I always remember visiting my great aunt Marjorie in the spring. After dinner, at twilight, she would send me out into the garden with shears and tell me to pick flowers to take home.
The grass would be wet with evening coming on, and I would find little white daffodils with orange faces and big tulips with pointed red petals. I'd bring them in and we'd wrap them in damp paper towel and plastic wrap, so I could transport them safely home.
Marjorie died just over a week ago.
We knew it was coming for a few weeks but, of course, knowing is different than attending the memorial service. Knowing is different than going out for a big dinner with your family and seeing that Marjorie isn't there.
But for those two days while I was there, Victoria was glorious with spring. The sky was a perfect blue of sunshine and everywhere I looked, there were fat pink globes of cherry blossoms and riots of yellow daffodils and red tulips in the garden and bluebells nodding in the grass along the road.
Knowing how she loved her garden, I think Marjorie would have been pleased that we were all there remembering her, chatting under blossoms and shading our eyes in the sun.
Now that I am back in dusty Edmonton where we have just one-inch shoots of tulips to promise spring, I think more about death and that she is gone. Grief is a funny thing, how it can sneak up on you when you think it's gone away.
After the memorial service, I went up to Courtenay with my dad for a few days.
It seemed like everywhere we went, people were talking about stinging nettles. They grow in ditches and in the bush and in all kinds of places where you might accidentally brush against them and get stung.
So, an hour before we had to leave for the airport yesterday, Dad and I hurried down to the beach. We got out bags and put on gloves and I brought a little bounty of stinging nettle home.
Today, I made stinging nettle soup. It is a simple little soup, and was inspired by this lovely video.
It tastes like spring.
recipes from Marjorie: loganberry jelly and lemon loaf and butter tarts
one year ago: gouda and roasted red pepper dip
two years ago: a baked banana revelation
three years ago: chocolate cheesecake and tom yum pak
stinging nettle soup
note 1: you must wear rubber gloves when touching the nettles before they've been processed
note 2: you must boil the lentils and rinse them and throw away the boiling water
1 very small onion or two shallots, minced (equals about 1/4 c.)
2 tbsp. butter
2 c. packed nettles (top 4 – 6 leaves only), rinsed
2 c. chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
4 – 5 tbsp. plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over low heat and add the onions. Let them cook slowly in the butter until they're golden and translucent, about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, bring a big pot of water to boil. Add the nettles and boil for about 3 minutes, until they're a bit greener and darker. Strain and rinse them. Chop the nettles on a board a few times to avoid having them clump on the immersion blender. (If you're using a real blender, you can skip the chopping.)
Add the chicken stock to the onion and butter pot. Add the cooked nettles. Blend until the nettles are very fine specks of green. Heat the soup up and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir the yogurt in and check your seasonings one more time before serving.