It's 6:58 am and the house is still sleepy. Well, except for the two year old who came to join us in bed a couple of hours ago, now tossing and turning and devising ways to wake up his still comatose parents. He manages to slip off the bed, and like a puppy breathing and panting in his slumbering master's face, he yelps, loud and clear: "Park?"
I surface, groggy, and start thinking about my day as we put together breakfast. Boysenberries, yogurt, honey, cereal, milk, bread, butter, jam... and the wheels start turning.
The anniversary post, that's right. It's up there on my calendar, like an obvious fact. Of course I'm going to write an anniversary post. Waited til the day before, of course. What the heck do I want to say about it? That the past year has been so great, and what a wonderful journey it has been already, how much I've learned--
Pablo, "Maman? Manger petit-déjeuner! Miel!"
9:30 am, in the car, driving to work. Nice to work away from the house once in a while, alone time in the car, it gives a mom some time to think in full sentences.
So what have I learned from this blog? Stuff I would never have suspected, social media, analytics, html... photography, food styling. But it's more than that. It's expanded my horizons. Made me discover a great blog community of talented people, bloggers, cooks, photographers, food stylists, parents, writers (or all of the above) that I have come to feel so close to, even though I've never met them in person. I've learned so much from this blog, this one, this one and this one. And this one too. Oh and this one. So many others.
Oh, and I should talk about how it gave me such an appreciation for the process. Blogging, cooking, parenting. Learning. Life. All processes. I've learned how they're the meat of life.
I park, it's time to go in and switch hats from blogger to translator (my day job). It's hard to do. As I wait, I futz around with my phone, check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. That would have never happened a year ago.
12 pm. Lunch with my good friend A. I tell him about this new exciting collaboration I'm going to be doing for the blog, and a giveaway. He's happy for me, seems to have faith in the whole thing, points out how much the blog has grown in a year. I guess he's right.
1 pm. Driving home, running a couple of errands. More time to think.
OK, so how much I've learned, discovered, a sense of accomplishment, so grateful-- Wait a minute. Am I writing an Oscar acceptance speech or something? That's what this all sounds like. There's no award here. Just one small year.
Yeah, but a big step for me. Anniversaries are good chances to look back and acknowledge. And be grateful. The post should be a thank you letter, really. To all the awesome readers, their feedback, their questions, their comments, their loyalty and support. That's what's kept me going.
3 pm. Home, it's late. I got the chocolate, I have to get those chocolate fondants going. Pablo is still napping. Then I have to sit down and write this post. I whisk the chocolate and butter together. Doubt sets in.
What if this post sucks? Well, all I can do is be as honest as I can and let the chips fall where they may. There's been many times in the past year when I've wondered whether this blog had any value, whether
The hand mixer whirs through the eggs and sugar.
There were the times when I wondered if the blog way too unfocused, is it a mom blog, a food blog, a baby food blog, a personal ramblings blog? All of it? What did I want it to be? A space of sharing. A resource. A journal that somehow could be helpful to its readers. And a celebration. Of cooking and eating as paramount to life and family.
I add flour. Whisk it together with the chocolate. It's so creamy and beautiful. I must take a picture (or ten) of that whisk with the glistening chocolate on it. Then stick it in the fridge.
To heck with self-doubt, it's so sterile. At least I know these chocolate fondants will be good. Hope the photos come out all right. My photography's gotten better, but I still have so much to learn and try. Feels like a tall order sometimes. Life feels like a tall order
4 pm. Pablo's up from his nap, and I sit down to finally write the post.
Should I go to Starbucks to write? I could focus there. It's getting late though...
Pablo proceeds to tell his zoo story with such passion, sound effects, gestures and all. It's hard not to smile. And it's also hard to focus. Another late night looms.
I face the screen. Pablo comes for a cuddle, lets me know he's eating compote with his Mamette (grandma) in the jardin. Lets me know again. Runs through my office again. Gives me a kiss. A compote-y kiss. I manage to write a few thoughts.
It feels kind of flat. But it's honest at least. Will have to finish later. Should have gone to Starbucks. But then again I would have missed the compote-y kiss.
5:20 pm. I preheat the oven and pour the chocolate batter in the ramekins. I set up the little table I have for taking pictures of food for the blog.
How hard can it be to make chocolate cake look appetizing? Kind of hard. Actually, I have a decent feeling about these photos, I think they're going to turn out OK. I've gotten slightly more confident about writing, cooking, taking photos since last year. Something else I owe to the blog.
I take out the fondants, 10 minutes, they're too soft. So delicious though. They're pouring their chocolaty heart out onto the plate. A little too much. I stick the last one back in the oven for a minute.
Trial and error, that's the good stuff of life. The real stuff. Not perfection and expectations. Cooking, parenting, blogging, they've all taught me that. I'm so glad I know that now. I should talk about that in the post. What a strange intimacy, it feels like the people who have been reading the blog know me. Really know me. Perhaps better than some of my friends. It's nice to feel visible. I should thank the readers for that too.
The last fondant is perfect, slightly crusty on top, totally melty in the middle. Pablo sees me taking pictures, he runs to get his camera too. I do the most unthinkable, un-French thing possible: feed him a spoon of chocolate cake and spoil his appetite before dinner. Oh well. It's a special occasion. We photograph these gushing chocolate fondants from every angle. We're behind schedule.
6:45 pm. Bath and dinner prep time. The naked giggling toddler comes running in and out of the kitchen. A daily pre-bath ritual in our house. I think of my friend Pascale, a published author, and the most helpful piece of writing advice I ever got.
'Be as profoundly honest as you can possibly be', she said. 'Give the naked truth.'
7 pm. Setting the table outside for dinner. Oysters tonight. And a surprise Camembert for cheese. We celebrate my mother's 5 years of life in the US.
It has been a great food year for our family, really. Pablo eats oysters, pickles, asparagus, blue cheese... you name it. He's still an adventurous eater, the jovial eater who gulped that gazpacho a year ago, and he's a budding cook too. We have been eating as well as I always wanted him eat, and these wonderful family meals have brought us so much joy and connection. I should say that too.
God, it's going to be a long post. Who has the time to read that, seriously? No matter, write it anyway.
8:30 pm. Pablo's in bed. We're doing dishes. And it comes to me.
Naked truth. I should just share what my day was like. My thoughts, doubts. Just be an open book. I can do that, I have come to trust this space. It feels like home.
So... thank you. You, reading these words. This blog wouldn't exist without you. You have made my life better, made me feel helpful and useful in a small but real way, and that is so very rewarding.
There goes the Oscar speech again. All right. 'nuff said. Moving on to the chocolate cake now.
I thought a sweet treat was in order, it is an anniversary after all. I made these simple dark chocolate fondants for Mother's day and they were a big hit. I hope you will enjoy them too.
Dark chocolate fondants
Makes about 5 (depending on size of ramekins)
Prep time: 15 mn + 2/3+ hours rest time
Cook time : 10-12 mn
Age for babies: 15 months+ is when I introduced Pablo to chocolate (as a special treat)
4 oz dark chocolate (I used organic 85% cocoa)
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter + a little extra for the ramekins
4 oz (1/2 cup) sugar
1/2 scant cup flour
Break up the chocolate into a bowl, add 1 tbsp of water and melt in the microwave (in mine, in took about 1 mn 20. Or melt over very low heat on the stove).
Stick the butter in the microwave for about 12 seconds to soften it (or use room temperature).
In a large bowl, use a fork at first to work the butter and the chocolate, then a whisk until it becomes a smooth mixture.
In another medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until it is foamy and light yellow/white, about 2-3 minutes. Add the flour and mix with a whisk.
Pour the egg/sugar/flour mixture into the chocolate mixture and mix thoroughly until combined. Place in the fridge for 2-3 hours (or more if you need to).
Preheat the oven at 400°F.
Butter the ramekins, fill them 3/4 of the way up with the chocolate batter.
Place in the oven, and therein lies the only tricky part of this recipe: the cooking time will vary a lot depending on your oven and the size ramekins you use, if they're narrower or wider (then it might only need 7 or 8 minutes). Some there's some trial and error to get the consistency just right, though this is a recipe you might not mind having to make two or three times to get it just perfect ;-) My favorite is when there's a crust on top, but with a liquidy center. For me with slightly narrower/taller ramekins, the sweet spot was at about 12 minutes. You can test by sticking a knife on the side and in the middle. However, I overcooked them slightly one time, by leaving them in the turned off oven, and they were still very good, just all solid. Slightly undercooked and they will kind of fall apart when you take them out of the ramekins. That being said, they are still absolutely scrumptious that way, just on the gushy side. (You can serve them in the ramekins too.)
They are delicious served warm, but also lovely cold.