved novel. (Although even now, I just prefer to leave the properties of gelatin as a big question mark.) DSC_0254

Savory panna cotta:

350 ml heavy cream

150 ml whole milk

125 g goat cheese

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

~10 sprigs of thyme

1/2 teaspoon of salt

4 gelatin leaves

Instruction:

1. Soak gelatin leaves in cold water for several minutes.

2. In the meantime, on medium heat, whisk cream, milk, and goat cheese until cheese is melted. When simmering, add thyme, lemon zest and juice, and salt, and turn off heat. Let sit for five minutes, then strain into a bowl.

3. Squeeze excess moisture from gelatin leaves and whisk into hot, strained cream mixture until dissolved. Optionally transfer to pitcher to make pouring into mold easier.

4. Pour into any mold of your choosing, then chill in refrigerator until set. (Depending on size of mold, this could take anywhere from one hour to overnight.)

5. When set, use a paring knife to loosen the edges of the panna cotta from the mold. Turn out onto plate, and serve with crackers, an arugula salad, or any sort of chutney.

Enjoy thyme and goat cheese panna cotta with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Thyme, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

This Side of Peared Ice

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One of my favorite things to do during summertime evenings is put on jazz and enjoy a refreshing cocktail. In so many of his books, F. Scott Fitzgerald paints the Jazz Age as a time when the hand was perpetually holding a champagne glass and the foot was constantly tapping along to a syncopated tune. But Princeton student Amory Blaine in This Side of Paradise reminds me how cocktail hour and the luxuries of adulthood are not a privilege; they are an earned right that can only be enjoyed after the ever-bumpy ‘coming of age’ progression.

This Side of Paradise is a novel that, though written and set almost a century ago, describes every college student’s slog. Throughout the novel, Amory learns to occupy the space between parental impact, proper mentorship, academic vocation, and relationships stopping and starting. Just as the punch of lemon zest blends with mature thyme and elegant pear, seemingly different components of Amory’s (and any eighteen-ish year old’s) life slowly come together and begin to make sense.

I am able to compare my own time at college with Amory’s from the calm of my back porch as a jazz melody softly plays from inside. Though my roaring twenties are far from over, I am able to enjoy a side of paradise that can only come from cocktail hour.

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Cocktail:

1 pear

1 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

5 sprigs thyme

1 lemon (zest and juice)

1 1/2 cups vodka

1 bottle champagne

Instruction:

1. Use a melon baller (also known as a Parisienne scoop) to make small pear balls. Put in freezer on parchment paper and leave for at least an hour.

2. In a small saucepan, add water, sugar, thyme, remaining pear trimmings, and lemon zest. Heat until sugar has dissolved, then set aside to cool down and infuse.

3. Strain simple syrup and shake over ice with vodka and lemon juice.

4. Fill about a third of your cocktail glass with the vodka mixture. Top with champagne. Garnish with frozen pear balls and lemon zest.

Enjoy this summery cocktail with This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and check in at warandpeach.wordpress.com for future recipes and book reviews. Cheers!