One thing I will not miss about school is the finals frenzy. While my finals may be a bit different than most—projects to finish, print, and bind, presentations of work to be made—it is a no less hair-pulling, coffee-gulping, teeth grinding experience. When I finally finish, I seem to want nothing more than to lay on the couch, cats purring a symphony, and let my mind wander. No doubt it will land on something food related.
A few weeks ago Jonji and I made the trip to Santa Cruz, this time with two cats ensconced in their carriers in the back seat. Leaving on on the eve of Thanksgiving was a traffic-filled extravaganza, but we finally made it home close to midnight with only one cat mishap (hint: it starts and ends with “p”). The morning of Thanksgiving, Jonji left with his mom to go up to his dad’s new place in Grass Valley, and my work at home began. I made dough for one apple pie, while Mom took charge of another. Snide remarks about butter quantities may or may not have been made. Bailey and Matt were on Brussels sprouts duty—Matt’s favorite—while Mom and Dad tackled the stuffed turkey breast that they’d learned to cook in Italy (it’s phenomenal, by the way). Emma had already finished the cranberry chutney, and everything went smoothly besides a few squabbles over how long the turkey would take. All enmity was forgotten over glasses of excellent wine and a cocktail each of Bartender Dad’s making. We finally sat down to our feast, plates piled high with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, chutney, pine nut relish, and Brussels sprouts. Afterward, stomachs bulging, we hoisted ourselves out of our chairs for a chilly walk around the block in order to make more room for pie. After a game of Pictionary during which Mom revealed that bulls actually look like rabbits, we called it a night.
The following day I joined Mom and Dad on a walk in the forest with Pip. Once again I was calmed by the leafy silence of the old trees as we trekked over damp leaves and red boughs. It’s hard to feel stressed while walking through a place where time seems to slow. Pip led the way through the trees, a bouncy, fluffy fox in his rightful home.
After the walk, we met a bunch of O’Regans for a hike on the Wilder coast. We met by the chickens, where we fed the goats apples despite the sign urging people not to, and spoke in hushed tones about the possibly dead chicken lying in the hen coop door. When the chicken moved its head we all cheered, and Uncle Don proclaimed it a “Christmas Miracle!” The day was overcast and cool, and we all marched, Hobbit-like, along the cliffs. After a couple of miles, a few of us quietly grumbled about finding a place to eat, and we finally found a small, sheltered beach on which to feast. My sandwich, full of leftover turkey, chutney, and relish, was exceptional, and Bailey regarded it with jealousy until I generously gave her one bite. Satisfied, finally having food in our bellies, we set off on the walk back to Wilder Ranch. Talk turned to Trump’s likeness to both Umbridge and Voldemort, and our laughter was muffled by the sound of the crashing waves.
After the walk, we all met at the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery for a drink. We managed to squash all of us around one table and talked over drinks for a couple of hours. Topics included the Patriarch (Uncle Don) and his lineage, as well as some hilarious stories from our childhood. Slightly warmer than before, we said our loud goodbyes and went our separate ways.
The rest of the weekend was immensely enjoyable, ending with a big dinner at Mom and Dad’s with Pat, Taz, Debbie, Oakes, Arrow, PK, and Naveen. Jonji and I left on Sunday morning, knowing that traffic would build up the longer we took to leave.
The last few weeks have been a blur. I’ve had to force my brain into overdrive as I prepare to end the semester, but I am very pleased with some of my final projects (documentation coming to hanaoregan.com soon). I got to make one project about food, called Sandwich, Salad, Pie., which included baking hand pies for a class pop-up shop. Another project was all about world building and designing an imagined country’s brand. My country is a cold, Nordic, communist place, and therefore I got to experiment with blackletter. Pretty fun. Jonji’s been studying hard, as usual, now on his neurology rotation. Our “breaks” have consisted of slowly watching parts of the Lord of the Rings extended movies over the course of a couple of weeks. We did manage to get a little Christmas tree, which brightens up the room. I can’t help but smile when I see the little tree, its needles proudly pointed at the ceiling. The cats like it, too.
The days are growing colder (even here, in LA) and that calls for warm food. One comforting and essential part of cold, holiday season mornings are scones, which we always bake on Christmas. I brought scones to an exceedingly pleasant brunch with friends a few weeks ago, along with this lemon curd, and they were a hit. I must admit that I simply ate spoonfuls of the leftover lemon curd as a treat—it’s that delicious. This is the recipe my mom has always used, and I can’t find a better one. This lemon curd was the request for many birthdays, holidays, and, often, random weekend mornings.
makes enough for a few 1/2 pint jars
Zest of 1 lemon (optional, but it makes the curd that slight bit more tart, which is lovely)
1/2 cup lemon juice (preferably from Meyer lemons)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Scant 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
In the top of a double broiler over a pot with a couple inches of simmering water (or a heatproof bowl big enough to sit on the pot without touching the water), whisk together lemon zest, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 4 eggs, and scant 1 cup sugar. Stir continuously over low heat until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (when you run your finger over the back the path should remain)—about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and lightly whisk in the butter until smooth. Sieve if you’d like the curd extra smooth. Serve with scones or anything else, really. Store in the fridge. Enjoy!