I’ve been back from my trip East for a couple of weeks now and think I’ve finally caught up with sleep and processed all my memories along with the more than 500 photos I took. It’s a relaxing task to process photos after a trip and I find myself grinning like a sap as I work, time passing much more quickly than I’d like. Laundry, dishes, and other chores are waiting, but to be so engrossed in a task that little else interferes with is a good thing — something that confirms I enjoy what I’m doing. It helps when the photos I’m processing are of good things as well: lovely places, good times with people I care about, and great food, of course.
September is my favorite month.
I suppose many would say their birthday month was their favorite — that is if they’re the type who thinks about such things — but that’s not why I love September. Countless years of its signaling promise and the beginning of so much that is new has me thinking this way — even when leaves are just now only barely beginning to show signs of seasonal change. I’ve been a schoolie most of my life, so I can’t separate September from that. New schools, new friends, textbooks, notebooks, pencils…sack lunches packed with all the best things…
I’m at that place I’m so familiar with — the place where it seems as if I’m floating on a river lazily making its way to a point in the distance. I could swim and get to wherever there is more quickly, or I can do what I’m doing — floating. Knowing time will pass and I’ll get there.
And then I snap out of it. Like this morning.
Eight days before we leave for the UK. Eight. After months and months of planning every single tiny detail, eight days will fly by and as much as I’ve questioned and searched and adjusted to make sure everything is perfect, I swear I’ve forgotten something. My husband has indulged my sometimes nightly litany of hairsplitting with gentle logic and comments of support.
I’m sure everything will be fine, he tells me. The other vacations you’ve planned have been great.
On the days I most want to sleep in, I find myself staring into the dark wondering what time it is. Falling back into a sound sleep rarely happens as mental list-making begins. This isn’t something I choose to do, but once it begins, I give in and quietly head downstairs to wait for sunrise.
The most pleasant aspect of being awake at 3 a.m. is the quiet; the refrigerator’s soft whirring and a clock ticking somewhere in the house magnify the silence. If I’m lucky, I will have remembered to bring my book downstairs, finally able to read more than the pathetic page or so I manage to get in each night before nodding off. Otherwise, I’m left to leaf through food magazines or cookbooks, looking for an excuse to organize a dinner to try a few new recipes.
Within a few hours, the room takes on a rosy glow as the rising sun creates a burst of purple, then magenta against the clouds over the mountains in the east. When it finally crests the skyline, brilliant light shoots through the kitchen window, creating a show of patterns against the wall that has me reaching for my camera.
The squeak of floorboards upstairs lets me know that someone else is awake and so I can begin my favorite breakfast. The aroma won’t quite attract attention that bacon does, but it will be a welcomed treat just the same.
Everyone has their rituals for special days — whether they involve huge family gatherings, or quiet time scheduled for two, food has a tendency to permeate them all. I know. Big surprise. With respect to Thanksgiving, my mother always insisted that we eat early — 1pm. I guess her mother did, so the tradition was passed along, allowing for the even more important tradition of getting all the leftovers out at about 7pm to begin the eating frenzy again. You know, just in case someone didn't have turkey coming out their ears yet.
When I met my husband, my family's early eating time meant that we could eat with them — (a dinner I made…) and then like complete lunatics the loving young people we were, head over to his family's house to eat again, usually at about 6pm. We could barely move when we were finished, our midsections stretched beyond anything we'd imagined before, and swearing we wouldn't eat turkey for an entire year. Funny how that works, isn't it?
Another thing I inherited was the notion of a holiday breakfast — but it wasn't from my family.
I was used to eating at midday, so the idea of a big breakfast not only made me want to crawl under a table to get away from even thinking of eating more food on such a calorie laden day, but cringe at the thought of trying to put a special breakfast on the table while I was in the middle of trying to pull off Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. When my husband told me not to worry, that he'd make breakfast, I wasn't soothed by his cheerful smile or the image of two of us doing completely different things in such a small space on such a busy day.
We've all aged, and in the years we've been married, we've established our own traditions. A holiday breakfast seems to have stuck — and it works, but only when I'm not also making the bulk of the holiday dinner and we're not eating until 7pm. Plus, believe it or not, my husband is the turkey dude now. Go figure. That leaves me time to think of other things — like breakfast.
Hence, the adoption of a recipe I found years ago when I wanted something I could make the night before, pop in the fridge, and then into the oven the next morning: Fat Momma's French Toast. Since that time, I've altered the recipe, of course, and it's a bit different each time I make it. But I tried something truly different a few days ago, and we enjoyed "breakfast" for dinner, another thing we did about once a week when I was growing up.
Funny, though. As we mulled over the first bites of my latest, we knew it was more of a dessert — no longer French toast. And with the day old pumpkin braid I had left over from the dinner rolls I made, my Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding was born.