This story has nothing and yet everything to do with roasted strawberry milkshakes. Regardless, I’m going to tell it if for the only reason that I can’t get it out of my head until I get it onto paper (or the screen as the case may be).
Gabe and I sat down to a simple meal – a sort of unintended date night. The kids were already in bed and we hadn’t eaten yet, so I stumbled into the kitchen to make us some dinner.
At the edge of the table I set out a cloth napkin and placed the hot cast iron skillet on top. In it tomatoes danced around long-simmered poblano peppers and onions with a few just-set eggs in the middle of it all. Next to the skillet I laid out some homemade bread – too dense, too wheaty and yet, homemade so it really wasn’t too bad.
Our plates sat by the hot pan and I lifted my phone above the scene just enough so that the bread, the skillet and our plates were in view. As I studied the image I noticed that a few random papers made their way into the corner of the frame. I pushed them just out of view and tried for another shot. This time a few of our computer cables cluttered the top right of the image and I shoved them aside and tried again.
Three-quarters of our table was a mess of papers, books, spiderman coloring pages, hello kitty stickers, coffee cups and clumps of oatmeal from the morning. I opted to only shoot the last quarter of our table that showed a simple, yet beautiful meal. I paused that moment which showed two people about to sit down together, after a long day, to enjoy dinner and one another.
For some reason this scene grabbed my attention. For a moment I asked myself, am I being deceitful? It’s not really the whole picture. The reality is the table was a disaster and we were relegated to a fraction of it, tucked deep into the corner because the mess from the day still showed.
But then an even louder voice shuddered the shame and told me, this is what it looks like to have eyes for joy. To be able to focus on the fraction that isn’t messy, that shows beauty and truth and a gift rather than concentrate on the mess.
I hold Ivy tightly on the couch, our legs intertwined. She nestles into my chest as if she’s a part of me. I alternate between kissing the top of her head and smelling it. Breathing in the moment, I count it as joy.
Baron’s words move faster than I can listen as he spouts of the plan for his clan in his new favorite game, Clash of Clans. He’s bursting to boast of his scheme and we listen intently not because we’re so thrilled by his stockpile of gold but because he’s so happy. I squeeze his cheeks together so his lips pucker and his eyes squish against the weight of my hands just as they did when I squished his baby cheeks together. I kiss him regardless of disgusted groans. His smirk doesn’t hide the fact that he still loves my squeezes. This moment is joy.
Gabe came home from the grocery store and before he even made it into the kitchen I could smell the sweet earthy scent radiating from the flat of strawberries he brought home. The kids and I eagerly descended upon the box and immediately stained our fingers with their sweet and vibrant juice. One bite and I had visions of ducking into the rows of berries to pick pounds and pounds to get us through the winter. That taste, so simple and familiar, is joy.
These moments are tucked in between the spilled milk, a relentless pile of laundry, a sink full of dirty dishes, bandaging a scraped knee and a word that falls painfully on my heart. I can choose to go through my day and see only the things that need to be done and the things that I’m not doing but I want a life that recognizes the spurts and bursts of joy that interject our days. I want to laugh as infectiously as the Car Talk brothers and be the source of someone else’s smile. I want to hold my kids tight in this moment not longing for the past or fretting about what’s next but enjoying this moment. I want to sit at the end of a table with my husband and talk to him about his day while ignoring the mess on the other side. I want to pause in the middle of drinking my milkshake and take in its sweetness and soft vanilla scent wading through the pink straw and recognize it for the gift it really is.
I’m still new at this. It is a habit I’m developing. When I’m present to my day even the laundry pile is a reminder of how fortunate we are. The scraped knee is a reminder to be thankful for our bodies that move, grow and heal. It’s not some sort of sappy, false happiness, it’s much greater than that. It’s so much easier for me to let things pile on and feel burdened and distraught but what a better way to live – to present to the joy and recognize its presence all around.
Roasted Strawberry Milkshake
A hot oven never ceases to amaze me. I sit in awe in front of the oven window watching butter, flour and water turn into flaky pastry and now I’ve turned to the oven to transform fresh berries into a sweet, tart and jammy mix that makes a simple strawberry milkshake into something pretty damn magical.
All of this is very adaptable. Add sugar or not, add more berries or less, add a shot of liqueur or leave it out.
8 cups halved strawberries
1/4 – 1/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
Place strawberries on a parchment lined sheet tray and sprinkle with sugar. Toss the strawberries with the sugar and vanilla seeds and place the vanilla bean on the tray with the berries too.
Roast for 30-40 minutes until some of the edges of the strawberries have crisped, the berries have softened and a pool of ruby red juice covers the pan.
For the milkshake:
Place a good amount, about a pint, of vanilla ice cream into a blender or food processor along with a cup, or so, of cooled roasted berries and their juice. Blend or pulse until smooth.
Pour into cups and serve with whipped cream.