I am not a morning person but I wish I were one. My friend, K, calls this desire morning-person envy, one that we shared over a late breakfast one weekend.
I often wonder how it feels to wake up each morning with abundant spryness. Instead, I flail at the alarm button as it goes off and fitfully tug at the bedsheets over my head to prolong my sleep a few more minutes. Later in the kitchen, I gulp down my breakfast, keeping one eye on the clock while I brew my tea abstractedly. And when I finally leave the house for work, I am a harried bundle of trailing scarf, cradling a much-needed thermos of scalding tea.
On rare occasions, I do manage to drink my first cup of tea in the unhurried light of the early morning, steeping myself in its languid pace before leaving for work. The kitchen is bathed in a soft light. The cats, worn-out from their nocturnal tussle with a fuzzy ball, are asleep in an entwined heap. Their even breathing, the creaks and starts of our old house - the house settling, E would point out to me when these unaccountable noises appear- only accentuate the deep silence. I feel light, unencumbered by the constraints of time, and I banish the kitchen timepiece to a corner.
I catch a rare glimpse of this state when with unhabitual foresight I go to bed early enough to rise with ease the next morning. But my memory can be willfully selective, and during the bustle of my late nights, I forget how much I cling to my sleep.
This morning was an exception. I woke up to a glimmer of light from the window. Shivering a bit, I looked outside: fallen leaves, illumined by moonlight, covered the sidewalk and yards. The bare boughs were starkly lit and grazed the misted windowpanes. Daylight had not claimed the scene and I hurried to get outside before it did.
I took a long walk, solitary in the near darkness. With the encroaching sunlight, a few figures quietly appeared, some still in their bathrobes and slippers, their dogs in tow.
On my way home, I picked from among the fallen leaves several brightly colored ones - outnumbered by their dun-colored counterparts this deep into the fall season.
At home, I brewed a pot of sencha. What remained of a cranberry lemon cake from yesterday rested on the kitchen counter. I cut a slice for myself and tasted the bracing tartness of fresh cranberries.
Recipe for Cranberry Lemon Cake
(adapted from a recipe by Dorie Greenspan)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
grated zest of one lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup fat free yogurt
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups cranberries
Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter an 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch loaf pan, place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and keep near by.
1. Put the sugar and zest in a medium bowl and rub the ingredients together until the sugar is fragrant. Add the lemon juice and whisk in the yogurt, eggs and vanilla. When the mixture is well blended, gently whisk in the dry ingredients. Switch to a spatula and fold in the oil. The batter will be thick and shiny. Scrape it into the pan and smooth the top. Add the cranberries to the batter.
2. Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and starts to come away from the sides of the pan; a knife inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then run a knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up.
Storing: You can keep the cake at room temperature for at least 4 days or freeze it for up to 2 months