When I was a very little girl, I had a fascination with the airport. My parents would take me to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and park on the top level so that I could watch the planes take off. Maybe it’s because our house is so close to the airport, but I always loved looking up into the sky and watching the planes fly by.
Now that I’m older, airports still have a strange pull. I love the idea of departing; going somewhere else. Somewhere new. And yet it’s always a bit sad and not just when you return from a vacation. There’s an inherenet loneliness to airports. So many people, so many faces that you’ll rush by in a second and never see again.
On Tuesday, I brought my mother to the airport for her flight to Italy and as soon as I set foot in the terminal, that feeling of wanting to be somewhere else washed over me.
As we stood in the slowly moving line, amongst so many people getting ready to visit Italy, I kept hearing snippets of conversations. People talked about how long they’d been in Canada and who they were going back to visit. People talked about what part of Italy they were from and where they were born. They talked about how long it had been since their last visit and how long they would stay.
And for most of them, I could tell that there was a sense of eagerness not just for travel, but to return to what is their spiritual home, if not their real home.
For my mother, it’s a return to my father. My mother’s family is all in Canada yet my father’s family is all in Italy. So she goes there to stay with her sisters-in-law and her brothers-in-law. She goes there to soak in the place where my father was born. She goes to our little itty bitty house there that has been slowly and painstakingly repaired.
When my mother had finally checked in, I walked her to the Gate and saw her off. Her last words to me were, “Take care of my little tomato plants.”
In the middle of an airport, it all comes back to what really counts … tomato plants and a trip to somewhere else.
Safe passage to travellers everywhere.
Adapted from Tea Party by Tracy Stern.
Note: I’ve never made pavlova before so I consider this to be the first step on my way to that most noble of desserts. Basically you’re looking at a 1/4 of sugar per egg white. It sounds like a lot but surprisingly the meringues do not end up overly sweet. If you don’t have rosewater, use another flavouring like vanilla extract. You can bake the meringues several days ahead and store them in an airtight container. It’s best to make the strawberry cream the same day that you serve these. Don’t assemble these until just before serving.
I made these because they reminded me of being in a plane looking at the clouds.
For the meringues:
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. rosewater (optional)
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and the rosewater together gradually adding the sugar until you have a very stiff mixture. The egg whites should hold stiff peaks when you pull the whisk out.
With a tablespoon, drop the mixture onto the baking sheets in large mounds (about 2 inches in size). Be careful not to crowd the mounds together. (You can also use a piping bag to do this).
Bake for an hour, or until the meringues have dried and are not sticky to the touch. They will be slightly golden on top and around the edges. Be careful not to burn them.
Remove from the oven and let them cool completely.
For the strawberry cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 pint strawberries or other berries
1 tbsp. icing sugar
1 tsp. rosewater
In a blender, combine one third of the strawberries with the icing sugar and rosewater. Blend until smooth.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the whipping cream until very thick and stiff.
Fold the strawberry mixture into the whipped cream.
Once the meringues have cooled, spoon a generous dollop of the strawberry cream onto each meringue. Top with the remaining sliced strawberries and serve.