I am not a particularly sentimental person. Until I start thinking about food – and then the emotion I attach to everything I eat, or could eat, becomes very obvious and sentimental, indeed.
I’ve always enjoyed feeding people. I don’t know exactly where this comes from, though my best guess is that it comes from a long lineage of people who like to eat. In my family, we gather in the kitchen. It’s where we’re most comfortable, safe and within an arm’s reach of the wine fridge.
My mom reigns over her kitchen, as she should. I always feel welcome there, except on my birthday when I get kicked out every year for offering to help with dinner. A couple times a year, I get to shoo my mom from the kitchen and cook for the family. It’s a fun, time-consuming process, and I am most happy when I am alone in the kitchen with my thoughts and a sharp knife.
For Mother’s Day this year, I didn’t finish planning the menu until a few hours before we ate, but it was a great success. We had a cedar planked salmon, basil pesto and pasta, haricot verts and for dessert I made vanilla bean panna cotta with lemon marmalade. I have never made panna cotta before in my life. I am not sure what caused my sudden obsession with gelatin, but lemon and vanilla are two of my favorite flavors, and for a spring dessert I knew they would be perfect. Bon Appétit magazine’s May issue boasted a spread of Italian desserts, including the panna cotta.
You can find the recipe for both here:
A couple of things to keep in mind and someone who has “been there”: Making the marmalade a couple of days in advance gives you not only something to do on a Friday night, but the time you need to focus just on the panna cotta the day you plan to serve it. When I make the panna cotta again – and I will – I will decrease the amount of gelatin used by ½. I prefer a softer dessert and the one I presented to my appreciative mother on Sunday was a bit too firm.
Every time I make this marmalade, I’ll think back to the first time I made it, on a Friday night, drinking beer and listening to Mumford & Sons at a very high volume. I’ll remember the way the scent of lemons filled the entire kitchen and that my hands smelled like fresh lemons for a good day and a half afterwards.
I’ll remember the expression on my mom’s face on Sunday, when after looking at the recipe, she turned to me and said, “You know, if you don’t want to make the marmalade, we can just use strawberries with dessert,” and I presented her with the already made marmalade. I know she was happy I had made the effort.
And really, isn’t that what Mother’s Day is all about?