7 years strong….

When I was 16 and filling out college applications they wanted me to write an essay about the defining moments in my life. Really? I’m 16. Other than a broken heart here and there the wasn’t that much to define. I came up with some bull crap and moved on.

Now since then I have had more than my share of defining moments. My mother getting breast cancer is the one that sticks out the most. You see I never planned on anyone in my family getting sick. I am the sick one in the family. An illness I care not to go into but something that does affect my daily life. And selfish me just always assumed that since I had been made sick that God would not let anyone else in my family get sick. Apparently he missed the memo on that one. So it did come out of left field for me. Silly I know, but it did.

Watching my mother get cancer, and more importantly, surviving cancer (going on 7 years now!) was a defining moment in my life. It helped me get over my panic of cancer. My feeling that cancer equaled death. Here was this crazy woman throwing dinner parties just days after her chemo treatments and going through her small town wearing a Carmen Miranda style hat with fake fruit and all (if you are going to do it why not go big?). Seeing her treat it like the bull crap on my college essay and move on as if it were something that just slowed her down a bit really did help me deal with my cancer fears.

Since my mother was diagnosed my mother-in-law, aunts, friends of the family and several friends got cancer….all breast. If it were not going through it with my mother, I could not be the “calm” one of the group when my friends needed support when the rest of their friends and family are freaking out. I am happy to say that all but one of those from that group of people are cancer survivors. And Carol, the lone non-survivor didn’t pass from cancer but the side effects of an experimental treatment (she had stage 4 with little hope).

To honor my mother I made a lemon-berry gratin. My mother is a huge lover of crème brulee. A gratin is basically the same ingredients but instead of going into the fridge, the crème is cooked on a stove top  and then broiled with fruit and sugar. I’m sure my mother would surely approve.

Lemon-Berry Gratin

4 lemons
1 ½ cups whole milk
5 egg yolks
1 tsp cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
½ tsp vanilla
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup mascarpone cheese
4 cups mixed berries(raspberries and blackberries)
2 TBSP powdered sugar

Zest lemons. Scald milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the lemon zest and remove from heat. Let sit for 1 hour, strain the milk to remove and discard the zest.
In a bowl, beat egg yolks until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. In another bowl, combine flour, cornstarch and sugar. Add this mixture to the egg yolks and  beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
Scald the milk again and add the warm milk slowly to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Place the mixture back in the saucepan and over low heat, stirring, cook until mixture thickens and bubbles around the edges, about 8-10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and whisk in vanilla, lemon juice and butter.
Fold in the mascarpone cheese.
Divide the custard among 6 or8 individual gratin or tartlet dishes, 5-inches in diameter. Press the berries into the custard mixture. Sift the powdered sugar over the top. Broil until the tops are golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Source: Adapted from An American Feast: A Celebration of Cooking on Public Television, recipe given by Joanne Weir


  1. beautiful tribute!! i wish the very best for your mother and commend her on her seven years!

  2. That is gorgeous, Peabody. I too used to think cancer=death, but now I know better… I hope! I wanna thank you for your advice and tips on dealing with immune issues. You rock and I’m so glad you’re my blog-buddy. xxoo

  3. You’ve got such a strong mother Peabody and what a thoughtfull tribute to her!

  4. So glad your mom is cancer free and that you get to celebrate this with her. Go mom! Beautiful gratin!

  5. Congrats on 7 years! My Mom is 6 years post lung cancer, so I know what you mean…you never think it will be someone in your own family, especially if you have taken on the mantle of ‘the sick one’. You Mom sounds like a very special person, so we are all fortunate that she is still in the world.
    The photos are mouthwatering and who can hate lemon & berries :)

  6. I love the stories of your family. Even this one, I’m glad your Mum is okay and I love it that she wore a big Carmen style hat. Your family are so cool!

    Beautiful gratin for A Taste of Yellow too.

  7. sandi @ the whistlestop cafe says:

    It has been a while since I have been to your kitchen… I should have know you’d be cooking up something yummy!
    My life has been touched by cancer as well. We all need to face it with the grace your mother has.
    Now to find my something yellow!!!

  8. As I think I’ve said many times, you’re writing always inspires me, thank you. The gratin looks delicous!

  9. how sweet – i am sure my mom approves :)

    i’ve never heard of a gratin before but if it’s akin to creme brulee, then count me in :)

  10. What a beautiful tribute to your mommie. :) I’m so happy she is a survivor! But now you have me worrying about you.. you are okay, right? I don’t know what I’d do with my Gracie. :(

    The gratin looks sensational :)



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