Sunday, August 28, 2011

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: Waffles

 When Ryan and I started dating, we lived six hours apart. There was a lot of time spent on the phone or driving to see one another. But all that time away just made the moments we got to be together that much more special. Often times we’d pick a place in the middle and meet there for a long weekend. And there was one thing we always looked forward to during those trips…waffles (that’s not what you thought I was going to say, was it?).

We loved to find the hotels that offered not only a free continental breakfast, but one which included a “make your own waffle” station – with the batter pre-measured into little paper Dixie cups that could be easily poured into a piping hot waffle iron. In the morning, we’d patiently wait our turn to choose just the right cup of batter, then listen to it sizzle and pop as we carefully spread the thick liquid evenly through the channels of the iron. Smiles spread across our faces as the smell of cooking waffles slowly drifted up to our noses. At the sound of the timer, we’d pry our breakfast out with a plastic fork, drop it onto a paper plate and carry it to our table where we’d sit and enjoy our “home cooked” meal.

It’s not that they were the best waffles I’d ever eaten – most of the time they were mediocre at best, hardly better than their frozen cousins. It was what they represented that made them so special. Eating those waffles meant that I was spending time with Ryan, something I only got to do a few hours a month. They became part of our routine, something that’s hard to establish when you see each other infrequently and each time it’s in a different place. But it was a routine nonetheless.
After a year and a half of dating long distance, we decided it was time to save some gas money and move closer to each other. And the rest is history. But those waffles never lost their special meaning. We still seek them out at hotels when we’re traveling. It’s as if they are a talisman that we cling to, reminding us of where we started and how far we’ve come. Over the years, we even got a waffle iron of our own. We’ve tried several waffle batter variations, but they never seem to be the same as the ones in the hotels. So we were excited to find a recipe in the box that we could put to the test.

Sadly, we weren’t too impressed with this recipe. The consistency was a little runny and the waffles were thin and limp. But, because of the baby and money being tight from unemployment, we haven’t traveled much in the past few years. So when that familiar sizzling sound hit our ears and the enticing smell of batter cooking on a hot iron drifted into our noses, we felt “home” again. It’s true what they say, absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

Before I began this project, I never imagined that I would miss being in the kitchen  making a mess with flour all over the counters, swearing at boiled icing, or waiting to see if the cake I pull from the oven will be light and fluffy or hard and caved in. But in those moments between the time when Lucy finally falls asleep and when my body gives into the exhaustion and passes out, my mind carries me back to the same thought time and time again: I miss writing and cooking. I miss them the same way I used to miss Ryan after  we’d packed our bags at the hotel on Sunday afternoon, each driving away in opposite directions.

There are things that are just a part of who we are. A long time ago, I learned that I am a “writer.” It’s deep in my soul. No matter what I do, nothing will ever change that. It doesn’t matter if I ever get published or if anyone else reads what I’ve written, I need to feel the soft glide of ink across paper, get a cramp in my hand when my body can’t write fast enough to keep up with my excited mind, or listen to the tip tap of my fingers as they type out thoughts on the keyboard. There have been times in my life when writing and I have taken a vacation apart from each other, but we’ve always come back. We are like lovers who see each other on opposite ends of the beach and run, almost in slow motion, towards each other until we slam against one another in a tight embrace, as if we are trying to fuse our bodies into one so that we may never be separated again.

Only now, I’ve come to realize that cooking, too, has entered that embrace. As I stare at my lonely kitchen utensils and realize it has been months since I’ve made a Found Recipe Box recipe and posted it on the blog, I get that pang deep in my gut and long for an afternoon in the kitchen.

Lucy just turned six months old. I can’t believe it. Everyone said it would go by fast, but I never imagined time could move this quickly.

She’s getting so grown up already and insists that she’s a big girl. I want to freeze time and enjoy each precious moment for as long as I can. But I also can’t wait for the day when she can join me in the kitchen. I love to watch her interact with the world. She’s so inquisitive and pays close attention to everything around her – I think she’ll catch onto baking quickly. And someday, I’ll pull out the waffle iron and teach her how to prepare her own batch of batter, all the while regaling her with stories of all the adventures her mom and dad went on…after their fulfilling breakfast of fresh-made waffles, of course. Hopefully by then we’ll have perfected the recipe, finding just the right blend to recreate those thick, flavorful hotel waffles.