Thursday, May 13, 2010

An Elephant, Tulip & Chickens

There seems to be few things in this world that you can title without tripping on metaphor. It might be why I like how children decide on names. For example, a friend of mine has a son who is two and named their four chickens, grandma, snake, pumpkin and river. As if all that he knew, either good or bad, could be explained in those birds--which too often as adults we don't even see as birds, but eggs, pastoral, a Sunday meal, soup stock, compost.

Most days my head wakes long before my body, but I try to sometimes remind myself to name what I see, to catalog the concrete-wood floor, robe, teeth, water and peppermint. I feel lucky currently because this naming game is easy with what I see each morning from my window--elephant, tulip and chickens. The elephant I unearthed out of the Tiber, the tulip was picked by my husband and the chickens are a strange but playful reminder of daily living. A trilogy of sorts. But here I am getting metaphorical. Let's go back to naming things and being present.

Presently, I am approaching another birthday. I tend to be, if possible, more contemplative around birthdays as if they are some personal "new year" or time for resolution and reflection. So in times like these, I do what any almost sane person would do to avoid the usual malaise of aging, I make chocolate mousse.
See, here I am being grateful for having chickens because good eggs make good mousse. Mousse interestingly enough translates as froth or foam in French and if you have fresh farm eggs, your frothed chocolate might even be French worthy. Maybe.

Thankfully, I have both chickens and a simple recipe , which only has five ingredients. Thanks to my mother via the Grand Rapid Press, I'd love to think this recipe came from some dutiful Dutch lady diligent in not just her perfectly placed blond bobbed hair, but also in making a perfectly bouffanted mousse. But what I like even more about this mousse is the fact that my mother would make this dessert at random, if she had extra egg whites or just because she wanted to use her fancy green glasses. I recall opening the fridge as a child and looking for some snack say after school on a Tuesday and there I would see five green glasses filled with a shadowy richness. I recall just staring at them and naming each glass slowly: chocolate mousse.

And maybe that's why I have wanted to make this treat, not for showmanship, but some dessert during a weekday night to pause a moment. It is another reason I love this mousse, served in a tiny bowl or glass, each person just stares and I think hopes each spoonful doesn't disappear as if naming the experience with their spoon: delicious.

This chocolate mousse is certainly birthday worthy, but I like to carry on the tradition of the modest cook, who just happens to have too many egg whites? Enjoy.

The Modest Chocolate Mousse

6 ounces chocolate (I like to use a mix of dark and semi-sweet)
3 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 eggs, separated

1. In a double boiler, melt chocolate. (Be sure to not get any boiling water into your chocolate)
2. Using a wooden spoon, stir chocolate until smooth.
3. Add cold water and blend well, then add sugar and incorporate until smooth.
4. Remove chocolate off boiling water and add vanilla. Be sure to blend well and let chocolate mixture cool slightly, about three minutes.
5. Beat in egg yolks, one at at time, into chocolate mixture. After you add each yolk, stir chocolate until smooth.
6. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into chocolate. Be sure to do this in batches to not have any streaks of white.
7. Place in ramekins, champagne glasses or heck, even jelly jars would do in the fridge for at least two hours.
8. Serve with fresh whipped cream, fruit, mint leaves or just plain.

Yields about five to six champagne glasses


  1. Beautiful photos, Em. Am smacking my lips thinking about making this mousse. Lovely!

  2. Emily, thanks for reminding me of when Mom would make this dessert. Also enjoyed your lovely photo's

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