My parents tore down trees in their front yard in North Carolina. They kept the biggest one for a tire swing. They’re creating heirlooms now, they have grandbabies coming, two by Christmas. My mother’s already buying Halloween costumes that will last them to kindergarten. Heirlooms, beds that have been in the family for years. Made of brass. Toy boxes made by my grandfather’s hands. Held together by duct tape now. He refuses to go to a nursing home now. He won’t admit he drinks too much, either.
Our heritage comes in food and temper tantrums. In past regrets and lies and the marriages and mortgages and apartment complexes we’ve used to cover it all up. But now we have hand-me-downs we can call vintage and attach any threadbare sentimentality to it all. It’s comforting to know the toys I once held together with Band-Aids can be given to my niece or nephew and not be put in the Goodwill pile in the basement. I can make up stories like I still do today. Stories of success. How I was a martyr for quitting law school. How I loved a boy once and it didn’t turn out how I thought it all would.
I keep myself busy most days, unless there’s an occasional email or text or phonecall to pass the time. I vacuumed my room twice to stay busy. I keep the space heater on in my room until I feel sick. I stopped by the side of the road twice last week to pick wildflowers that wilted in the sunlight while I was filling up my tank and getting a slice of pizza at the gas station down the road.
I saw my sister for the first time in a month yesterday, at her shared house that sits in a field. I parked by a lonesome tree and was greeted by her 11-year-old retriever. We watched a movie, played the old Mario games. I smelled the cigarette smoke from my brother-in-law’s Pall Mall seep through a crack in the windowsill. We brought pizza, ate it on napkins in the kitchen. We’re making it a tradition to keep trying at this.
I woke up this morning and had coffee, sat on the countertop and told my mom about the visit. I made these waffles for us before she went to work. Sunday breakfast, a little late in the day. I’m making my own traditions, heirlooms. Brass and duct tape and Band-Aids and all.
Cornmeal Ricotta Strawberry Waffles
- 1 cup flour
- ¾ cup cornmeal, finely ground
- 1 TB baking powder
- 3 TB cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup white sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoon vanilla
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 cup whole milk or buttermilk
- ½ cup ricotta
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 3 strawberries, roughly chopped
- Confectioner’s suga
- In a bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Set aside
- In a measuring cup, whisk together milk, ricotta, and vanilla. Set aside
- In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes
- Using a rubber spatula, transfer all egg whites to a separate bowl, making sure not to deflate
- Switch to paddle attachment and add yolks and sugar to the bowl
- Beat until ribbons form
- Now, with the mixer on alternate between the milk-ricotta mixture and the dry ingredient mixture, a half cup at a time, allowing for the mixture to become fully homogenized before moving on
- With the rubber spatula, mix a little bit of the egg whites into the batter to lighten
- Fold in remaining egg whites, turning the spatula and the bowl to fully incorporate egg whites with minimal to no lumps
- Finally, gently fold in rosemary and strawberries until just mixed in
- Grease your waffle iron and use to manufacturer specifications
- When slightly cooled, sift confectioner’s sugar atop waffles and enjoy immediatel