Here’s a thing that positively no one needs to have: Flower-filled ice cubes. Here’s a thing that’s very pleasant to have: Flower-filled ice cubes. Here’s a thing that sometimes goes utterly awry: You guessed it.
The thing to know is that in the distance between receiving an idea for a blog post from whatever muse is loafing about that day, and actually executing that idea, and photographing that idea, and putting that idea into words, sometimes things go wrong. My rose-, or, dare I say, lilac-colored glasses don’t always allow me to see clearly, and so, an idea that comes to me in the midst of wrestling lilac stems into a vase might too quickly get turned into an idea for blog post. Intoxicated as I am by the heady scent of my favorite spring flowers and the seeming simplicity of the enterprise, I might forge ahead and begin the more complicated work of taking something simple and translating it into words and pictures that are digestible for someone else. As a general rule, a project that takes five minutes in real life takes five hours behind the scenes. This isn’t a complaint, it’s just a fact. The behind-the-scenes work requires childcare and equipment and moving of furniture and trips to the market and other feats of mild fortitude and/or magic-making to complete.
In The Case of the Lilac Ice Cubes, the real-life project satisfied my general criteria of being neither too time consuming, nor too fussy. Little effort, I presumed, would get you a festive addition to a springtime cocktail that would require even less in the way of money or time or other things you (or I) may be short on. Why only sprinkle fresh lilac blossoms into a cocktail, I figured, when you can freeze them and extend the short season just a little bit longer? And so I began the work of telling the story.
In my audacity to pen some of my post while I waited on the final frozen result, I implored readers to not be too exacting. Like absolutely everything, I said, you can decide to make this far more complicated: You can fret about your ice cubes being too cloudy, or breaking apart, or your petals falling on their heads. I let folks know that they were welcome to boil water, or use distilled water, in pursuit of crystal clear cubes. Blessed be the dedicated DIYer who might want to poke at petals with toothpicks. But, I cheerfully quipped, you can, quite simply, scoop up whatever lilac blossoms fall while you nestle your stems into a vase, give them a quick rinse, and fling them haphazardly into your ice cube tray before you set it to freeze. Once frozen, I suggested that you might indulgently clink your cubes into a glass, fill it up with water or lemonade or a cocktail of one stripe or another, and partake in your flowery refreshment with no one to impress but yourself and whatever Netflix show you’re in the midst of binge-watching. If there happened to be a toddler in your midst, I wrote, their delight will be excessive.
I’ll tell you that my prediction regarding the toddler was spot on. When the toddler in our house woke up from her nap in the midst of my photographing the rapidly melting final product, she was indeed, enthralled. She prodded and poked and desperately tried to wrest each petal from the ice as they began to turn brown before our very eyes. Yes. As it turns out, in the span of time that it takes a lilac-filled ice cube to begin to melt into a glass of tonic water, its bright purple springyness will have turned into compost tan. Compost cubes, I should have called them. A DIY with a publicity problem.
And so, I called my sister. I poured gin into that tonic water. I ate the remains of the week-old rhubarb pie that was languishing in my fridge. With a fork. Directly out of the pie plate.
And then, being predictably sappy in the maw of Mother’s Day, I thought, that maybe there’s another lesson: That try as we might to trap something fleeting and beautiful and perfect and make it stay that way just a little bit longer, we will ultimately be foiled. Like a four-month-old’s gurgles, or an almost-three-year-old’s mispronunciation of umbilical cord, or my once-perky breasts, the small beauty of those lilac blossoms was always destined to fade. Here’s to remembering my enchantment with the blossoms as they were when they first fell to the kitchen table: perky and purple and perfect.
PS. If you’re
foolhardy optimistic enough to endeavor to make a different sort of flowery ice cube, here’s my chance to encourage you to stick to edible flowers whose color has a bit of staying power: roses or pansies shouldn’t give you trouble. And if you’re in the market for a new ice cube tray, I’ve said before that I really love this one. Made from stainless steel, it’s been a sturdy and useful addition to our kitchen, and unlike the silicone ice cube trays we had previously, the ice doesn’t taste a bit like the actual compost we keep in our freezer. Silver linings, etc.