Three is a mercurial age; the amazing thing about having children is that you experience each age again as they go through it. Today was a good day for three. The first day back to school, the day the ballet slippers turned up, the day of the hand-me-down leotard. It came on the heels of a terrible week for three, a week of frustration and tantrums and coughing and tears. We all four were glad for three today.
Twenty-nine, thirty-six, those are other stories. Are we doing it right? I don't know. It's our first time through.
We are trying. This weekend we opened the door to the wood room and realized we were almost out. And so we spent Saturday loading and stacking, walking back and forth over the snowy path from pile to door, pile to door. Later that afternoon, we examined the freezer. We found it in good shape—empty enough, but still some lamb, blueberries, ratatouille. Just enough to see us through. Same went for the supply of tired apples in the extra fridge downstairs, the kitchen's wire basket of winter squash.
I've been trying to come up with new ways to use this food-on-repeat, this food-to-see-us-through. With blueberries, it's too cold for smoothies or icy fruit on cereal, so instead I've been making a compote. I warm up the blueberries in a saucepan, cook them down with a pat of butter and a spoonful of honey. If I have it, I add a squeeze of lemon juice. The resulting sauce is not quite jam, not quite plain fruit. It's good chilled, and it's excellent warm, especially spooned over thick plain yogurt.
The squash I peel and chop and boil, and then I make the pumpkin custard from Nina Planck's Real Food. There's no sugar in it, just maple syrup, and the rest of the ingredients on the list are whole, good.
And then of course, there are the apples. They are no longer much good for slicing. They are soft, mushy—baking fruit. I do what my mother did: hollow them out, stuff them with maple syrup and granola and bake them in a dish of water until they get softer still. Top them with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I peel them and slice them and fry them in the morning with butter and cinnamon, serve them alongside eggs and toast. And I quarter them, sprinkle them with salt, drizzle them with maple syrup, and dot them with butter. Then I fire on the oven and fill the house with the smell of roasting apples til they're soft. I smash them with the back of a wooden spoon, pack them into jars, eat some and tuck the rest into the freezer for Nora's first applesauce.
It's none of it fancy cooking, not this. But we're three and twenty-nine and older and younger, and at times like this it tastes good.
Is your house full of tired winter fruit? Nina Planck published her recipe for pumpkin custard on her Facebook page, over here. For baked stuffed apples, this is the basic idea but for the stuffing I just use homemade granola, a pat of butter, and a drizzle of maple syrup. The roasted applesauce comes from Judy Rodgers. Fried apples...have you never made these? What can I say...I've got Richmond roots. Feel free to sub maple syrup for the sugar. Finally, my blueberry compote looked a lot like this, only with a pat of butter cooked down too.