Last week, out of the blue, my brother sent me an email ... a short, simple note saying that he really liked where this blog was going. A few days later, Ingrid from Let's Talk Evergreen started a conversation about originality, inspiration and honesty. Her post was mainly about blogging inspirations and giving credit where credit is due, but it was something she said in the comments that really resonated with me: "I think it shows strength when you let other people know who you are inspired by."
I used to think that being strong meant not being weak. More realistically, perhaps, not showing your weakness. Growing up with three brothers - two of them older than me, all of them physically stronger - I was often told not to let it show. Don't let them see that their badgering bothers you, don't show them that their words and actions hurt you and they will give up. As I grew older, this concept of strength grew on me and after experiencing a major, traumatic loss, it shifted more and more towards an extreme. Being strong, at one point, was no longer about not being weak. It was about not caring. Not getting attached. Not needing anything from anyone. Looking only towards yourself.
It took a few difficult years filled with self-doubt and lingering traumas for me to realize that my concept of strength was warped. I still believe that there is major strength in individuality, in acting from within rather than reacting to what is outside, but I no longer believe that anyone can claim to be unaffected by others. More importantly, I've come to realize that there is much value in showing our 'inside' to the world. In letting people know that they matter. In letting people know that they inspire us. In letting people know that we, too, have doubts and fears and ugliness inside. Too often, we consider these things to be understood. They seldom are, though, and actually voicing them can make a real difference. I myself, at least, have been extremely grateful for the men and women who have spoken openly and honestly about their fears, about loss and about depression, but also about the things that bring them joy. True strength, I've come to understand, lies in being real, in being honest ... in speaking about ourselves and admitting our own humanity without the cloak of irony.
My brother's email, that day, meant the world to me. His words were so simple, but the fact that he found it important enough to actually tell me gave them weight. It also felt like a massive relief to hear that I wasn't the only one who liked where this blog was going. It is incredibly scary to divulge so much of yourself on a platform so public, one that you have so little control over, and it is strange not to know where it ends up or how people respond to it. Hearing that it had an impact, changed everything.
Knowing how my brother's words affected me, I think it is only fair that I, as Ingrid said, express my gratitude towards some of the women who have inspired me along the way (not to mention my mother, grandmother and aunts, who will always be at the center of this blog). Ingrid herself is one of them. It was her openness about her life and her search for what she really wanted that first attracted me to what was, back then, For the Love of Pie and I continue to value her kindness, honesty and attention to detail on Let's Talk Evergreen. I am in awe of the beautiful and tasty desserts made by Michelle from Hummingbird High and I greatly enjoy what she herself has described as her "long-windedness." Her posts have encouraged me to ignore the oft-heard advice to keep things short. I am equally in awe of Renée Kemps's stunning photographs and her loafs of sourdough bread. She repeatedly confirms my beliefs about beauty and simplicity. Finally, while I am venturing more and more away from my original blogging inspiration, Joy the Baker, she, too, deserves a place in this line-up of talented women. At a moment when I had to drag myself to my computer and force myself to write for at least 6 hours a day, it was Joy who reminded me of why I started writing in the first place and how much joy and comfort it could offer. I am forever grateful for that. Also, she taught me about pie and, coincidentally, stimulated me to make my first ever simple syrup a couple of years ago: a very strong, yet very delicious ginger syrup. My recipe is a little sweeter, a little milder, combining the punch of the ginger with the freshness of lemongrass and lime.
• Simple syrup recipes are very forgiving. You can easily change it up to your liking. Not a big fan of lemongrass? Leave it out. Want a little more punch? Add more ginger (you can go as far as double), some extra water and let it simmer for an additional 10 minutes or so.
• I really like this syrup with ice, soda water and a few extra aromatics, but it's also great in lemonade and cocktails. You could also use it to add sweetness and a little punch to a cup of tea.
Ginger, Lime & Lemongrass Syrup
makes ca. 250 ml
200 gr granulated sugar
200 ml water
40 gr fresh ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass, bruised to release the oils
juice of 1 lime
1. Combine sugar, water, ginger and bruised lemongrass in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat. Allow the sugar to dissolve and bring mixture to the boil. Turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how strong you want the syrup to be.
2. Take syrup off the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Let cool to room temperature.
3. Stir in the lime juice, then transfer syrup to a clean bottle and put in the refrigerator to cool completely.