I don’t remember having a “blanky,” a “binky,” a “dolly,” or any number of “fill-in-the-blank-y”s growing up. Sure, I had my stuffed animals, but I never needed them to fall asleep at night. All I really wanted was a goodnight kiss, an open door and the assurance that the Slime Monster (Ghostwriter, anyone?) didn’t exist. After my parents left for their room, it was up to me to make sure that I didn’t scare myself into consciousness in the early hours of the morning, as I was an easily frightened child. In the darkness, I would convince myself of terrible things, imagining monsters behind my door or scary dolls beneath my bed. Waking from these dreams to shift into the reality of a room bathed in moonlight and shadows was never enjoyable; the simple fear of creatures in my dreams – the ones I knew were imagined – quickly changed into sheer terror when I was dropped back into a world I couldn’t control, let alone see clearly.
But it was reversible. I would squeeze my eyes shut and bury my head under my blanket, sure that if I couldn’t see whatever was clearly after me, then there would be no way that it would know where to find me. Sometimes I would cry and venture down the hall into my parents bedroom, but oftentimes even that walk was too much. There were too many doors on the way, and too many chances to be captured. It was usually a risk that I wasn’t prepared to take.
But I found that if I waited long enough, there would be noise. The heater would turn on and I would hear a familiar rumbling coming from the vents in my room. Or maybe the dishwasher would change cycles and the sloshing of water within would lull me to sleep. Occasionally I would even hear a train off in the distance, and somehow that was enough to calm my restless mind. Effectively sedated, I would roll back into my sheets and fade into happier dreams.
The sound was comforting.
I can’t explain it (of course, it’s probably got to do with that whole thing about infants being comforted by sound because it reminds them of the womb), but I’m happy for it. Now, with every clunk of the heater, every chugging rinse cycle and every rumbling train, I am reminded of those nights spent afraid in the dark. Of course, I’m not afraid anymore, but they still have the same effect on me. And, as an added bonus, they allow me to laugh at my younger self for being such a wuss.
It’s a win-win situation.
Anyway, it’s been proven that scent is the sense that we associate most strongly with memories, but I really can’t agree. Perhaps it’s because I was cursed with a poor sense of smell, and maybe it’s because I’ve got a thing for fighting The Man, but I find that sound is what bring back memories for me.
Yesterday, after filling up on ribs (awesome recipe! Please check it out!), sweet corn, coleslaw, baked beans, corn bread, potatoes and everything else under the sun, I wandered onto my Grandparent’s back porch to keep my dog company. Overhead were clouds and jetstreams, small in size and illuminated by sinking sun in the west. The sound of those planes overhead, though few in number and occasional in passing, always brings me back to their house. Hearing one at that moment made me think of summers passed in their yard, listening to the far-off hum of planes cruising from cloud to cloud overhead competing with the buzz of bees dancing from petal to petal. Summers spent planning naked steps to avoid thistles and pines while picking flowers and watching birds on Grandma’s feeders. Grass stains on my knees and twigs in my hair – for me, there isn’t a smell for summer. Not even cut grass.
What does it for me is the sound. Simple things like vehicles or animals, and important things like laughter and voices.
So I’m lucky. Because of that, I’m convinced that I will never forget the details of my childhood.
Even the stupid ones.
Meringue Cupcakes with Raspberry Curd adapted from Martha Stewart
I don’t remember how I came across this recipe, but I do remember thinking that I had to make them after seeing how ridiculously cute they are! The meringues are on the sweet side, of course, but they’re an easy to make and fun to serve, not to mention delicious and fun to eat due to the range of textures they present. Be sure to save your yolks for ice cream!
6 egg whites, room temperature
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 c (350 g) sugar
Raspberry curd (recipe follows)
Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream and fresh fruit for serving, if desired.
Preheat oven to 225F (110C). Line every other cup of 2 nonstick 12-cup muffin tins with baking cups and coat each with cooking spray. Prepare a large piping bag with a coupler (no tip needed) and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites, vinegar, vanilla, and salt until frothy. Increase the speed and begin adding sugar slowly, a tablespoon at a time, beating for one minute after each addition so the sugar dissolves. Continue whipping until stiff, glossy peaks form.
Transfer mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a plain coupler (no tip), and pipe into prepared baking cups, about 2 inches above rims, finishing with a peak in the centers. Bake, rotating halfway through, 3 to 3 hours and 20 minutes. (Cupcakes should be completely dry on the outside but still soft in the middle. A toothpick inserted horizontally at base of top should have moist but cooked crumbs attached.) Transfer cupcakes in baking cups to wire racks; let cool completely.
To serve, carefully cut off caps with a serrated knife and fill with whipped cream, ice cream, raspberry curd, fresh fruit or any other filling you desire.
Raspberry Curd via Martha Stewart
This is an incredibly easy recipe. It makes much more than you will need though, so I would advise you to halve it and save half the container of raspberries for topping the finished cupcakes.
1 container (6 oz or 170 g) raspberries
1 1/4 c (250 g) sugar
4 egg yolks
1 stick (8 Tbls or 115 g) unsalted butter
1/4 c (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Whisk all ingredients in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water until slightly thick, 8 to 10 minutes. Strain; press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd and refrigerate until cold and thick.