Russian River

So I come up to my aunt’s late husbands ex-sister-in-laws cabin about once a year.

We, my aunt and I, usually come up in the summer. The sun sets late, we sleep on the deck, under the stars and usually fall asleep at about 9:00. This is after a long hard day of doing nothing. Nothing on the cabin means waking up as soon as the sky is that blue-creamy-white with light. Our hair is cold and wet with the night’s perspiration and it takes some convincing to pry ourselves out of our sleeping bags. It ends up being equal, some nights my aunt is up first, and has the water on to boil for tea. Sometimes it’s me who will endure the cold for a hot cup of tea and a warm flax pillow, heated in the microwave for heat at the bottom of my sleeping bag.We always end up curled in our sleeping bags in chairs and with a big soup bowl mug of tea. I can never recall how the tea was made or how I ended up in a chair and no longer on my mat, but nevertheless, there I am, warm and happy. We proceed to talk for hours and watch the river wake up. The deck faces west and overlooks the river, so it usually takes a little while for the sun to make its way over the redwoods and the cabin onto the deck and the river. As soon as it does, we again, find the will power to get into our bathing suits and over-sized sweaters and before we know it, we’re paddling up the river in the river kayaks. We learned our lesson the hard way one summer. We could either soar down the river and paddle our way up on an empty stomach; or we could paddle our way up the river and float in the sun back home for lunch. Our decision is made for us. So we set off, awaiting whatever river creatures we may find along the way. Actually it’s more accurate to say they find us. We have seen schools of salmon, cows (not in the river, but on it’s banks), ducks floating down the river wiggling their tail feathers self-righteously and river otters chomping away at breakfast. After exhausting our arm muscles paddling up stream, we hop out of the kayaks at a swimming hole to cool off, or not. We then turn the kayaks around, by this point we’ve stripped down to our bikinis, sun hats and sunglasses and have thrown our legs onto the front end of the kayak. The paddle is strategically inserted into the side of the kayak so as to not produce a shadow that might block the sun or cause a tan line. This is one of the 5742 times a year I stock up on vitamin D; it’s necessary for my health. We find ourselves back at the cabin. The petite dock welcomes us and the now sun-light patio beckons. We fix lunch. At this point, chilled white wine must be had. By the time we complete lunch, we are ready for a nap in the sun. The afternoon is a flurry of reading, napping, sun bathing and sweet jasmine iced tea. The blackberry bushes summon our inner bear and we pick berries from the backyard down the road to the campground and all the way down to the general store. Our sun-kissed skin is stained with blackberry juice. Our arms scraped by the thorns of the bushes. A small price to pay for blackberries. For every one berry deposited in the tupperwares and pails we’ve lugged with us, we eat about 7 or 8. How could you not? A warm, blackberry, exploding with juice from the suns rays. It’s only fair. We make our way home, light a fire in the barbeque, grill up some chicken or just feast on berries, cheese and red wine.By now the sun is setting. In the distance there are vultures circling, ducks quacking and Cutie and Sweetie, snorting and barking, they are the neighbors’ obese pugs.

This past summer I was unable to make it to the river. It was in my head the whole winter. I decided to try to make it to the cabin before the next summer. In the fall, I had moved in with a classmate from highschool who had transferred to my university. We had a great deal in common despite coming from completely different backgrounds. I had told her about my aunt and the cabin, both of which define a great deal of my personality.Once I had secured plans with my aunt to make it to the cabin, I decided to invite her along. I figured she’d appreciate it. She’s one of those people who definitely lives in the moment. When she likes something or someone, she verbalizes it. She never forgets a word you say, although she often appears to be spacing out or not paying attention, she always is. She’d remembered the cake I’d told her about, the Olive Oil Meyer Lemon cake with Lemon Curd and Honey Lavender whipped cream, my aunt had made it two Easters ago and the taste had lingered on my palette. It came as no surprise when she told me she’d be making it for our stay at the cabin.

We left home at 5 in the morning and drove up to the cabin. The sun rose as we raced with traffic, knowing that tranquility, good company and delicious food awaited us. Upon our arrival, Chris was cooking. She had already made the lemon curd and it was a deep yellow color. She had used duck eggs. We drank tea with a side of Egyptian Fig bread from a local bakery and baklava that my mom had sent with me. My brother had requested it and like a Middle Eastern mother, she could not have the request of her son go unanswered. She made a tray and there were leftovers, so she sent them with me, along with a Tupperware of cooked lamb and some fruit.

After our tea party, over which we discussed the current health care issue, inaccurate borders created post-WWI and Jane Austen, we embarked on the journey that was making the cake with cabin utensils.

In a cracked white plastic salad bowl, I began to beat duck egg whites using a slotted serving spoon. This proved to be quite the workout. The flour was sifted through a tea strainer and a paper bakery bag was used in place of parchment paper.

These are the duck egg yolks. The size of the eggs made it so that we could have used one less than the recipe had called for, but then again, it was imperfectly perfect just the way it was.

For lunch we had farmer’s lettuce picked from a friend’s garden tossed with the accompanying flower petals and Girard’s Champagne dressing, one of the few bottled dressings I enjoy. We had this along with radishes and herbed butter. The radish greens served as a bed for the lamb, which had been made with mushrooms, garlic and potatoes.

To make herbed butter, simply take room temperature unsalted butter and knead in any herb of your liking, we usedHerbs de Provence, but basil alone would work just fine, or oregano, which would give it an Italian twist, and now that I’m running through my herbs and spices I think curried butter might be nice, I will have to try it next time.

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