Do you remember the last flying dream you had? The green cliffs far below you, the ocean only a faint roar, and the air blowing through your hair. Everything is slow, and just the right speed. There is no fear.
That’s how I feel these days, being pregnant. Except, instead of flying, I feel as though I am swimming in warm, still waters. The way is clear, but I can’t see the point at which I will surface. I don’t want to know it yet. Being under the water, and moving my arms and legs like a guppy, I’m smiling in a primal state, deep inside myself. There’s someone else inside myself. Someone is swimming with me, and I am trying to bring us to shore, slowly.
Life has become much quieter these days.
Oh, I am teaching cooking classes, sometimes with the Chef, nearly every week. Standing in front of people, asking them to share their stories while I demonstrate how to make gluten-free bread, leaves me happy, and exhausted. I have days that leave me on the town for hours, meeting people for lunch, running errands, writing in coffee shops. Those days of energy, I carry Little Bean with me everywhere I go, and pat my belly while I listen to someone else talk. But as I move through the grocery store, I think more about what to make us for dinner than the little being growing inside me.
But on more and more days, I am at home by 4, shutting the door on traffic from the freeway, things I should do, places I could go. The light gathers on the hardwood floor of the living room, and I curl up on the couch and lay my head down on the pillows. Sometimes, I nap. Not nearly as often as I did that first trimester — that was three naps a day. Instead, one brief release into sleep leaves me rested for the rest of the day.
But even after the nap, I move slowly. I walk over the clutter on the living room floor and enter the kitchen. I’m hungry. A small ball of fresh mozzarella with Maldon salt. The red bowl full of rice. A cold glass of milk. It doesn’t take much to satisfy me these days. Just enough to fill my belly, a belly that is already fuller than I have ever seen it.
I write, sometimes for hours. (And there is some juicy news to share with you soon, the reason I am writing far more than shows up on this site.) But the prickles start in my wrist, and I fear that I’m starting into carpal tunnel. So many friends have told me stories of their hands seizing up toward the end of their pregnancy that I raise my hands above the keyboard in surrender at the first sign of stiffness.
It really is about surrender these days.
These two prints in the photograph above are by the amazing Nikki McClure, whose keen eye and kind heart move me every time I see her work. On the left, trust. On the right, surrender. These two hang on our bedroom wall, and I look at them every day. I’ve never been through this process before. If this had happened ten years before, I would probably have been filled with fear and hourly trepidation. But for now, I simply know to trust: my body, the time passing slowly, and the days when I need to simply surrender and do not much.
Surrender is such a dirty word, in some people’s minds.
But surrendering to the slow moment? That’s where discoveries come.
Last week, I made crème fraiche from scratch. Before I went gluten-free, and before I met the Chef, I would have thought that was impossible, not to mention crazy. In fact, I’m not even sure I knew what crème fraiche was, until after I had removed the gluten from my life. It was one of those fancy foods that felt far beyond my reach.
However, on my first taste, I was left hungering for more. Thick as pillows punched down on the bed, slightly tangy but not as lip-puckering as sour cream, crème fraiche lightens and smooths, removes the bitterness from foods with one swirl of its sweet creamy self. It doesn’t curdle, but remains as attentive as morning light just after dawn. After I discovered it, I began to dollop it on top of fresh strawberries, or stir some into chicken dishes for sauces. And of course, when I met the Chef, I embraced crème fraiche too. He’s classically French trained. He’d been working with it for decades.
Still, it wasn’t in our home that often, because of the exorbitant prices that grocery stores charge. I passed by it in the dairy aisle, looking back in longing. Another time.
Two weeks ago, I made butter for the first time. Yes, that’s right. I made butter. Yellowy, fresh butter, which stayed soft and slathered itself on bread. For days, I walked around in a daze. “I made butter,” I kept saying to the Chef, who kept laughing.
“Yes, my sweet. You did.”
But he didn’t understand. Having grown up on margarine tubs, and only graduating to the real stuff well into my thirties, I never imagined I could make butter. Butter!
These slow, soft days all seem to be leaning toward making me more domestic. (Well, maybe not with the housekeeping.) We’re going to start a garden soon. I still want to learn how to sew. We walk hand in hand through farmers’ markets, and I take fewer photographs and bring more bags home. And I’ve started feeling like an Amish woman (with a KitchenAid): I made butter.
What else could I do on the next slow afternoon but make crème fraiche?
It’s so amazingly simple to make.
Find some really good cream (I’m ridiculously partial to this one). Let it sit out for a bit, so it’s not cold anymore. (But not too warm, either.) Letting it come to room temperature may be hard these days, but it’s worth the effort.
Combine the warmish cream and few tablespoons of buttermilk in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture until it is about 85°. Pour this in a jar. Put on the lid.
Let it sit in a warmish place for a day or two (more if it’s cold in your house). Stir it every day.
One day, you’ll lift off the lid, put in a spoon, and let out a gasp. Gosh! Crème fraiche.
(If you would like a more detailed explanation of what to do, check out this tutorial on The Splendid Table.)
I’m sure we’ll be doing plenty of science experiments with Little Bean one day. This feels like a good place to start.
Slow, low, swimming and sliding through the days. Life is moving within me. It’s moving without me too.
These are good days to spend hours making a food I have never attempted before.
After August, there probably won’t be much time.
LEMONY CRÈME FRAICHE PASTA
Of course, there was the next question: what to do with the crème fraiche?
One of those slow afternoons, I came home and peered into the refrigerator. Glimpsing my latest creation, I grabbed the crème fraiche and decided to make something up with it, on the spot. My tastebuds remembered a lemony crème fraiche sauce over chicken I had made many times before, based on something I read first on Luisa’s site. In the first weeks of our relationship, I made some for the Chef, and he approved.
But I didn’t want chicken. I wanted pasta.
The first trimester may have meant all protein. But this trimester includes some starches, too. Rice, of course, abounds, once we bought the rice cooker. But lately, I’ve been wanting pasta.
My favorite gluten-free pasta of all time is a rice pasta from Italy, called Il Macchiaiolo. Soft and pliable, with a long stretch shape to hold sauces, this is impeccable pasta. Made by artisans, Il Macchiaiolo has been brought into the US by the good folks at Ritrovo.
Ilyse and Ron bring beautiful foods from Italy, mostly organic and certainly made in the tradition of grandfathers on the same land, to us lucky enough in the US to find them. And to my surprise and honor, they recently asked me if they could put a sticker on the packages of the rice pasta: Recommended by the Gluten-Free Girl. Of course.
This means that when I go to a grocery store here in Seattle, I reach for the rice pasta, and then stop. I laugh. This cracks me up. Recommended by me, bought by me.
Really, I do recommend it.
And so, with a jar of homemade crème fraiche in my hand, I began heating and stirring, making it up as I went along.
Lemony singing with homemade butter, creme fraiche nuzzling in, adding another harmony. This is slow afternoon food.
I’ve eaten this dish three times this week.
I think you’ll like it too.
1 knob of butter
zest of 1 medium lemon
juice of 1/2 that lemon
dollop of creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon potato starch
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt and pepper
Slowly, heat up the butter until it has melted, but is not boiling. Throw in the lemon zest. Watch the little yellow curls dance. Add the lemon juice and bring it all to a lovely simmer. Dollop in the creme fraiche and stir.
At this point, the sauce will be delicious, but it might be a bit thin. If you wish, mix up the potato starch and water in a glass to make a little slurry. Splash in a bit of the slurry at a time, and then stir the sauce. Pretty immediately, the sauce should start to thicken. Stop before it becomes paste.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Toss this with the prepared pasta of your choice.
Feeds 1 (well, perhaps 1 and 1/2). Double and triple if you want to feed more.
Suggestions: lately, I’m loving this with olives. (What don’t I love with olives right now?) But when asparagus season hits, I’m going right for this with roasted asparagus tips. Artichoke hearts would be delicious. So would be a little crab. Try whatever food you like with lemons. Oh, and goat cheese on top.