Written by Debbie Arnold of Dining With Debbie
Bear with me on this one.
Originally, I intended to offer up some really deep thoughts on the symbolism of The Twelve Days of Christmas. I could do that. Yes, I could. But I changed my mind.
Sandy Hook Elementary happened. The Twelve Days of Christmas just didn’t seem all that important.
Then I wrote this long epistle on school safety and why teachers should NOT, in my very strong opinion, be permitted to carry concealed weapons in the classroom. But it was too soon and too sad. I changed my mind. Again.
I took a walk down to the pond just to clear my head and these fellows showed up. My smile returned, and I knew that I just had to tell you their story.
They are a strange pair. They are what they shouldn’t be. They are fast friends.Two Musketeers. Buddies. Mallard drakes who are totally loyal and bonded to one another.
Sometime last September these two appeared on the pond behind our house. They were there among a dozen or so others – mallards, wood ducks, gadwalls, not sure but a bunch nonetheless. We were excited to see them even though we knew that their stay was only temporary. They would be moving on to feeding grounds in other places. Their brief stay was a gift that we would enjoy while it lasted.
One by one the hens and drakes left with the Canada or snow geese migrating on to the rice fields beyond our pond. Except for these two. They stayed. They shouldn’t have, but they did.
I decided to take a chance with some cracked corn. To my total astonishment, they ate from my hand. These wild creatures took a chance on me. They gave me a precious gift and admitted me into their fellowship.
As the days and weeks passed, I continued to feed them intermittently. We were so often away from home. They didn’t give up on me though. It was if they knew I would return. They expected me to return. But they were not dependent upon me.Only each other.
And still they stayed.
For some time we thought that maybe they couldn’t fly. Or, at least, we thought that the larger one couldn’t. It was obvious that he had been injured. One wing just isn’t right. His right chest wall just doesn’t seem full. Yet, he is the dominant one. The leader. The smaller one fell in line and followed without hesitation.
By now they had names. Frick and Frack. The larger one we called Frack because he was fractured. Handicapped. Frick is his unlikely companion. He’s the healthy one who could easily abandon his sidekick. But he doesn’t.
But they can fly. We’ve seen them. Why, then, are they staying? These two mallard drakes which, by all reason, should not be paired the way they are and should have been long gone.
I think sometimes in life we are given really valuable gifts in small measures. We don’t always recognize or appreciate them at the time they are given.
These two wild creatures have reminded me of the value of loyalty and friendship. And even love.
Of course, I can’t say that they love one another. But I choose to believe that they do.
I also choose to think that I can become the kind of friend that these two odd fellows have shown me that I need to be. A friend who knows appearances aren’t a measure of a person’s value. A friend who can be trusted to be there whatever the circumstances might be. A friend who will lead. And yet, a friend who can follow. A friend who knows that loyalty is golden.
Some might say that I have tamed my duck friends. I think not. I think it is I who has been tamed.
Because you are my friends and because this is one awesome lemon cake, I’ll share.
The Best Meyer Lemon Cake
Serves 8 – 10
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, plus 8 Tablespoons melted
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/3 cups plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup milk at room temperature
2 Tablespoons lemon extract
zest and juice of 2 Meyer lemons
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 8 1/2” x 4 1/2 “ x 2 3/4” loaf pan, a Bundt or tube pan with 1 Tablespoon of butter. Lightly flour (I always use Wondra.). Tap out excess. Set aside.
Grind the almonds in a food processor until very fire; set aside. Do not overgrind or you will end up with almond butter.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
Put the remaining butter in a large mixing bowl; add 1 cup of the sugar. Mix on low speed until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just long enough to incorporate. Add the flour mixture and milk in alternating batches; mix well scraping sides as you do.
Add the lemon extract. Fold in the ground almonds and lemon zest.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 60-65 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in the pan on a cooling rack.
Combine the remaining sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Do not boil.
Brush the glaze over the hot cake. The excess will be absorbed as the cake cools. Once the cake has absorbed all of the lemon mixture, turn it out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Once it is completely cool, wrap in plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours before serving.
If you don’t have Meyer lemons readily available, use regular lemons. I also add an extra 2 Tablespoons of regular lemon juice to the batter because we like ours with more tartness.
Adapted from Saveur.com