This is a post about morning chasing the shadows away, about nightmares and milk tea flavored French toast. I’ve noticed a curious thing about myself in contrast to my husband. I wake up nervous, almost in a panic, nearly every morning. Many mornings the first words off my lips to him are a bleary “Is everything ok?” I need to hear that everything is okay. While he dreams of singing lullabies to our daughter the day she’s born, I thrash through drownings, fighting tooth & claw, and a writhing sort of pain in my heart that’s almost limb rending. I love to rest, to sleep, but waking each morning to this glorious and still yet new world of placid waters, mundane worries, and a husband that I love and loves me in return is more like a dream than any sleep I’ve known as an adult. Morning is sweet. He brings me coffee, we make breakfast or take it out, and the black water recedes again into my subconscious. Living is a good remedy. So here are my thoughts on the fear & a recipe for chasing it away, namely a recipe for an earl grey & lavender scented French toast topped with sweet summer blueberries.
It’s no great mystery as to why my sleep is disturbed. I amassed a decade of disturbing during my twenties, enough to fuel a lifetime of nightmares. I was a master of compartmentalizing, a common survival skill amongst the compulsively ill advised. Now I’m likely up to the same psychological tricks. But there are only two compartments: then and now. Then is in a shoebox on a dim, cobwebbed shelf. Now is out on my dresser, the first thing I see when I sit up in bed. But in some somnambulant state of self torture, I take then off the shelf and rifle through it’s contents. Maniacs are in there, and the maniacs tormenting me, if dream interpreters are to be believed, are all—no matter the face—myself.
My husband doesn’t seem to have this fear. I’m sure he has a fair human amount of fear; we all do. But not this dark mass I carry around. It makes sense that he doesn’t. The bags I carry, the skeletons—whatever cliché you want to assign to my distasteful (to put it lightly) memories and experience—he simply doesn’t have them or at the very least not the sheer volume or degree. I’m tempted to fall into a narrative of seeing myself as the “dark one”. I laugh less & worry more than he does, it’s true. I’m less friendly, less optimistic. Not to say I’m not those things, I’m a reasonable amount in my estimation. I just don’t possess that same effervescence & light. I’m an introverted, internal sort.
Over the past few days, I’ve made a little down time since we returned home from 5 weeks abroad, and in that time I’ve found stillness. Stillness leads to thought. And my thoughts have turned to wondering whether my daughter will grow up and see us the way I see us. Whether she’ll see him as the light one and me as the dark one. Whether she’ll see sadness and fear in me. Or whether she’ll see me like he sees me, introverted & sensitive, but not dark. My hope is the latter. And my hope is that the rays of the morning, of our family & the daily moments we share from breakfasts to afternoon swims, of good work & real friends will, over a lifetime, chase away those shadows, and that I will consistently see myself the way the people who love me see me: as different but not worse.
Without further introspective rambling, here’s a recipe to beautify your waking world: thick brioche French toast infused with earl grey and topped with the sapphire jewels of the season, plump blueberries tossed in a homemade lavender sugar & lemon zest. Add a cloud of powdered sugar and syrup if you must (I skip the latter, personally) and you have a meal that will make you smile no matter what the night brought.
Fluffy london fog french toast + sugared blueberries
For Lavender + Earl Grey Sugar
- 100 grams 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon lavender
- 1 teaspoon Earl Grey tea leaves
For French Toast
- 1/2 loaf day old Challah cut into 4 slices 1″ thick
- 180 grams 3/4 cups whole milk
- 60 g 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 Earl Grey tea bags or 2 teaspoons loose leaves
- 2 large eggs
- 50 grams 1/4 cup lavender + earl grey sugar & extra for sprinkling
- 30 grams 1/4 cup flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- unsalted butter for frying or for greasing the pan if baking
- blue berries tossed with lavender earl grey sugar for topping
- lemon for zesting over the toast
- lightly sweetened whipped cream optional
- In a mini food processor grind the sugar, tea, and lavender until combined. It will be very fine, almost like powdered sugar, and no large chunks of lavender buds or tea leaves should remain. Divide into 50 grams to use for the french toast batter and set aside the rest for tossing the blueberries and dusting the toast.
- In a saucepan over medium high heat bring the milk and cream to simmer. Remove from heat, add the tea bags, steep for 15 minutes, and then remove the tea bags or strain if using loose leaf tea.
- Transfer the milk tea to a mixing bowl and whisk in the 2 eggs, 1/4 cup lavender + earl grey sugar, flour, and vanilla until smooth and completely combined.
- Toss the blueberries with some of the set aside lavender + earl grey sugar to just coat.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter for every two slices you’re frying in a skillet large enough to fit them without crowding over medium high heat. Dip each slice of bread into the batter to thoroughly coat and immediately fry about 3 minutes per side until golden brown being careful not to burn it. Serve hot, dust lightly with more of the lavender sugar, top with sugared blueberries, and zest a bit of lemon over the top. A dollop of lightly whipped cream is optional, though delicious.
Alternate Oven Baked Method: Double all ingredients in the recipe.
- Heat oven to 350°F before proceeding with recipe.and butter a baking pan that will snugly fit the 8 slices of toast layered over one another. Proceed as above.
- Dunk all of the toast in the batter and arrange in the baking pan. Pour excess batter over toast. Allow to soak for at least one hour and up to overnight in the fridge. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve as above.