I can make
The most impossible things come true
Blue shadows never, sunshine forever
Roses in December for you.
- Ozzie Nelson
We treated ourselves to one romantic day and night in a palace hotel. We went all out and reserved the Romance Package, why not, a gift to ourselves? It was the end of December, a winter colder, whiter than we remembered it could possibly be in Paris. Bundled against the glacial winds, we blew into the hotel entrance on a frigid brume yet warmed by the excitement of the adventure.
We were shown up to a sumptuously appointed room, ushered in formally, elegantly by a gentleman in a suit and tie. He drew back the heavy drapes to reveal a stunning view of the gardens, cloaked under a veil of mist, mystic in its eerie, gossamer whiteness. Enchanting. He coaxed our attention from the window to the low table set between two boudoir chairs. Upon this table was set a tall vase of plush crimson roses, a bottle of rose-colored Champagne, and a small silver tray on which sat a luxurious assortment of petits fours, each tiny square was iced in pretty rose frosting, a tiny sugar rose perched atop each little cake.
Rose petals strewn atop snowy white bubbles, tall, crystal flutes filled with Champagne the color of roses, topped with snowy white bubbles, mouthfuls of little rose cakes.
Moonlight and roses.
Snow White, Rose Red
Five young ladies, shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow, in shades of pastel, smile serenely, joyfully. A faded snapshot or two, once in bright kodachrome, now wan and watery, capture the moment of a weekend at camp. The hair, upsweeps, side buns and a hint of Farah Fawcett, and the clothing, peasant blouses and scarves, floral prints and a-line skirts, tell of an era. An evening gala is evident, a sisterly gathering for a photo to set the memory forever.
Each young lady holds a rose in a shade of pink. The Rose Buds, they might have named themselves, best friends forever. A single rose given by a friend, he who would gallantly escort these five young ladies to the event and he passed out a single rose to each, in shades of pink, pale for admiration, gentleness, sweetness and grace, deep for appreciation and gratitude.
The pale, almost translucent pink of a loukoum. Rosewater.
Before we were married, he took my sister and I for our first Moroccan meal in a bustling, noisy restaurant in the North African neighborhood of Paris. The tables were crowded together under bright neon lights, tables much too small for the copious amounts of couscous and grilled meats, lightly charred, piled high, heaped upon serving platters that grappled for space between our own plates and glassware. An abundance of vegetables in warm, savory broth, vegetables that melted under the mere pressure of the back of a spoon. The sweetness of raisins, plumped by the broth, the satisfyingly toothsome give of the chickpeas.
Our dinner plates were cleared away as we cried "No more!" The table cleared but not for long as the waiter silently placed a large silver platter in the center offering a selection of traditional Moroccan pastries, crunchy walnuts, gooey honey sticking to fingers, flakey, crispy phyllo leaving a trail across the white paper placemats. And loukoum. Pale pink, diaphanous, luminous. A flurry of powdered sugar, a cloak of white against the pink the color of rose, the scent of rose, the flavor of rose. What is it? we asked, innocent in all matters of Moroccan sweets. "Loukoum," he answered. "Turkish delight infused with rosewater."
Roses are Red, Violets are Blue
The first one arrived. He rose before me, a lopsided grin covering his nervousness. He was sweetness itself, he was, but just not my type. He came bearing a birthday gift in an attempt to woo me (after clearly announcing that he had broken it off with his high school sweetheart, his fiancée. For me.) – he held out a single red rose wrapped in tissue paper. Proud and pleased. Thinking a rose would do the trick.
And then the second one arrived. He rose before me, a suave smile exposing his confidence. He was sweetness itself, he was, but just not my type. He came bearing a birthday gift in an attempt to woo me – he held out a dozen red roses, deep and heady with perfume, wrapped in tissue paper. Proud and pleased. Thinking a dozen red roses would do the trick.
The first one rose from his chair upon the self-assured entrance of the second, blushing rose up to his hairline when he saw the offering, the magnificence of a dozen roses to his meager one. But no matter the count, no mere rose could melt my heart if nothing else moved me.
I never promised you a rose garden.
Roses never moved me, never turned me on. Roses, I find, are too commonplace, a simple cliché. A gentleman bearing an armful of roses, how trite. How hackneyed. Stereotypical, roses are. One must have an imagination to woo!
He never brought me roses, never slipped a diamond on my finger, was never so ordinary, never offered the expected. Tulips in shades of gold and mauve or peonies blood red on special occasions, blowzy, voluptuous, sexy. A balcony thick with gardenias, window boxes overflowing with bright red geraniums; a yard breathing sage, rosemary and thyme.
Life is a Bed of Roses
My grandpa had two passions in life: religion and roses. And in an odd way, his roses were religion. Grandma and grandpa lived in an old, wood-framed, two-family home (painted blue), and occupied the bottom floor. Old, warped wooden parquet, claw-footed bathtub with a rubber plug attached to a long chain, a rope clothesline on an old-fashioned pulley system off the back porch that squeaked when pulled and a dusty, musty basement in which cobwebs grabbed at you, clung to your face, got tangled in your hair if you dared descend into its depths, off limits.
They had a lovely little handkerchief yard behind the house. Summers brought a warm, comfortable breeze and soft, barefoot-friendly grass in that tiny garden. We longed to play there, badminton rackets in hand we had to find time when he was out, for he wouldn't stand us thwacking that feather-light plastic birdie back and forth over the roses. His roses. They lined the fence that enclosed the yard, branches gently spread out and along the wire, intertwining gracefully like loving arms encircling a child. And there were two large rose bushes in the yard itself, standing upon the grass, each caged in a wooden frame.
I only remember grandpa doing two things: reading, studying and lovingly tending his roses. He was proud of those roses, huge, plump things, feminine and graceful, roses dressed in delicate, fluffy pink frills. Those roses paraded their beauty in front of us all summer long, perfuming the air, swanky and coy. Oh, neither boastful nor ostentatious, rather humble, gently blushing rose.
One day as we kids were in the backyard with grandpa, we spied a fluffy little bunny in the garden, hiding among the leaves and tall grass that edged the yard. Grandpa dashed into the house and back out again clutching an old-fashioned slingshot, a slingshot that would make Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn proud. He pulled a small rock out of… his pocket or the dirt, conveniently located, took aim and thwack hit the tiny rabbit on the behind, watching in satisfaction as it dashed off. Horrified, we were horrified! Here was this quiet, studious, religious man, one of the kndest, most gentle human beings we knew, slinging rocks at tiny bunnies. "My roses," he exclaimed, "they eat my roses!"
Pannacotta. Is there a more versatile and crowd-pleasing dessert than pannacotta I wonder? It takes minutes to prepare and most of the work is done in silence while the forms are standing in the fridge so there is no real excuse not to make it. And when you get tired of one flavour, you can just invent another as long as you have a good base recipe. This rose pannacotta has very subtle flavour that makes me dream of flowering rosebushes and garden parties.
ILVA'S ROSE FLAVOURED PANNACOTTA
400 ml/ 1,7 cup fresh cream
200 ml/ 0,85 cup milk
3 tbsp rose sugar*
2 tsp gelatin powder
200 ml/ 0,85 cup milk
3 tbsp rose sugar*
2 tsp gelatin powder
Soak gelatin powder in a tablespoon or two of tepid water.
Pour the liquid through a sieve to remove the rose petals as they tend to be brown and not very pretty.
Pour it into the cups, glasses or ramekins you are using and put these in the fridge for about 4 hours.
* It is very easy to make your own rose sugar, all you need is plain white sugar and rose petals from sweet smelling roses (it is important that they have a strong perfume as that is what will go into the sugar so start sticking you nose into any rosebush you find in your family's and friends' gardens).
50 g/ 1.7 ounce rose petals
200 g/3.5 ounce white sugar.
Put petals and sugar in a bowl. I usually use my hands to crush the petals into the sugar but if you want you can chop them instead but then you miss out on having sweetly perfumed hands. When they are thoroughly mixed, put the rose sugar, which now is quite humid, in a jar or container with a close-fitting lid and let it stand for 24 - 48 hours. I usually shake it now and then. If you want it dry, just spread it out and leave it to dry; personally I keep it in its humid state and use it all as soon as I can because why resist?