D was away the whole of last week. Well, five days to be fair. But five days too far gone. In yonder-off Canada; a different continent, across Large Water Body, where people go to sleep when we're waking up. I know there's a sea of travelling spouses and partners out there, but thankfully they're not mine. I feel limbless without D to wrestle and hug and wake up to.
It was also Chotto-ma's first stretch without Ba. She missed him so much that she finally decided to pretend he was in the bathroom. She also wrote him notes, drew him messages and licked his face on skype.
She wrote me a note too, and gave it to me (in an envelope) right after D left for the airport.
Yes, we can make a big soppy brouhaha about five days, which in Chotto-ma's words was "sixty-five days". To hell with moderation, to hell with anti-mush. When he walked in through the door on Saturday morning, we were on him like cling-film on leftovers.
So how did we spend those 'sixty-five days'? Well, apart from waiting for D to come back, we:
Overfed the ducks in the river.
Played hooky from school to watch Kung Fu Panda whilst eating dumplings.
Read books - she hers, I mine.
Had long conversations about life (it's the coolest thing; the things Chotto-ma and I talk about now, cuddled up on the sofa with a blanket on our legs.)
Ate dark red juicy plums.
Brought in spring.
Danced to Fleetwood Mac.
Baked D a Crème Caramel.
In India, a crème caramel is called 'pudding'. A pudding is a crème caramel. So, when we first moved to England that's what I expected everyone to agree to. Pudding = crème caramel. But no. Here, pudding = dessert. Everything is a pudding: a tart, a sponge cake, a cheesecake, fruits with jelly and custard. Everything. This seismic food-shift, this pudding-shock, took more time to get used to than the British weather.
Bubulma, D's mother, was known (far and wide) for her perfect puddings; her crème caramels were light, smooth. With firm feet and a jiggly hip. But the only time I ever tried making one: Disaster. That was years ago - my crème caramel collapsed like a Victorian lady, and no amount of sniffing salt could revive it.
This time, I was determined to do better. Not just I, but Chotto-ma and I. Chotto-ma, my little egg beater. My crème caramel conspirator.
And we did better than better.
4 cups of thickened milk (to thicken: gently boil 8-9 cups of milk till halved)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4th cup sugar (I don't like my puddings too sweet, so add more if you like)
4 tbs sugar (for the caramel)
Heat oven to 150 degrees.
Take a round baking dish (mine was about 23 cm in diameter) and keep ready. In a small pan, add about 1/2 cup water and the 4 tbsps of sugar for the caramel. Put the pan on the heat. As the water evaporates, the sugar will start of caramelise. When it is a lovely deep amber, but before it burns, tip the caramel into the baking dish. Swirl the dish so the caramel spreads and coats the bottom. Let the baking dish cool. The caramel will set.
Beat the eggs well with the sugar. Mix four cups of the thickened milk into the eggs. Add the vanilla extract. Pour in the milk-egg mix into the baking dish. Take a deep tray and fill it with about an inch of water. Place the baking dish on this. Slip the tray into the lower shelf of the oven for 50-60 minutes.
When it's done, the top should be browned, and the creme caramel will have a worrying jiggle. But as long as the jiggle is firm(ish) and not sloppy, don't worry. Take it out, let it cool. Put in into the refrigerator overnight.
Next day, slide a knife along the edges to loosen the pudding. Hold a serving plate on top of the dish and turn it upside down. Wait. The pudding should plop down, along with the lovely, caramely syrup.