I once read that our family stories are lost in just three generations.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately; earlier generations of mothers and fathers – those who birthed us and those who nurtured us in other ways. Those who came from distant shores and changed the course of their lives, and ours, forever; most of whom we’ll never know. Not just because we won’t get to meet them during our lifetime, but because they’re not generally part of our conversations. Bit by bit, their stories are forgotten.
Weird (and wonderful) things start to happen as you get older. You find yourself saying more and more goodbyes and coming into a better understanding of who you are and who you’re not, including your limitations and sense of impermanence (I’m pretty sure there was a time when I thought I wasn’t going to die; that was something that happened to other people).
My Grand-Maman (my Mom’s mom), had a great capacity for life and love. She endured a lot of loss during her lifetime but moved forward without much fuss and a quiet, powerful grace. I was aware of her strength and artistic abilities but mostly drawn to her warmth; and I felt safe and seen in her care. My favorite memory was a trip we took together to Québec City when I was 11 years old. She bought me my first diary the night before we left; I can still picture the shiny brass lock and key. I wrote in that book until the pages couldn’t hold any more words.
I hear her humor and see her unmistakable twinkle of mischief in my own Mom and in my Mom’s brothers and sisters. And I feel her presence with me still today. Sharing her stories with my boys helps keep her memory and beautiful spirit in our home; and it feels like caressing light.
In honor of all the Mamans who have paved our way, those who are still with us and those we remember, I’m serving up strawberries and cream this weekend ~ Romanoff style because they’re a little bit fancier than straight up berries but still a breeze to whip up.
Strawberries Romanoff are said to originate in London but popularized in America thanks to Hollywood restaurateur Michael Romanoff who created a version with orange liqueur (Grand Marnier) that went on to become a sensation on the West coast, notably in California.
I decided to skip the booze in this version in favor of fresh orange juice and a splash of balsamic (artistic license, you know). Delicately sweetened with a touch of maple syrup (bien sur).
With strawberries in peak season, these lovelies are so tasty and offer the perfect touch of elegance. Santé ♥
- For the Strawberries:
- 1 pound /455 g (or more! see Notes) fresh strawberries, rinsed and cut into small pieces
- 3 Tbsp orange juice
- 1 + ½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup or honey (or sugar of choice)
- For the Cream Topping:
- 1 cup / 200 ml whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp (or to taste) maple syrup or honey (or sugar of choice)
- optional: mint leaves for garnish
- Place prepared strawberries in a flat dish (I used a pie plate).
- Combine orange juice, balsamic and maple syrup in a small bowl and pour over berries, such that the liquid is well distributed.
- Cover plate and place in the fridge for 1 hour (and up to 4 hours). The berries will soften in the liquid (macerate) and take on the delicious flavors.
- About an hour before whipping the cream, place the bowl you're using in the freezer (this always seems to produce good results for me).
- Whip the cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks are just begin to form (you'll notice lines forming across the cream as it gets thicker) - add the vanilla and maple syrup and whip for another minute or so, until desired consistency (the longer you whip, the stiffer the cream will become - so if you like a softer (droopy) cream, don't over-whip), You can keep your whipped cream covered in the fridge until you're ready to serve the berries (homemade whipped cream generally lasts well refrigerated for 2-3 days).
- When you're ready to serve, scoop the berries out of the dish and distribute among 4 serving bowls/glasses -- some of the liquid will get scooped up as you spoon out the berries and naturally gather at the bottom but I didn't top up the glasses with additional liquid from the pie plate (the berries are already well saturated and flavorful - up to you!).
- Top each bowl/glass with some whipped cream and fresh mint leaves if you like. Enjoy!
Dairy Free Option: if you'd like to try a homemade dairy free whipped cream, coconut cream is a yummy option. I do find it a little finicky (hit and miss) but this tutorial is quite thorough and offers troubleshooting steps if you'd like to give it a shot.
In case anyone else needs to hear this today:
Highly sensitive people feel exceptionally strong emotions–sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. They also process information about their environments –both physical and emotional– unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss– slight shifts in mood or a light bulb burning a touch too brightly.
Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like extroverts, but the effort costs them energy, authenticity, and even physical health. Others seem aloof or self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet.