“Man is fond of reckoning up his troubles, but does not count his joys.”
As a continuation of last week’s post on 10 reasons to be universally grateful, I’ve been thinking about the snippets of life that can’t help but break into joy.
Just to be clear, I don’t mean the schadenfreude joy that reading the annual Darwin Awards brings. Or even the cackling joy brought on by an unpleasant person’s public demise — I’m looking at you Robin Thicke (from a sexually safe distance), while thinking about my favourite #AskThicke tweet of your whole PR disaster, from @JoLiptrott, “When you’re not busy objectifying women, making light of rape and justifying sexual violence, how do you like to relax?”.
No, this post won’t be about the joy that’s dulled by the satisfaction of someone else’s suffering (although I think there’s a place for that in life). This is about the joy that sparkles through life and lights up our days. Unsullied joy.
Like these guys.
I posted this little gif in my Dark Chocolate, Whipped Peanut & Caramel Cookies recipe the other week and every single time I glance through The Imperfect Kitchen page it pulls joy from the base of my stomach, all the way through my chest and tugs at the corners of my mouth and eyes.
Another is my toddler’s singing. I’ve written before about his adventurous additions to the Old MacDonald song. Well now he has an ever-growing repertoire of adorable songs and dance moves. His refusal to sleep still drives me insane, but these days he so often couples his sleeplessness with a quiet rendition of ‘5 Little Ducks’ or a more rousing rendition of ‘Baby Crocodile, Don’t You Bite’. Hearing him sends shivers of love through me and I always have to smile — which only encourages the little monster.
There’s the silent joy at the end of a deep meditation, the belt-loosening joy of an overly full stomach, the breathless joy of uncontrollable belly laughter. The satisfied joy of a job well done, the relieved joy when there’s enough money to pay the bills each month, or when that brown substance around my son’s mouth is mud instead of…
The groaning joy at one of my Dad’s jokes. The excited joy of a reunion with my family on the other side of the world (15 weeks until we fly to London!). The sheepish joy in making up after an argument. The comforting joy of a loving hug at the end of a tough day.
The peaceful joy in writing alone in a cafe with great coffee. The parents-will-get-this joy of a slowly sipped cup of tea. The tastebuds-tingling joy of a beautifully crafted donut or a perfect slice of lemon tart. The incredulous joy at seeing my readers’ engage with The Imperfect Kitchen as it reaches out to more of you all the time.
The reassuring joy of talking honestly with a trusted friend and realising that I’m never alone in anything I feel or experience. The aching joy of facing loss and walking through the pain to a more sincere life. The tentative joy of allowing a friend to love me, without instructing them on how much is too much. The grown-up joy in setting an appropriate boundary of self-care. The releasing joy after great, gulping sobs of grief. The vulnerable joy of opening my heart to life even though my fears cry out.
The joy of getting it wrong and getting it right and getting it every shade in between. The joy of still feeling joy when life is steeped in sorrow. The joy of finding joy again after walking through seemingly endless darkness.
And the most fulfilling joy of bringing joy to others.
And you? Have I missed anything that scatters joy through your life today?
What about the joy of a simple and comforting pudding? I make crumbles all the time, they’re my ‘go to’ dessert when I feel like something sweet but can’t be bothered with too much effort. In this one, tart rhubarb and mellow pear are enhanced by smokey maple syrup and warmed throughout by a classic spice blend of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. This easy dish will impress all your dinner party Joneses, or is a perfect pud during lazy afternoons curled on a cosy chair with a good book and a cup of tea. If you’re cuddling up for winter, pair it with my creamy vanilla custard recipe below; or, if you’re lounging in summer, serve my apple and strawberry version with scoops of vanilla bean ice cream.
- 200g wholemeal flour
- 150g light brown sugar + 2 tbl sp for the topping
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¾ tsp ground nutmeg
- 150g unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
- 4 ripe pears – peeled, quartered and cored
- 500g rhubarb (trimmed weight)
- 50g raw caster sugar
- 1 tbl sp pure maple syrup
- 3 tbl sp cold water
Preheat your oven to 200˚C/390˚F
In a medium bowl, whisk together wholemeal flour, light brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of ginger, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
Add the cold, cubed butter and, using your fingers, mix the butter into the flour until the whole mixture resembles coarse sand and starts to clump together
Chop the quartered pears in half, then chop the rhubarb into finger-length batons
Place the pears, rhubarb, caster sugar and water in a saucepan, cover and cook gently, over a low heat, for 8 to 10 minutes until the rhubarb is just softened, but still holding its shape
Stir in the maple syrup and remaining ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg before tipping into a large ovenproof dish
(Both the rhubarb mix and the crumble topping can be frozen for up to 3 months, just defrost in the fridge before using)
Use your hands to scatter the crumble on top before sprinkling over the remainder of the brown sugar
Bake for 40 mins until golden and bubbling at the sides
Spoon into bowls and serving with the vanilla bean custard
- 250ml milk
- 250ml double (heavy) cream
- 1 vanilla bean
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon cornflour
- 80g caster (superfine) sugar
Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan
Using a sharp knife, split vanilla bean in half lengthways and scrape out seeds
Add bean and seeds to milk mixture and place over medium heat
Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until hot (do not allow to boil). Remove saucepan from heat
Whisk egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in a heatproof bowl until well combined
Remove vanilla beans from milk mixture. Pour hot milk mixture over egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly
Return mixture to saucepan over a low heat
Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 to 15 minutes or until custard thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon (do not allow the custard to boil, as it might curdle)
Eat in greedy joy