You all blow me away.
This past week has been extraordinary, for a number of small reasons. However, mostly it’s because my life has been imbued with your love stories.
Every day, I have been coming here to publish comments and ended up in tears. Happy tears, mind you. Your vulnerability, generosity, and humor has lifted me — and all the countless others who have been reading — out of these bleak mid-winter grey days.
(The sight above helped too. One of our neighbors down the road put a small red heart up on the grass so everyone could see it on the way into town. Valentine’s Day may be sold as a hokey holiday, but it’s really just a day to talk about love, unabashedly. This small gesture made my day.)
What I love most about all those stories you left in the comments is how quirky, individual, and unexpected every single love story is. Anyone who falls for the Hollywood-swoony version of romance is set up for disappointment. (“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” — William Shakespeare) When we open ourselves to something stumbly and imperfect, we’re changed.
Thank you to everyone who shared, so openly, your stories of love. I have heard from many people that you made their week brighter too.
If you have not gone over to the post and read all the love stories, make some time and sit down. Every single one of them is a gift.
I’ll be honest. When we first thought of asking for your love stories, we thought of it as a way to promote our cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. After all, it’s the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, right? We gathered other cookbooks, baking supplies, and books with great love stories. All to remind you that you should buy our cookbook.
You know what? We couldn’t do it. After reading the first day’s comments, Danny and I both agreed that choosing some at random and awarding prizes cheapened the whole thing. Your generosity was so astonishing that it would have felt tacky to give away stuff on top of this. We’ll find ways soon to share some good stuff.
For now, we want to just keep spreading this love. Here are some of the incredible blog posts people wrote in response to our call for love stories:
Our fabulous friend Irvin at Eat the Love told the story about he and AJ met, along with a recipe for Bourbon Caramel Rice Crispy Treats with Dark Chocolate
Diane at The Whole Gang wrote about meeting her terrific husband
Krystle at Krystle’s Karma tells the story of her imperfect love
Kylie of Thin Crust, Deep Dish tells the exhilarating story of her engagement
Gwen of Tea and Vino tells her hurricane love story
Monique in Texas wanted to share this love story from No Greater Joy Mom
Elizabeth from Retinal Perspectives shares her love for her puppy
Not Ibid reminds us to cherish the person who appreciates us the most
Diana Banana shares the joy of being with someone who pushes you to be as healthy as you can
My dear friend Brooke shares her kitchen love letters to her husband
Robyn from Pre-Sifted shares the beauty of someone making her grits
Allison of Your Every Color shares the details of her love
Niki of Life in Recipes writes about the calm contentment of true love
Emily of Revolving Mama writes about landing in love
Erin of Mysteries Internal writes about a simple act that reveals so much caring
Wonderful Jenn of The Whole Kitchen writes a love story in letters
Emily of Nomnivorous wrote a love letter to New York City
Lovely Allison of Sushi Day shares her love story with Son
The wonderful Smith Bites writes about her love, along with beer and quinoa pancakes
Thank you, all of you. Your generosity amazes me.
(And if you wrote a post, and I didn’t include it here, please let me know. I’ll add it in.)
Clearly, there are many ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
When I was younger and single, I could never have imagined that my favorite Valentine’s Day would involve making a mess in the kitchen with my daughter and eating cheese and crackers in the dark with my husband.
We had a power outage last night. The winds whipped around the house, howling, after torrential rain. Lu was asleep in her bed and I was sautéing onions on the stove for the oxtail potpie I was making Danny for dinner as a surprise. Without warning, the house went dark. I looked up, then went to the junk drawer to pull out the flashlight. I kept cooking, the flashlight tucked under my chin and aimed at the stove. The electric heater stayed on, fueled by battery at that point. All around us was darkness.
After I had sautéd the onions and garlic, I realized the oven wouldn’t work. No baking a pie without power. I set them aside, hoping for the lights to come on. Danny was at work, feeding a full house for the big romantic restaurant day. I couldn’t work on this blog post, which I intended to publish before Danny returned home. Without power, I could do no work.
I sat down to read, instead. It was my Valentine’s Day present to myself — time to read without worrying I should get up and do something else. I stretched out on the couch and read by the light of the fake fire in the corner. I miss this most of the time.
Danny came home. He had been working all day, hard, and he was hungry. I had nothing to feed him, at least nothing that I had planned. But we hugged and talked and kissed and laughed about how dark it was outside. And then I went to the refrigerator with the flashlight and found soft goat cheese, pepperoni, French feta. I pulled open the cupboards and found by memory the rice crackers, the almonds, the pears. I tumbled them all onto the coffee table. We shared one knife and had a picnic in the semi darkness, our legs touching, our hands both reaching.
We talked as we ate. And then we talked as we lay on the couch, my head on his chest. Our days are so full that we rarely have time to meander and wander through our memories. We talked about the first time we met, the easy comfortable coffee date in the middle of the day. We talked about those heady first dates, the both of us so grateful for the way we fell into each other’s lives. We talked about the myriad ways our days are different than those, how much we have helped each other grow, how grateful we are.
We ate little Mexican hot chocolate cakes for dessert.
And we talked about Lu. We laughed about that morning, when we were making muffins for her pre-school that day. (It’s our week to make snacks.) When I pulled out the scale and the flours, Lu looked at me and said, “How many grams flours, Mama?”
I started at her for a moment, amazed, then said, “350, my love. Let’s measure them together.”
She helped with everything: the tipping of flours into the bowl, the pouring of soy milk, the stirring with the spatula, the tasting. And when it came time to scoop muffin batter into the prepared tins, she grabbed the cookie scoop, put her hand on my arm, and carefully filled each hole with blueberry muffin batter. We cleaned up the mess later. That didn’t matter. We were together, the three of us (Danny taking photographs), baking in the morning.
That was the best Valentine’s Day present I’ve ever received.
* * *
There are so many ways to love, you see. And with Lu in our life, Danny and I both feel like our hearts have grown three miles wide.
“Parents aren’t simply good-hearted people who swoop in with hugs, candy, and promises. They are people who astonish themselves with how gladly and rapidly they put their children at the center of their lives. Parent’s don’t altogether stop trying to be cool, staying up late, or telling naughty jokes. But with their first cries, children call us to be less selfish and more humble (even humiliated). They give us a living stake in the world beyond our own short lives. Children reset our emotional and even biological clocks as we realize that they will, if we are blessed, live two, three, or more minutes for every one that we have left: we shouldn’t squander a second.”
The book I was reading last night in the darkness, tearing up at nearly every page was Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption by Scott Simon. It’s his story of adopting two darling girls from China with his wife. For days I have been reading passages to Danny, like this one:
“‘When you are the person who is the object of a voluntary act of love and commitment, it’s a tremendously affirming experience. I mean, what greater sense of value can you give to a baby or child than to say, ‘We are going to embrace you, and commit to give our lives to you.’?
‘Pregnancies can be accidental,’ he reminds us. ‘Adoptions never are. Those of us who are adopted have every reason to feel snug and secure. Loved above and beyond, really.’”
Danny and I have been nodding our heads together, then talking about what family means to us both.
You see, this Valentine’s Day, even though we talked about where we began as a couple, Danny and I have been talking about the enormous, ineffable love we feel for our child. And the love we imagine will blow our hearts wide open, again, when we find our son.
2011 is the year we will figure out how to find our son.
When we made the choice for me to go on Tamoxifen, to try to cut a terrifying risk of breast cancer down to a less terrifying risk, we did so with the knowledge that we could not have another biological child. There was great mourning, at first. We love Lu so. Even though we have been consistently sleep-deprived and still astonished to be stepping on wooden pieces of fruit when we walk into the kitchen, we have never been happier than we have been being parents. The love we feel for this child goes beyond anything I have ever felt for another person, even for Danny in those first heady days. And watching him be Lu’s father has made me love him more deeply. We three are a team.
How could we not want another child?
When Danny and I first talked with each other about having children, we babbled excitedly about all the things we could share with them. After a long list including food, baseball, skiing, and reading, Danny turned to me and said, quite seriously, “We’re going to teach our children to love humanity.”
I married him, of course.
Adopting is part of who we are. There are so many children in the world who need families. No more mourning here. We’re excited. And scared. And open to surprise.
We’re going to adopt a little boy, a brother for Lu, a son for us.
We don’t know how to find him yet. We’re investigating agencies, looking at different countries, trying to save and figure out how to do this with all the other projects we have going on. But as exciting as our life is, nothing is more urgent to us than finding that boy.
For all we know, he’s already alive.
We cannot wait to meet him. We cannot wait to love more.
GLUTEN-FREE MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE CAKES, adapted from the McCormick Gourmet recipe
The inspiration for making these came from the fact I couldn’t eat them. This happens often.
When I was at the McCormick spice weekend, the good folks there worked to make everything on the menu gluten-free. I so appreciate this. However, dessert the last meal involved these little Mexican hot chocolate cakes. Damn, they looked good. I didn’t suffer. They brought me Saigon cinnamon ice cream instead. I was happy.
And then, when I returned home, I converted this recipe.
They have a lovely taste: chocolate with just a bit of heat, enough to wake up your senses but not enough to make you sweat. (That’s really not so appealing on Valentine’s Day, right?) The texture? Danny took his first spoonful and said, “They’re marshmallowy.” Even if that’s not a word, it’s the right word.
Here’s the better news: these are not only gluten-free, but they are also egg free and can be dairy-free. Everyone should be able to celebrate love with something sweet.
40 grams sweet rice flour
35 grams teff flour
35 grams sorghum flour
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (we used the McCormick Gourmet one)
1 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon (again, we used the McCormick Gourmet one)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk (you can sub in soy or another alternative milk here. We used soy)
¼ cup oil (we used olive oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease and flour 6 ramekins. (We use sweet rice flour for this, since it’s already in the recipe.)
Combining the dry ingredients. Mix the sweet rice flour, teff flour, and sorghum flour. Whisk them together to incorporate and aerate. Add 2/3 cup of the sugar, 4 tablespoons of the cocoa powder, baking powder, ancho chile powder, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk them together.
Finishing the cake batter. Pour in the milk, oil, and vanilla. (Don’t worry if the batter feels a little stiff.) Spoon the batter into the ramekins, filling them about 2/3 full.
Combine the remaining sugar and cocoa powder and sprinkle it evenly over the tops of the ramekins. (You might have a little left over. We did. Save it for some oatmeal the next morning.) Spoon 2 tablespoons of boiling-hot water into each ramekin. Do not stir.
Baking the cakes. Slide the ramekins into the oven. Bake until the water is fully absorbed and the tops are dry to the touch, about 20 to 30 minutes. (Keep checking. Each oven is different.) Pull the ramekins from the oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack before serving.
Top with whipped cream or ice cream. (We used Coconut Bliss chocolate here.)
As an aside, the original recipe said this makes 8 ramekins. We found it only made 6. I don’t think we have particularly large ramekins! It might make more in your kitchen, so be aware.