It’s been pretty quiet here on Pixelated Crumb over the past several months, but I assure you, it has not been quiet in my home. The last recipe I shared with you was written at the end of March. Exactly one week after I shared my favorite pizza recipe with you, my daughter was born. My life turned inside out, the world seemed to spin simultaneously faster and slower, and sleep became elusive. Days and nights ran together. I spent my days pinned to a chair feeding Melanie, the only steps on my Fitbit coming from pacing around the apartment, rocking her, desperately trying to quiet her cries and lull her to sleep. I never expected motherhood to be easy, but nothing prepared me for the reality of being so depended upon. Who knew such a tiny little thing could be so incredibly demanding? Who knew a baby could cry for hours on end? Only every parent before me, I suppose. How did everyone make it look so easy?
I think Emily at Five and Spice described the “utter bliss combined with total desperation” of being a new mom so perfectly. Being a mom is hard. Honestly, much harder than I ever could have imagined. But to look at your child – this tiny little human being that you made – is unparalleled. There are times when I’m utterly exhausted with so much to do, but I still find myself just sitting there looking at Melanie sleep. It’s like a campfire that you just can’t look away from. She makes this sucking noise when she’s sleeping that is music to my ears. I love that sound just as much as her shrieks of laughter. And her smile is like an ocean that swallows me whole. One flash of that gummy smile and I almost forget the hours that I was up with her in the middle of the night the night before. Almost.
In the early weeks after Melanie was born, I often wondered how I had managed to eat all week without either my husband or I cooking (answer: lots of wonderful food from my mother-in-law and frozen Tikka Masala from Trader Joes). Melanie will be eight months in just over a week and we still haven’t resumed our old life of cooking. Our meals are simple and prepared as quickly as possible. We make lots of panini, quesadillas, and homemade pizza. Anything that requires minimal prep and cooking time. My baking has been limited to a few batches of banana muffins and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I miss cooking and especially baking so much, but we never seem to have enough time and our new apartment has maddeningly little counter space (oh yes, did I forget to mention that just a few months after having a baby we moved 400 miles away to Maryland for Joseph’s new job?).
I first made this apple butternut squash gratin for my sister’s baby shower last year and it was completely devoured. Not a crumb was left. I was a little sad because once I had had a taste of it, I was already dreaming about leftovers. I’ve been meaning to make it again every since, but it somehow slipped from my mind and then the next thing I knew, it was spring. When a good friend and his mother made the trip up to have dinner with us earlier this fall, this gratin instantly came to mind. It just seemed like the perfect dish. Warm and satisfying, while being perfectly seasonal with roasted butternut squash, sautéed apple, fresh rosemary, nutty gruyere, and a dash of cream, all topped with crunchy, garlicky breadcrumbs, this gratin is both deliciously sweet and savory. It is also guaranteed to make your house smell absolutely amazing.
The dish is substantial enough to serve as a main dish, pairing beautifully with a harvest salad of pear or apple, walnuts, and gorgonzola, but it would work equally well as a side to any fall meal. It would be an especially nice accompaniment to a Thanksgiving dinner, especially if you are looking for something that will work for both your vegetarian and meat-eating guests alike.
You may have noticed that things have been quieter than usual here on Pixelated Crumb this year. It’s not that I’m not cooking, baking, and eating, and it’s not that I haven’t been itching to share fabulous, seasonal recipes. It’s just been…well, it’s been an interesting year.
I found out that I was pregnant in early February and at just about the same time, my appetite went a bit haywire. I didn’t really want to look at food, let alone take pictures and write about food. I was basically in a semi-permanent state of always feeling a little awful (sometimes just straight up awful) and so unbearably tired. Foods that I had loved suddenly repulsed me. I got through the first 12 weeks knowing it would get better and that it would all be worth it.
But when I went in for my first ultrasound at 12 1/2 weeks, the doctor, after reviewing the sonogram the technician had just taken, came in the room and told us how very sorry he was. I couldn’t understand what he could possibly be talking about. Why would he be sorry? This was such a happy thing! New life! Soft baby skin and tiny little toes! It took a while for the news to sink in. Despite the fact that my body had kept carrying on being pregnant, the baby simply had not developed.
Over the past several months, I have written this blog post over and over in my head. I have gone over and over what I had to say, but it would fill a chapter in a book to say everything I wanted to say: how I declined a D&C and took meds that forced a miscarriage, how I had to take two rounds of the medicine for it to finally kick in, how intensely painful it was, how my parents drove eight hours to be with me, how I stared at pregnant women and couples with newborn babies with anger and resentment deep in my heart, how guilty and ashamed I felt for that anger and resentment, how kind and supportive my friends and family were, how I felt betrayed by my body, how responsible I felt no matter how many times the doctor and midwives told me that nothing I had done had caused this to happen, how my coworkers who didn’t even know why I was out of work for a week brought me flowers, how it took so much longer than I thought it would to recover, how I got macarons and Jeni’s ice cream in the mail from great friends, and how I never felt closer to and more in love with Joseph.
You know how you never forget your first? Well, Smitten Kitchen was my first food blog and I instantly fell in love with Deb Perelman’s photos, her recipes, her style of writing, and especially her stories. She only features the best of recipes (including this unbelievable chocolate peanut butter cake that you’ve seen here) and her blog is often one of the first places I turn to when I’m looking for a particular kind of recipe because I know she’s going to deliver.
I was so excited when I found out that Deb was coming out with a cookbook, and three years later, it finally went to print and I had one waiting at my doorstep the day it was released. Imagine my glee when I then found out that she was coming to Boston and giving a talk and signing books at my favorite bookstore. Tickets ran out in two hours, but fanatic that I am, I called the second the store opened and had no problem gettings tickets.
The short talk was interesting, but the real highlight was getting to meet her and tell her what an inspiration she was for me to start my own blog. Even though I had to wait in line for two hours to meet her (and we were in the first third of the line!), it hardly felt like it because of the great conversation with other Smitten Kitchen fans in line (one of whom I later found out was none other than the dedicated SK reader who introduced Deb to the brown hazelnut brown butter cake that I love. Thank you, Rachel!).