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Homewards

4 Sep

Last week I got all excited about Labor Day weekend and the fact that the family would be together again, celebrating the time that seems more precious with every visit. We didn’t have any grand plans, but wanted to putter around the house, maybe sleep in, listen to music and, well… eat. Because what else does a family of varying interests and hobbies do to pass the time together? While at home I find myself mostly occupied by preparing food, which is how I like it. Shopping at Central Market or Whole Foods is a luxury compared to my everyday shopping situation, as is my free reign to pick out anything the family might enjoy (I went a little crazy at the antipasto salad bar… YUM). Things are a little weird these days… for the first time in my life, I’m facing things I’m 100% unsure about, and the stress about money and family and sickness and sadness and priorities and plans– well, it’s pretty daunting sometimes. It’s been a rough summer. But nothing makes me feel quite as happy and making food and feeding people. A tray of meats and cheeses, olives, and baby heirlooms while the family and friends socialize is always welcomed with such gratefulness. A pork tenderloin with a little balsamic browning in the cast iron elicits smiles from everyone who smells it.

 

Picking anything ready from the garden and rifling through the pantry and fridge for any forgotten carrots or potatoes for a roasted vegetable dish makes me feel industrious. Waffles from mom in the morning, fresh maple syrup and cans of jam from Beth waiting for me on the counter– home doesn’t always feel like home as I get older, but it always does if someone’s cooking. We picked blackberries in the back acreage, and with our bounty were rewarded with pie and a cobbler…

 

 

 

…although the best part may very well be spotting that perfect warm blackberry on the bush, placing it on your tongue, and pressing it against the roof of your mouth as it melts into some cosmic substance that can’t be replicated by people.

 

 

 

While I was home I bought a new book, and Beth gifted me another.

 

With her permission I’m abandoning the Jonathan Franzen book that has definitely NOT helped improve my state of mind, and instead I will read my favorite Ruth Reichl’s beautiful food prose and a diary of foods and meals and illustrations to inspire me to stay active in the one realm that I know is good for me.

 

Home is a lot of things… and it’s not always that embroidered sentiment you wish it was. Inevitably you have to process unpleasant realities while locking arms with those around you in fortitude, despite what your mind may be screaming at you to do otherwise. At least while we all figure out how to just be amongst all of this, we have plenty of food to enjoy with each other at our table.

 

 

 

 

A Letter to Julia

15 Aug

Dear Julia,

Happy birthday! Today you’d be 100 years old, but its’ hard to imagine that in only 100 years so much has changed in the world. American food culture has gone from neglected, to convenient, to showy and back several times in the past hundred years. People’s food attitudes are so varied and so interesting, but you remain like some untouchable beacon of good humor and appreciation. If I could be a fraction as charming as you were when frustrated with trussing or  de-boning, I’d probably have more friends (or less irritated coworkers, anyway). If I could remember half the things you seemed to so easily tuck into your memory about sauces or braising, I’d probably have much more impressive dinner parties. If I could approach cooking with even an ounce of the unbridled enthusiasm and driving devotion that you did, well… I guess I might be famous then, too. But the world can only have one Julia, and in just being yourself, you uprooted an entire culture’s attitude about food and cooking and gender roles and sat it upside down on the counter and stuffed it. I’m in awe of your life, if for nothing else than your access to the what sounds like the best damn raw ingredients on the planet. Happy birthday Julia, I hope you’re enjoying a nice sole meuniere, as it was the first time you tasted it: “perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top.”

All the best,

Sally

One Lucky Girl.

18 Mar

Today my parents, brother, and uncle drove up for a belated birthday dinner at our local southern restaurant (think oyster po’ boys, jambalaya, hush puppies, etc), followed by presents and cake at C’s and my house. Dinner was absolutely wonderful, and I topped it all off with a Bombay Sapphire gimlet- because I guess I was feeling like a total princess.

But when mom asked what sort of cake I wanted, I told her cheesecake (obvs!) yet hardly expected her to make this masterpiece on her own! Not that I was surprised at her aptitude; on the contrary, I first got  into cheesecake after mom made me a lemon cheesecake a couple years ago. So, a couple of things….

A) I had no idea at the time of that initial lemon cheesecake that she even knew how to make a cheesecake. That’s a skill reserved for pros who get paid for their time, in my opinion. It’s a demanding process!

B) That lemon cheesecake was far better than any professionally baked cake I’d ever tasted.

C) She totally blew me away with her beautiful spectacle of a cake. I mean, it not only tasted like heaven, it looked gorgeous.

This was made by the woman who regularly asks me how to do basic kitchen tasks when she TOTALLY KNOWS how to do them, simply because “you’re the professional!”

Listen here, mom.

I have learned so much about cooking from my mother, my sister, my cooking jobs, and C. Competency in the kitchen is a cumulative knowledge. And I guarantee, no cheesecake I ever make could look as beautiful or taste as flawless as this one. This one was made with years of expertise behind it.

And on a totally different note– remember Ralph? My hand mixer from hell? Well I’m pretty sure I gave my Granma nightmares, because for my birthday she sent a check with explicit instructions to replace my death-defying (if not narrowly) hand mixer. So here you have it: Ralph’s replacement, Margene. Normally I’m not into naming inanimate objects (besides cars, OBVIOUSLY. And bobbleheads. That’s a different story), but I’ve been watching way too much Big Love lately and Margene seems like the only appropriate name for such a fun-yet-still-practical sort of gal.

Oh, Tangerine Margene. What a lovely specimen. She came with standard whisks, dough hooks, and a blender attachment for soups. If my birthday celebrations are any indication of the year to come, then bring it on. I’ve been so overwhelmed with gratitude for family’s and friend’s attention and thoughtfulness. Now… onward and upward! I’ve got so many projects to do! With my new camera (insert squealing noise here), a new hand mixer, and a bellyful of oysters, I feel completely inspired to work towards new things. If I could find a still of Wet Hot American Summer’s scene where Christopher Meloni and Michael Showalter triumphantly high five after a long montage of successes, I would. But please know, THAT is how I feel right now. High fivin’ a million angels! Oh god, I’ve mixed up all my pop culture references. What else is new?

Sweet Thangs!

13 Mar

It’s my birthday!

Oh, woof.

This morning I topped off a weekend of celebrations with Riley at breakfast, where we were delivered an inappropriately shaped pancake (I guess it was good luck, I don’t think they knew it was my birthday!). It was her last morning in town before moving home.  Though we had several near-tearful moments recently looking back at our friendship and growing up together and moving towns and watching each other grow and change and become people we admire in one another, still…

it was nice to top it all off with a silly, stupid pancake.

By now I’m celebrating my own way, cuddled into the couch with a whiskey coke, watching Big Love and mawing Goldfish, wasting time in a way that it is only appropriate if someone’s died, you’re bed ridden, or today is the day you turn 24. The weekend was much more eventful though,  including a party I threw for myself (because I trust no one else, of course) that involved many sequins, plenty of champagne and whiskey, and mini chocolate cheesecakes.

I made these with Riley the day before to have among the spread of munchies available. Nothing says “I LOVE MYSELF AND DEMAND ATTENTION” quite like spending two hours making mini chocolate cheesecakes (with chocolate ganache and raspberries) for yer own damn birthday party. But they were delicious and a big hit, so I’d say it was time well spent (recipe was found at Love and Olive Oil). For now, until it’s time to hit up downtown for dinner with C, I’ll be wallowing in TV on DVD and thinking about how lucky I am to have a best friend like Riley, who, through everything since we were kids, has been there for me regardless of how far away she was. Girl, I know I’m getting sappy. But I love you, I love that we spent all last week together, and I’m so proud of you. Happy birthday to me, happy everything else to you.

Riley, I love you like the Golden Girls love eating cheesecake after 9 pm. In retrospect, it was obviously the only appropriate dessert.

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