That moment of clarity right as you wake up and an affogato to spice it all up
There's a moment of clarity that usually will hit your mind right about five minutes before the sun rises, when you're lying in bed, eyes just barely open, the first gentle fingers of a rosy dawn creeping in through the windows that won't obscure the whole of the outside world. That is the moment when your are suddenly confronted in your mind with what you really need in life, and what you really need to do to get it. It's the moment when you can hear the gentle - and the not so gentle - sleeping sounds of your family members, cast away in their dream worlds, fast under the spell of Methuselah, still some time away from being brought back into life and reality. That precise moment is when you're hit with clarity, and you know it all. The meaning of life. The secret of life.
But that is a fleeting moment, less than less than a second at the tip of your fingers, barely touching them, your nail scraping the tiniest figments off the surface, and if you're not fast enough to grab a hold of it and claw it inside the palm of your hand, it's gone. Remember you're not completely awake yourself, you're gazing towards the first rays of early morning sunshine creeping slowly into your darkened room, you're barely aware that this is not a dream but your reality. Your brain is moving in strange ways, shifting thoughts and ideas in a mode that is not common to your waking self, and you'll have a hard time recognizing the truth, the importance of it all, what lies hidden behind that mere nanosecond in time when your brain lights up like the proverbial lightbulb and has all the answers you've been looking for.
I am not the only being who is aware of this. Lots of people sleep with a notebook and a pencil on their bedside tables, so they can simply jott down those figments they can still grab a hold of after that moment of clarity starts to wear off. I don't. I am never fast enough to grab a hold on those ideas, and yet I am sufficently quick to realize they were there. Somedays they're so vivid as to make me spend the whole of the day trying to recapture them, because I am that aware that they were there in the first place, and that those thoughts, those ideas, were important, and meaningful, and could be so good to me and helpful. But I never can. And I rather like it, really. I like the memory of those thoughts, I love the moment when I come fully awake and there is already enough sunlight coming through my blinds, those that never really close up entirely, and I am aware that I had this wonderful thought in my head, this magnificent idea, and am just about to grab it, but can feel it sliping away from my fingers with an ease, a gentleness that is akin to a poem, or a mound of tulle in a ballerina's tutu.
And I let it go, freely. I roll over and shut my eyes again, and instead I let my mind fill up with my plans for the day ahead. Lately it has been filled up with the thought of getting up, out of bed, grab my breakfast while my husband showers and the little boy is just starting to stirr in his deep slumbers, in his cozy bed. And it has been filled with the though of packing up for the beach, and getting ready to leave the house, and making sure we have sunscreen and a bite to eat and plenty of water and the beach towels and the bathing suits and... it's been filled with these, the mundane, the oh so simple and oh so common little pieces of everyday life. My whole days have been filled with this: the common, the cliché, the obvious, the routine. Wake up, have breakfast, get kid ready for the beach, go to the beach, come home, the showers, lunch, the dishes, and then the long, warm afternoon ahead, and lazying about, dozing to really bad TV while I allow the kid some time playing online games, and then some exercising and fresh fruit and lots of water, and off to make dinner, and eating, and making sure everyone has had enough, and the dishes once more, and the brushing of teeth, and getting dressed in comfy clothing and going outside for an after dinner walk, and coming back still soon enough to make sure the kid has some time to play with his dad, then his milk and a bedtime read, then the lights down and his gentle snores, and then the sofa, the TV shows, and the body resting and the mind resting, and the joy of not having to think or plan, because the next day will be just like today, and it will be a repeat.
It's a joy when routine is filled with what makes you happy, what gives you an inner sense of peace and of doing things right. This routine gives me that sense. Because it's Summer, because it's the Summer hols, and one's allowed a shift in life, one's allowed respite from the daily grind, one's allowed the sand sticking to one's toes, and the smell of the sea, and salt water in one's hair, and playing with sand, and one's allowed long stretches of afternoon doing nothing but some light exercise, one's allowed to go into the kitchen at five something p.m. and start up dinner, and one's allowed to go outside after dinner and take long walks, making the most of this fine weather, these warm evenings. One's allowed a break. I think I realised this early one morning, on one of those clarity moments I can hardly grab a hold of, it must have been because it has stuck in my mind all this time, that Summer is made for this, Summer is made of this, this dolce far niente, this laziness, these late nights, this hardly working at all. Summer is the season for it. And for letting your mind build up very slowly, very gently, just like sea breezes at first, what is to come when Summer is over, what you want to do, what will be your plans, your goals, your changes. It's the time, to very slowly and gently, rethink and rebuild yourself, and start the rentrée afresh and anew.
But it is also a time to indulge in certain things, Summer is. Between lying in bed a little longer every morning, trying to capture that said moment of clarity, to the lazying around all day on the beach or thereabouts, it is the time to indulge and allow yourself certain pleasures. One more glass of chilled white wine with your dinner, when you usually have only the one, another sweet ripe cherry, just one more chapter on that book before you turn off the lights, two more episodes on that show you were trying to catch up with. Or this. An affogato. I swear to you that just the other day I had an epiphany and saw the meaning of life and joy, and it was an affogato. Sweet, creamy, thick vanilla icecream, homemade, and then fragrant, hot black coffee, just brewed, poured over one scoop - or two! - of that icecream. Pure bliss. More than pure bliss, it was Summer in the City. It was like walking around a very hot Paris afternoon in early August, the city nearly empty as everyone was taking off to the country or the seaside. It was a stroll after four p.m. in Rome, with the mounds of tourists filling the streets and forcing you this way and that as you got lost ind their midst. It was July in London, temps as high as they had never been before and you lying in the grass in a park, seeping the sunlight into your bones, the bustle and hustle of city noises all around you and a museum at hand's throw. It was a hike up to the Castelo in the middle of Lisbon, and you sitting down on an esplanada to stare down at the city and take in the views, the hills and the rooftops, a cloying heat making your clothes stick to your clammy skin and fado going off on the background. It was all that and it was all good.
And you can have all that yourself, and I'm gonna tell you just how. To make this icecream, just revert to this recipe I posted earlier this week and make up a few changes. You will need:
200 ml milk
200 ml heavy cream
70 gr sugar (I used brown sugar)
2 egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
You will still start by beating the eggs with half the amount of sugar, while you place the milk over low heat in a saucepan, adding the rest of the sugar and the seeds of half a vanilla bean to this mix. Keep the cream in the fridge for the meantime. Once the milk is simmering, bring the pot off the heat and add a couple of tablespoons of its content to the egg and sugar mix, beating fast. Incorporate at least half of the hot milk to the eggs, and then pour it into the saucepan, mixing together with the rest of the milk and sugar mixture. Bring it back to the heat and let it warm up, stirring all the time, untill you have a mixture that is creamy and thick. Let this cool for a while and cover the top with plastic foil so it doesn't form that yucky skin. Place it inside your fridge once it's cooled down enough, and leave it for at least four hours - I find I like to leave it overnight, it firms it up and adds with the freezing process. Once you feel the mix has cooled enough, beat the cream with one or two tablespoons of sugar untill it forms stiff peaks and add it to the custard mix. Now all you need to do is pour this mix on your icecream maker, and you'll have the best vanilla icecream ever.
As for the affogato, truth is it's supposed to be assembled with an espresso coffee. I no longer own an espresso coffee maker, so I did it with regular coffee. But if you're in the mood to go all the way into being quite realistic about this, use the espresso. I just brewed a fragrant coffee, and poured it over two scoops of vanilla icecream, and it was dreamy. It really was dreamy. It makes being stuck in the city - which I quite freankly am not! - just a little more bearable, and it is so fancy and chic, you know? Ok, so it's not all that, but it is the tastiest way to finish off a good meal, trust me. Plus, you're having your coffee and your dessert in just one sitting, what's not to like about that, huh?