Heaven in the form of Terminal One. St. Peter’s gate with a metal detector. I came prepared, I didn’t wear any shoes. No obols on my eyes. No eye contact in general. I keep my head down, my headphones on. I think I listened to a podcast. Ambient noise. Women talking about war or famine or how to make the best gravy in the world for her family of five. Ambient noise, it drowned out the kids circled around their mother. It drowned out the loudspeakers of any changes, the subsequent groans of tired passengers who didn’t want to move three gates over.
Heaven in the form of stretching, getting my luggage, seeing the way the blue velvet of morning frays into a grey threadbare against the trees. A layover in North Carolina for two hours. I bought a McDonald’s coffee and I think the last time I drank coffee from McDonald’s was when I moved to Texas. When I tried to run away from a tether that choked a little sometimes. I think it’s all still a little raw, a little real. The coffee smells like motor oil and my fingertips smell like cigarette smoke. It’s all a little sensorial; I threw the coffee away. I think I was living in a dream. It was only 5:30 in the morning when we hit the tarmac.
Heaven in the form of silence. Solitude. Grey light and warm hand dryers in the mens room. The metronome of my breathing. It’s too early for kids to scream, too early for television sets. It’s too early for the world to start and I like it this way. I feel an otherness to it. My being here isn’t disrupting any order, any regimen, any existence. I threw the coffee way. I sat behind a column, charged my phone, rubbed my head until I couldn’t feel my pulse behind my eyes anymore. I sat alone and I liked it that way.
Heaven when I saw the yellow porchlights expand and grow into a thousand sunbursts along the rivers. How the shadow skipped across the fields like creek pebbles. How the jolt in the landing meant I was there. I was alive. I wasn’t dreaming. I was home. I met my dad at the baggage claim, he had a hot coffee waiting for me. He hugged me with one arm, he grabbed my luggage with the other. We didn’t say much on the way home. But I felt alive. I felt good. It all felt like home.
I’ve tried to create home in so many different boys, in so many different houses, in so many different recipes. But nothing beats the windows down in my parents’ “new to them” SUV. Nothing beats the cats that watch me, owl-eyed, from the stairwell while I bring my bag up to my old room. I see my mom’s knitting in a basket by the fireplace. I see boxes of Diet Coke by the fridge. All the lines in my mother’s face are new, but the same floorboards creak reassuringly that I haven’t missed too much. I haven’t been gone that long. The world here hasn’t forgotten me just yet, my dad hasn’t forgotten me yet. No matter how prodigal his son has been.
Simple, eye-catching, and stunning for a last-minute dessert for a holiday party. Makes one large 9-inch pavlova or three 3-inch pavlovas.
Ingredients for Meringue:
- 3 egg whites, cold
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 teaspoons red food coloring (gel preferred)
Directions for Meringue:
- Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw either a 9-inch or three 3-inch circles for your meringues.
- Preheat oven to 300*F
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high until they become stiff and peaks form (may take a few minutes—don’t rush and continue at the foamy stage)
- Add sugar, a little at a time, with mixer still running. Peaks will continue to stiffen and egg whites will appear to have a glossier sheen
- Turn mixer down a speed or two. Add extracts, vinegar, and tartar. Beat for about ten seconds to incorporate.
- Meringue should be stiff and hold a peak on the whisk attachment
- In a piping bag, or a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, drip a thin line of red food coloring on three sides of the bag. Use the tip (or a corner if using the Ziploc) as your vertex. These will provide the coloring for the peppermint swirl of the meringue base.
- Carefully spoon egg whites into bag (if using Ziploc, cut the tip of the corner), making sure not to disrupt the food coloring lines
- Work from the center of the circles and pipe outwards, raising the outer side slightly to create an edge. Be generous and use entire egg whites, but be slow and steady with piping, as you don’t want the red lines of coloring to begin to mix and your whole meringue turns a more homogenous pink instead of a mixed red and white striped appearance.
- Bake for one hour and continue on with making the whipped cream while meringue is baking.
- When finished, gently remove from oven. Cool for ten minutes before transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Ingredients for Whipped Cream:
- ½ pint heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Directions for Whipped Cream:
- In a mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, beat heavy whipping cream on medium-high until thick and peaks begin to form.
- Add vanilla and sugar and continue to beat until thick, glossy, and holds a peak
Assembly: Place meringue on plate, dump a generous amount of whipped cream on top, smoothly slightly. Then, top with crushed Ghiradelli’s peppermint bark (or a similar brand) and a few crushed candy canes for added texture and flavor. ow go enjoy your holidays!
And while I did the 9-inch pavlova for the shoot, here are a couple shots of the three-inch pavlovas!