Lavender and Laura Ingalls

It has been so cold the last couple weeks, and everything I do seems to be an attempt to stave off the chill. The chickens are drowning in straw. Despite the fact that I purchased an expensive warmer for their waterer, I still check it several times a day to make sure they have clean, unfrozen water. The fireplace is always burning. The dogs have extra blankets in their beds.

Do you remember The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder and how Pa and Laura would make kindling for the wood stove by twisting straw as tightly as they could? Garth Williams’ illustration is still burned in my brain. These days can feel a bit like that, like blistering my hands to make straw logs that will burn up as soon as I feed them to the fire.

The cold is difficult thing to keep at bay.

The real challenge is keeping it from seeping into your own skin, from letting it numb you into docility. Winter has the ability to turn us all into house cats – sleeping all day and waking just long enough to eat, stretch, poop (presumably), and then sleep again. If I am not careful, I will succumb to the power of winter and watch Top Chef for far longer than what would be considered “healthy” or “normal.”

So yesterday I visited the library and found – as I always do – peace in its quiet. I bought some dried lavender and visited friends. I am trying, in small ways, to stave off the cold. Today I will make a recipe from a beautiful, summery book by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson called The Picnic. I made these Lemon Lavender Cream Pots last summer, and they were incredible. They are light and bright, and it’s difficult not to think about daffodils the entire time you are eating them. I will make them and feel a bit warmer, and then I will watch Top Chef for two, maybe ten, hours.

Lemon Lavender Cream Pots

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.

Whisk together 3 room temperature eggs, 3 large room temperature egg yolks2/3 cup of sugar, and the lemon zest of 2 large lemons in a glass or metal bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice of 3 large lemons.

Put the bowl over the saucepan and whisk constantly but slowly for about ten minutes. The mixture should be about the consistency of sour cream.

Remove from the heat and whisk in 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Strain the mixture through a large fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Pour the mixture into jars or cups and place in the fridge until it has thickened and cooled, about 4 hours. If you give the container a nice little bang on the counter, the mixture will distribute evenly.

In the meantime, add 3 fresh lavender buds or 1/4 teaspoon dried lavender to 1/3 cup heavy cream. Let it sit in the fridge for 1-2 hours. When you are ready to serve, strain out the lavender and whisk the cream with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar until soft peaks form. Dollop it on top.

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“It was so wonderful to be there, safe at home, sheltered from the winds and the cold. Laura thought that this must be a little like heaven, where the weary are at rest.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter

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