When the pandemic hit, there was a lot of fear and panic. Remember wiping down all of our groceries?! But there was also a sense of newness. We were stocking up on yeast and flour. Hosting Zoom dinner parties. And hunkering down for what we thought would be a few weeks or maybe months at home. That sense of optimism is what got me through the spring.
This summer, we have focused on trying to maintain as much of a sense of normalcy as possible for us and our kids. We’ve had dance parties and roasted s’mores in the backyard firepit. We have ventured to the beach, wherever we felt it wasn’t too crowded and we could properly socially distance.
We even went on a short vacation, down to Hood River, Oregon. There are times that things feel normal-ish. We pick up our fruit CSA box, as we have every summer since we moved to Seattle. We ride bikes to the park. And then there are times when I realize just how far we are still from normal. Like the fact that I haven’t been able to see my family down in California, or the looming start of virtual school.
I read somewhere recently that there is no predictability in life, pandemic or not. This pandemic has only highlighted this fact. And we were foolish to ever think we could ever plan and time everything according to our desires.
In a piece he wrote for The Atlantic, Rick Steves writes, “I’ve found that I can satisfy my wanderlust with “sightseeing highlights” just down the street and cultural eurekas that I never appreciated. Before the pandemic, I didn’t think to savor the little, nearby joys in the same way I did while abroad. To be honest, I ignored them. Now I notice the tone of the ferry’s horn, the majesty of my hometown sunset.”
Similarly, I have found myself appreciating the things right under my nose: our expansive backyard — an anomaly in the city — my prolific raspberry bush, our soon-to-be finished downstairs renovation (!!!), the stunning nature in the PNW, baking with my kids. It’s not summer in Italy and I dearly miss my family and yearly girls’ trips (not to mention, having people over to my house). But I know that we will continue to learn to live this way and it will not all be bad. In fact, we may look back at 2020 as the year we all sharpened our lenses and zoomed into the things we want most out of this life.
This Strawberry Spoon Cake, which I made with my daughters back in June as a Father’s Day treat, has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s humble and simple. No fuss. Just spoons, and a big ol’ garnish of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (baker’s choice).
Strawberry Spoon Cake
Recipe adapted from Jerrelle Guy via The New York Times
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
1 cup of roughly chopped strawberries
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of whole milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of turbinado sugar
Homemade whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8 round cake pan with butter.
2. Toss the berries in a medium bowl and mash them with a fork until they release their juices. Stir in 1/3 cup of brown sugar and set aside.
3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, milk, vanilla bean paste, and salt. Add the flour and baking powder and whisk until smooth.
4. Use a spatula to transfer the butter to the pan and spread it to the edges.
5. Distribute the strawberries and their juices over the batter. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or just when a toothpick comes out clean in the center.
6. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before spooning into bowls. Serve warm, topped with a mountain of whipped cream or ice cream.