Growing up, there was a tradition in my house of how many birthday celebrations you could manage to pack into one year, and how long you could stretch those same celebrations out for. My sister was the queen of this trick, although to be fair, it had a lot to do with the timing of her birthday. Born in July, there was always a family celebration in Victoria with us and my maternal grandparents, then there was inevitably a party with friends, and after that we would leave for summer vacation with my paternal grandparents and there would be yet another party.
Maybe when we were younger this had to do with maximizing the days when we were free from doing dishes and got to eat cake, but as we’ve gotten older the tradition has continued and it’s no longer just about cake. It’s about getting to create and consume as many fabulous meals as possible. It’s about spending as much time with all of the lovely people in our lives as possible. It’s about creating excuses to simply celebrate the fact that we exist. And yes, it is still certainly about getting to eat cake.
Although I lagged behind my sister when we were younger, often just having one party with family, I’ve been making up for it like crazy these past few years.
This year the celebrations started when my mother’s plane touched down at Nice on March 11. Really, that alone would have been a good enough present, but then we went to Florence, Italy.
After, in Paris, we had my first “official” birthday dinner at Chez Michel, a charming and delicious Breton Restaurant just moments from where I used to live.
There are moments in life when the food you are eating tastes perfect, like nothing you have ever eaten before. In truth, I think this has as much, or more, to do with a sharply defined instant of joy that is present while we eat these foods. Whatever the reason, dinner at Chez Michel was one of these rare perfect meals. There is absolutely nothing about it that I would change.
And then there was dinner number two, when my roommate Sarah and her boyfriend Marc decided to cook me dinner. There was fantastic stir fry (because, you see, I like vegetables) and a wicked apple crisp to finish. We played dice games and drank a lovely bottle of white wine my mother had left behind when she was short, at the last minute, on space in her suitcase.
This morning I wake up early, Fritz Reiner’s Symphony No. 7 in A pulling me conscious to the sound of pounding rain and a kitchen waiting. The morning unfolds as I knead dough, spread butter, and turn my pastry again and again; my kouign amann is slowly taking shape.
A traditional Breton cake, kouign amann has become one of my favourite French treats,
although when not in Brittany, it is difficult to find it as good as it should be made. Fortunately, I’ve got luck on my side and it comes out of the oven looking perfect.
Later, I’ll serve my kouign amann at brunch when our apartment is filled with friends from all over the world.
And as for all of you who I won’t be celebrating with this year – eat something delicious for me won’t you?