Come with me, if you will, for an afternoon at a sprawling rental cottage on a remote Pacific Northwest island called Cortes. My extended family and I have gathered here for a reunion and the wedding of my younger sister; the last Wimbush sibling is to be married.
For the most part, this is to be a handmade wedding, made entirely possible by our family unit coming together out of love. (Well that, and pound after pound of strong coffee.) It’s the day before the wedding and everywhere you look, people are preparing. In a shady patio, under the weave of kiwi vines, my brother and elder sister are hand painting wedding signs on smooth lengths of driftwood. On a nearby table, the bride is arranging sweet peas and foxglove into simple bouquets, rounded out with wild ivy and purple yarrow.
Down on the beach, my brother-in-law is gathering pearly white oyster shells to lay for an aisle and the groom is flexing his muscles while moving driftwood aside for a path. Over by the blackberry bushes that frame our ocean view, Danny is picking berries for the cake, a task only for the brave of heart. He gathers me a great big bowlful, and I simmer the berries with brown sugar and butter into a dark, jammy sauce to serve alongside the cake.
My mother is slicing eggplant, browning lamb, and whisking a bechamel for her famous moussaka, a dish that will feed us all at the end of this busy day. In a back bedroom, tucked away from sight, my mother-in-law is ironing a long white dress with lace and an elegant linen suit. My father is showing a few guests his favourite haunts around the island, and thus doing his bit to keep them out of our hair until dinnertime.
On the balcony overlooking the sea, my sister-in-law is plucking away at a ukulele and rehearsing “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” for the intimate beach ceremony. A few children are hard at work on handmade cards for the bride and groom, and the rest are hovering around my workspace, hoping for a taste of cake batter. I’ve got some leftover, so I bake off ten cupcakes and hand them around, much to their delight. First taste of the wedding cake!
The spacious kitchen looks out over a calm ocean inlet, where a few fishing boats are anchored and the tide rises and falls to show off a world-class oyster bed. I’ve just beat a dozen pale blue and green eggs with sugar and vanilla bean, folded in the flour together with the buttermilk and placed 8 round cakes pans in the oven. I’ve crossed my fingers that they will bake evenly, and I am flapping my arms at the herd of children that want to run through the kitchen at top speed. “These cakes will fall with all this stomping!” I holler, and shoo them outdoors where they will climb trees for apples and play Duck, Duck Goose on the grounds.
Soon enough I join the cousins under the hot July sun, armed with a wide-brimmed hat and a sharp knife. I walk the gardens of our VRBO and discover enough fruit growing that I decided to garnish the wedding cake with the bounty. My sister and her fiancé are expecting a wee little one in January, and the fruit symbolizes that beautiful new life. [Read more…]