There is a Zen story about a monk who while climbing a steep mountain was confronted by a ferocious tiger that was blocking his path. Below him, the cliff fell away to gaping chasm. While the monk was deciding what to do next, he turned his gaze to the mountainside in front of his face and his eyes fell upon a tiny plant that somehow had managed to root itself in a crevice. The plant's single stem was holding a perfect wild strawberry, ripe and red and glistening in dew. The monk reached out his hand, plucked the little fruit, pressed it against his tongue, and closed his eyes in delight.
Striving to live in the present moment, I love to go back to this short tale, especially in times of adversity, and remind myself to carpe diem and savour the moment. It is so small of an effort, after all, to embrace the sunlight in the morning, to dive in the joy of bathing in the breeze, and to simply pay attention to your life's "strawberries".
Month of May, in all its splendor, is filled with those simple pleasures that make us close or rather widely open our eyes and immerse ourselves in the pure bliss of what is real right now. From being woken up in the morning with the trilling song of the sparrow, through the greeting smiles of the tiny dew drops on the tulips and the ephemeral beauty of the cherry blossoms to the velvet lawns covered with pink magnolia petals and the inviting air after rain, the freshness and the newness of the world around us is mind-bogging. The possibilities of pleasant life are right at hand if we only notice and choose to live fully. It is a spiritual awakening.
And then in May, we honor our mothers with one of my favorite celebrations - Mother's Day. I have to share, I had the most joyous and special of celebrations filled with simple joys, peace and love. I entirely followed my thoughtful son's plan for the day and I was gifted with a stop at the flower market and a big pot of lavender; a brunch at one of the beautiful little kitchen & bar restaurants in the city where the French press coffee is served in vintage china, the water is poured from Bulleit Bourbon jugs and little bunches of lavender are tables' centrepieces; a time for antiquing at my favorite store only to find the most charming of old photographs, and of course, the ultimate gift of delicate, beautiful and certainly flavourful French macarons from one of the most impressive patisseries in town...
But above all, my heart is full with gratefulness and joy of the fact that our almost sixteen-year-old boy has learned how to appreciate the simple things that make up our daily life worth living and how to create pleasure for himself and others. I hope, in times of disappointments and difficulties, he will be able to notice the tiny wild strawberry, reach out his hand and pick this priceless jewel of the present moment. Life is full and honest when we do not focus on the "tigers"of the past or the future, but rather on the beautiful "strawberry" within arm's reach, here and now.
Month of May makes me put my apron more often than ever and bake the prettiest and most simple tea cake with berry jam and meringue topping out of my mom's recipe journal she gifted me years ago... Perhaps because I am a seeker of "strawberry" moments...
Tea Cake with Jam and Meringue Topping
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1-cup (250g) sugar
125g butter, melted
1 cup (250g) milk
1 1/2 cups (400g) plain flour
1 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tbs. pure vanilla extract
250g jam (cherry jam, strawberry jam)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch-round cake pan; dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.
Stir flour with baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add egg yolks, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Gently beat in half of the flour mixture, and then add ¾ cup milk. Repeat, ending with flour mixture.
Spread the mixture evenly on the cake pan. Bake in the centre of oven until the cake is golden brown, about 25 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the meringue topping by beating the egg whites in a large bowl until frothy. Gradually beat in sugar, until sugar is dissolved and stiff glossy peaks form. (Beat in vanilla, optional). Remember, egg whites beat best if at room temperature.
When the cake is ready, spread the jam evenly over the baked cake. Top with the whipped meringue spreading. Place the cake back in the oven and bake for additional 5 to 7 minutes or until the edges of the meringue have become golden brown.
Take out of the oven and let it cool completely.
Sharing with Home Sweet Home/ Pink Saturday