Lemons are reminiscent of brightness, warmth, and a zest for life. They are the fruity representation of happiness. Growing up, my mom’s motto was “Be Happy.” She even gave me a beautiful watch with the words “Live Happy”engraved on the back for my 18th birthday. Although I appreciate my mom and respect how she lives her life, I have to admit that I always hated any phrase with the word “happy” in it, like really despised that word. Why? Because I rarely felt the kind of bubbly happiness I thought I was supposed to feel. Instead I often felt confused, depressed, lost, and anxious. Hearing my mom tell me to be happy when I was feeling down was so frustrating it was almost comical. Fast forward many years and I am in the camp who thinks that happiness is momentary, one cannot simply be happy all the time. Nor can one will happiness in to their life. When we are sad we must feel the sadness and let it flow through and out of us. Avoiding an emotion, like depriving oneself of a certain type of food (sugar for example) ensures that the emotion or craving will return in full force at one point or another. Happiness is an emotion like sadness or anger or frustration and we must make room for the wealth of emotions (including happiness and joy ) that roll over us on a daily basis. The pursuit of happiness, is just that, a pursuit, not an end goal because permanent happiness just does not exist. And I’ve made peace with this, I accept that I will feel anger as much or more than I may feel joy.
But that does not mean that on a difficult day, a lemon treat can’t bring a bit of joy in to my world. Because I also believe that food is not solely for the purpose of physical nourishment but for emotional nourishment too. Foods, like these lemons I keep referring to, are binded to how we feel about ourselves, our lives, our memories. It is unreasonable to think to separate the food we put in to our bodies from the feelings we have about the food itself. Too often I see discussions on how emotional eating is a bad thing. But as Isabel Foxen Duke has written about (http://isabelfoxenduke.com/my-ultimate-take-on-emotional-eating/ OR http://isabelfoxenduke.com/how-emotional-eating-is-saving-your-ass/), emotional eating is a way of surviving in a world inimical to expressing “negative” emotions like anger or sadness and is not always such a bad thing.
During a hard and very rainy first week back on campus, I am grateful for these lemons’ capacity to contribute to a delicious recipe involving olive oil and yogurt. I hope that if you are having a tough day and you make this recipe, these little cakes brighten up your day too.
Little Cakes - slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake - https://smittenkitchen.com/2008/04/lemon-yogurt- anything-cake/ 1 1/2 cups flour 2 teaspoons baking powder heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup yogurt (I used Greek) 1 cup sugar 3 eggs 2 teaspoons lemon zest 1/2 cup olive oil splash of vanilla Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine yogurt, sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla, and lemon zest in a mixing bowl, using a whisk to get the mixture good and blended. Dump flour, baking powder, and salt on top then mix together but making sure not to overmix. Pour in to prepared cupcake pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Lemon Glaze - recipe from Martha Stewart 1/3 cup lemon juice 2 cups powdered sugar Mix lemon juice and powdered sugar together till a thin paste forms. Dip tops of cooled cakelets into glaze. Or spoon glaze on top of cakelets.