Archive for the ‘ family ’ Category

Pre-Gluttony, Pies, and Kick-Ass Women

The office closed at 2:00 today, and I was out the door at 2:01. (Sadly, I was dragging with me a few projects to work from home on Friday, but in my mind it’s a 4.5 day weekend I’m starting. And Friday I have the option not to work should I find myself bloated like a ripe-melon and unable to move in the morning. I feel like I can’t lose here.) Stopped on the way home for wine–beaujolais nouveau is back!–and ice-cream. Tonight Chuck is in charge of shelling pecans and we are going to make a pie.

Pecan pie is a sensitive issue in my family. Only my grandmother’s recipe is acceptable. It’s grade is weighted heavily on “chewiness.”  Crusts are more an afterthought than part of the equation: you don’t lose any points for buying them from the store, or gain many from making your own. (Although, when I revealed this secret to my baking obsessed co-worker, I think a lone tear fell from her eye.) Note that this is a strict rule governing only pecan pie.  For other pies, it is perfectly acceptable to buy the whole pie from the store. I once commented on this to my mom in front of my step-grandma, who stepped in with a smile and said, “You’re mom’s just using an old family recipe.”

The woman in my family are workers first, domestic goddesses second. My aunt might not be able to roast a chicken, but she can design and sign off on plans for new green buildings. My mom hasn’t knitted a stitch in 50 years, but she founded a company. As for grandma: she can’t sew, bakes well from boxes, and served as a Navy WAVE.  And my step-grandma, rest her soul? In her lifetime, she earned a Ph.D.

All this to say, my attempts to make things from scratch most of the time actually make me a little bit of a rebel girl amongst my kin. (Note: in past years I may have tried to smoke the pecans. Not toast them, but inhale them. So I’m not the rebel I used to be.) Perhaps it’s my destiny to open a Bed and Breakfast and grow my own herbs (the not-for-smoking kind) in the back and combine the savvy of past generations with the down-home environmental earthiness of today. That, or if my pie fails, head back to graduate school.

For the record, I did buy a pre-made crust. Don’t tell anyone at my potluck.


Tradition, Tradition

I’m not one of those people that gets all into photographing every meal I eat, posting it on the internet, and spending the next 12 hours responding to comments about how good it looks. That said, this post is going to be about what I made for dinner tonight. It does not contain any photos because I prefer to eat when it’s hot, and now the food is all in my belly. If you prefer to move on to the more interesting things that the internet has to offer–real porn instead of food porn–I will not be offended. But for those who care…

My family was really in to eating dinner every night. Especially on Sundays. Dad was often in charge of the main course on Sunday, and that involved grilling either steak or salmon. In stereotypical man fashion, dad only grills. When I was a teenage vegetarian, he made me portabella mushrooms, which my parents were convinced was an appropriate substitute for steak. After his second wife passed away, my grandpa started coming over for dinner every Sunday night, a tradition my parents maintain to this day.

When Chuck and I moved in together, the Sunday dinner was a tradition I resurrected. It seemed natural. I like staying in the last night of the weekend and relaxing for as long as I can before I return to work. I’ve always liked to cook, but only when I have someone to eat with. And Sundays in New York City are jam packed with farmer’s market fun, so if you want to be obsessive about it, you can spend the whole day procuring and preparing the perfect meal.

Tonight I made: tilapia with a dijon marinade; orange-ginger braised carrots (from the farmer’s market), cauliflower flavored with lemon, and couscous, served with bread from the market. It was one of the nights my cooking was deemed “restaurant quality.” I owe major thanks to Mark Bittman, who publishes about 90% of the recipes I use. Now I am working to polish off this bottle of red wine and enjoy the remaining hours of my Sunday night. Feeling quite content.

Duty Calls II

I can’t believe I used Duty Calls as my title yesterday, when clearly it’s more important for Veteran’s Day. I had the day off today and ran many errands. I met another alumna from Sarah Lawrence and had a wonderful conversation. And while this was all nice,  I truly regret I couldn’t go home last week to see my grandfathers–both WWII Vets–in the Columbus Veteran’s Day Parade.

When you have people around your whole life, it’s easy to take them for granted. Now that I am nearing 30 and my grandpa’s are 89 and 94, I appreciate or relationship in new ways, and feel so blessed to have them both with me still. I look at this picture and remember that the US victory in WWII, so certain all my life, was something that they helped us to earn. I can’t imagine how scary that must have been. Grandpa Baird can still tell stories of circling planes above East Asia. I want to record his memories when I’m home for Christmas this year.

Thank you Grandpa and Grandpa, and all Vets.

Veteran's Day Parade 2010