Slowly, normal life is returning to the canyon. The Maharishi is cooking again. He's soothed by it. He's reclaimed his kitchen stomping ground and I'm back to being the sous-chef for big family gatherings, responsible for getting up early to go to the farmer's market in Studio City, and returning home with a cheery smile, armfuls of cherry blossom, pussy willow, sweet peas, ranunculus, and two recycleable bags full of baby purple artichokes, fava beans (broad beans to the English), mint, basil, flat-leaf parsley and sweet California strawberries. He's in the kitchen on Easter morning, listening to Garrison Keillor on a loop (but now, unlike twenty years ago when he amused us, we love him for real), frying up bangers that he found at Huntingdon Meats in the Fairfax Farmer's Market. "They're for you. They taste like real English sausages he says." I have four tamales in my bag -- a breakfast treat for the children, always with the green sauce, the tomatillos, and always carnitas -- and we share a feast before diving into cooking lunch. With the children nearly grown, we have a whole production line. The oldest is sent on last minute buying errands (another leg of lamb, as we invited more friends the night before, a pint of cream, some ice and limes for mojitos), the youngest is given 18 white eggs to boil and dye. "In the garden" he says "no-one else can fit in the kitchen." I potter about putting branches in vases, hanging last year's blown eggs on branches, finding wooden rabbits from Chinatown, tying them with ribbon. Filling smalling vases with lilacs and pink sweetpeas and apricot ranunculus and running down the road to where it meets Laurel Canyon, where I spotted a mimosa variety with a tiny yellow bursting sun of a blossom. All of gets put in vases. We found birds all over the house, some that tweet, some made of felt, some papier mache. Minky's pink and blue and yellow eggs go onto the table with the flowers, the birds, the old birds' nest in its glass dome. The Maharishi is chopping and swearing and rolling up legs of lamb in the kitchen. He's chopping vegetables and makes marinades, and sprinkling cumin on cauliflower and reminding me that we should never have twenty people ever again for Easter without some help in the kitchen. And there's some pouting from one or both of the children and definitely from both of us, and there are crudites and chicken liver pate to lay out and oh God! did anyone do the crostini on the grill and why doesn't the 15 year old know how to turn on the grill, and finally I escape to my shower with about ten minutes before everyone will arrive, and I find the dress I bought at Target, the Liberty print one, and some old pink shoes from Emma Hope, and I think okay, I look like the May Queen, but to hell with it. And suddenly the house is full of family, of dear friends, of children, and someone's chasing the dog and the dog is chasing him back, and N has made bloody marys and mojitos and is passing them about. And H is looking breathtakingly gorgeous in her flowery silk dress and being incredibly helpful. And there are fava beans to shell (H did the first skinning in her bed, while watching Skins -- what was the rating on that program?!) And friends come in and out of the kitchen to help. And cakes arrive and cupcakes, and bottles of wine. And finally, we eat our late lunch, smiling at each other. The M says, "This is spring lamb from Colorado. MissW insisted that I go to Huntingdon Meats and I told them 'my wife is English and very picky about her lamb; she thinks everything we get here is mutton' and he says 'you're wife's right sir.' Doesn't this taste good?" And it does. It's sweet, like English spring lamb. And there is red currant jelly. And I'm very happy about it. Both children are smiling. The M is smiling. It's good.
Here is the Easter Lunch menu.
Crudites with lemon garlic tahini vinaigrette
Chicken liver pate (cooked Argentine style with red pepper) and crostini
Butterflied and rolled spring lamb (stuffed with mint & garlic)
Roast small potatoes
Carrots glazed with meyer lemon
Artichokes, peas & fava beans a la Ottolenghi
Roasted cauliflower with turmeric & cumin & capers
Butter lettuce salad with sweet onion
Berry cake from Susina
** Special thanks to Jen, the Easter angel, for bringing hot cross buns at 9pm. You see, dreams do come true.