Free Writing – Ultimate Meringue Therapy

The inside of an egg holds the promise of the ultimate meringue recipe – half of the insides of four eggs, anyway.

This morning I made a batch of meringues for a friend.

When I went to bed last night, and as my friends’s birthday came to an end, I fell asleep with the intention to awake the next morning and make those meringues she loves so much. A promised birthday gift, albeit a day late.

This morning I woke to an email she’d written last night, after my bedtime, telling us, her friends and family, that her dear brother had died that very day.

A day of birth and a day of death.

The thing about meringues is that they’re good for both. At least I trust they are. A light crust that holds things together just long enough – until one reaches the soft comfort of the marshmallow-like interior.

I hope the meringues are a comfort to this friend as she grieves – with family afar, friends nearby, and alone as she settles into bed to sleep tonight.


Meringue Therapy

4 egg whites

3/4 cup castor sugar

1 cup of icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 100 degrees celsius (or as low as your oven will go – mine is 120 degrees.)

Line baking tray with baking paper (I use two trays).

With electric mixer on medium speed, whip egg whites until they form soft peaks.

Turn the mixer to high speed and add the castor sugar a dessert spoon at a time. Beat until the castor sugar is dissolved.

Sift in the icing sugar and then fold the mixture with a large metal spoon until it’s combined – don’t overmix.

Spoon onto the trays in clumps! I get about 15-16 from this batch – but you could make them bigger or smaller if you prefer.

Bake in the oven for an hour – more if they’re not crisp when you touch them. (I swap the trays around on the two shelves in my oven, half-way through the cooking time).

When they crusty on the outside, take them out and carefully remove them onto a cooling rack.

Serve with a bowl of whipped cream and a bowl of berries.


A Veil of Tears

Awhile back, I was catching up with some old friends over a meal and as I recounted several stories (from different times and different places) they recognised a common motif: tears. My tears.

Me crying as I: opened a box of 40 Birthday cards; heard the news of my boss moving on to a new job; sang a moving hymn in the company of hundreds; wrote an email to friends asking for help with a somewhat delicate matter; fell over on the main street and in the process of falling lost a McDonalds hamburger as it broke my fall (we couldn’t quite work out if it was the fall or the loss of the burger that had produced the tears). Finally, I recounted to my friends the saying of goodbyes to my boss the day before. Or, rather, how I tried to say goodbye. My throat was somewhat constricted.

My friends, understandably, enquired if I was in possession of unusually large tear ducts – and not in a tone that suggested this might be a good thing. You lose credibility if you cry too much. You lose much of your foundation and mascara also.

In the days before seeing my friends, I had been attending a conference with hundreds of others in a similar line of work to mine. I hadn’t expected to see many people I know. But I did. Even the ones I didn’t know all seemed to know my boss and that he was leaving – and they all had something to say.

So, though in my imagination I had seen myself attending this conference in a fairly anonymous capacity and therefore in an emotionally detached manner (a break from the emotions of the weeks leading up to that holiday), it seemed I was doomed to walk around with my emotions very much attached to my sleeve and trailing behind me in a mass of sodden tissues – well, at least a little bundle of them in the bottom of my handbag.

Tears are humiliating – mostly. Crying makes others feel awkward as they watch your eyes brim with tears and then spill over, running down your face, sometimes mingling with the contents of a running nose. Tears make a fool of you as they somehow cause a simultaneous constriction of your vocal chords, rendering you unable to speak clearly. If you do try to speak, the tears fight back with a counter-phenomenon otherwise known as ‘ugly crying’.

I’m fairly certain that in a petite, sweetly fragile looking girl, tears would look endearing and call for rescue and empathy. On the face of a woman with a larger, more robust frame – the kind of women that people ask for directions (I can only guess because they think I can see further?) – tears are a disappointment and look pathetic, weak and just a little ridiculous. Not to mention the fact that, because we larger women are taller, we can be seen from a greater distance as our tears fall.

I spent some time that week with a woman who was suffering grief from the loss of a loved one. She said she didn’t cry until she was alone in her room at night. Ironically, people thought she didn’t care – that she wasn’t really grieving because they couldn’t see her tears. Tears are required of us at times, but only at times when others deem it appropriate.

Mostly tears are just awkward.

And yet they speak words – even when they won’t allow our vocal chords to speak.

They say ‘Something or Someone is gone!’ or ‘Something’s not as it should be!’ or even ‘Something so lovely has just happened that it highlights, just a little, deep inside, the lack of lovely somethings at other times’.

We are moved – or at least I am – when we taste loss or the brief presence of something that’s normally absent. Longing spills from our eyes, often at the most inconvenient and, in my case, frequent and public times.

But I take comfort in the fact that I’m known and understood by a fellow weeper. Jesus wept as he saw grief, saw faith missing, and faced the prospect of death and separation. A death that would ensure a future for his (now) weeping followers – a future of no more crying, or grief, or pain.

As my tears fall these days, I try to remember that they speak, when my voice won’t, of a longing for a tearless eternity – where nothing good is lost.

Though I’m glad the need for tissues will be.

With Marcella #12 & #13 (of 466)

Tonight, at my table:

Two women who know the landscape of grief and have walked it with the Lord who loves them.

One roast chicken.

One courgette gratin.

Countless words of wisdom.

Comfort food for the body and the soul.

Tonight: #12 ‘Oven-roasted Chicken with Garlic and Rosemary’ and #13 ‘Courgette Gratin with Tomato and Marjoram’ with Narelle and Margaret at my table.