Love after Love
In the wake of last week’s ‘tundra’ trifle, I bring you an easy chocolate mousse for your holiday dessert needs. I’ve chosen mousse because it’s both magically light and dense, rich and creamy, but also because it’s a make-ahead dessert. Yes, trifle is as well, but we all now know that a trifle is the cassoulet of desserts. Cassoulet, that innocent mound of flavourful beige-ness simmering in a cocotte, is really three difficult Sunday lunches folded into one. It takes hours to make. Fortitude. Effort. But, the effort can be your own, in the quiet of your kitchen. You can break some glass, have a tantrum, and layer all your emotions between the French beans, pork ragu and duck confit.
Or, you can make an easy chocolate mousse.
Because making something ahead is a gift to the maker. It has taken time, years even, to appreciate this and be thankful for it. Literally. When I walk in the door at the end of the day and smell the slow cooker bubbling away, I say, hey thanks Lindsay. When I get into my made bed at night? Thank you. When I pull a chocolate mousse from the fridge, grab a spoon and scoop it onto plates, right there at the table like a server once did for me in a restaurant in London, again, I say thank you.
I thought about this when a poem by poet Derek Walcott arrived in my inbox via Brain Pickings, Maria Popova’s weekly newsletter.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
The poem, as the title suggests, is encouragement that after years of loving another, self love will come again. I also hear the author (a man from Saint Lucia who died last year at 87) telling me, a mother half his age, to put on the oxygen mask first (or the slow cooker), then stop, look at that stranger in the mirror, and love her. Only then can we sit and truly feast on our life.
This wisdom is hard earned. It arrives after tantrums, fatigue, meal prep with a crying child on your hip, fights and heart aches. It arrives when friends share their recipes, their systems and their stories. It arrives when make-ahead desserts, ones that can be pulled with ease and grace from the fridge, are folded into your repertoire. It arrives when you stop, love, and thank yourself.
Chocolate Mousse, from Buvette by Jody Williams
I first tasted Buvette’s chocolate mousse on a cold winter’s evening, squished next to my husband at one of Buvette’s famous tiny tables. The mousse arrived simply on a plate, just a big mound, studded with two spoons. It was so simple and delicious. Last month I sampled a different version at a different restaurant, but also served as a big spoonful on a plate. I’m convinced it’s the only way.
12 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
225 g (1/2 lb) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 tbsp water
3 large eggs, separated, plus an additional egg white
pinch of coarse salt
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
crème fraîche or whipped cream, to serve
Put the butter and chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl along with the spoonful of water set over a pot of barely simmering water. Stir until completely melted. Set the chocolate mixture aside to cool slightly.
Whisk the 3 egg yolks together in a large mixing bowl with the salt. Set aside.
Meanwhile, place the 4 egg whites in a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the wire whip. ADd the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Whisk the yolks, one-third at a time, into the chocolate mixture, making sure each addition is completely combined before adding the the next. Don’t be tempted to add the egg yolks all at once – adding it in batches will help regulate the temperature of the egg yolks and keep them smooth and uniform.
Next carefully fold the stiff egg whites into the chocolate mixture, being as gentle and careful as possible so as not to lose any of the volume you worked so hard to create in the egg whites. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days in advance.
Scoop the mousse, which will have become a striking combination of fluffy and dense, and serve with crème fraîche or whipped cream.