DC’s Cherry Blossom Festival starts today. Tourists descend en masse on the Potomac tidal basin, where the Thomas Jefferson memorial is ringed by an astonishing display of delicate pinks and whites. It’s striking. There are so many blossoms that all the natural light seems to be filtered through a pink lens, casting a rosy glow. I recommend going on a weekday morning or evening, when the crowds are fewer and the air is stiller.
Louise and I braved the crowds last year with our mother, who drove in from Michigan just for the event. It was hectic, but still beautiful, and L snapped some gorgeous pictures.
You don’t have to be downtown to see the cherry blossoms, though. The District is peppered with cherry trees, and my morning commute has become increasingly beautiful over the past week as the local park unfolded itself into spring. But this year, the advent of the cherry blossoms is tinged with tragedy. How can you look at graceful sprays of sakura and not think of Japan?
(And not just symbolically–Japan actually gave 3,020 cherry trees to the United States as a gift of friendship in 1912, and then followed up with another 3,800 in 1965.)
I found myself wide-eyed-awake this morning before the sun came up, mixing dough for later, thinking about springtime and Japan. Does anyone else find baking meditative? Cooking is all about tasting, throwing in alittleofthis and apinchmoresalt. Baking, though, is methodical: mixing, kneading, rolling, cutting. Take-out-one-batch and put-in-another. Rhythmic. And before I knew it, scraps of pastry dough became tiny breakfast galettes filled with cherry preserves, and I set a breakfast for one on the back deck.
Laying a table for oneself is something I do often, but I think I’m in the minority. It’s peaceful: just sit and eat. I love gathering people around a table because it makes them slow down and engage with one another; in the same way, having a meal for yourself compels you to engage with your own thoughts. And this morning, those thoughts centered on what seems such an immense imbalance. So much new life in one place–enough to celebrate with a week-long festival–and so much destruction (that continues to unfold) in another. I was grateful for the moment. I don’t know about you, but I often feel so bombarded by news that I have little time to process what it means to me.
Maybe we all need a breakfast (or lunch, or dinner, or glass of wine) for one every once in awhile, to do just that–mull over things, and figure out what they actually mean to us. Maybe that’s the only way we can fully appreciate loss, and begin to foster renewal.
A quick post-script: I’m a little late on this, but as someone who works in international development, I’d urge you to be prudent and read up a little if you’re considering donating to Japanese relief efforts. I’ve seen a lot of outpourings of heartfelt sympathy around the (food) blogosphere, but doing “whatever we can” isn’t necessarily the best attitude. If you do donate, choose a reputable organization that does solid disaster mitigation and relief work, and make sure to choose one that has actually been given a role in the relief effort.
Leftover pastry dough mini-galettes with cherry preserves
I know this isn’t a real recipe. Instead, it’s all about turning those scraps (rather than throw away, as I see somany people do!) into something that you can enjoy for yourself.
You will need
Scraps of pastry dough
Plain yogurt/heavy cream
Mint for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Gather pastry dough scraps into a loose ball and press into a thick disk. Roll to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using a round cookie cutter (or a glass), cut the dough into small rounds.
Spread just a bit of cherry preserves into the middle of each round. (You really do want just a little; making a tart with preserves rather than fresh fruit is much sweeter. My layer of preserves was so thin that by the time it had finished baking, it was more of a glaze.)
Working around the diameter, fold 1-inch sections of the dough in towards the middle of the circle, overlapping as you go along.
Bake in the oven until the dough is golden brown. Serve with yogurt or some softly whipped cream. Garnish with mint.