Celebrate!

Here’s one of my all-time favorite posts, reposted from July 4, 2010:

 

It’s the fourth of July today, and my sibs and I have converged on the family home for the great annual bash. On and off since yesterday evening, five strapping grandsons have been carrying cartons of beer, wine, soda, water, and iced tea up to the deck, where great drums of ice stand ready to receive them all.

I walked upstairs this morning to see my mother arranging a mountain of rolls, just collected from the local Italian bakery, in a huge, blue-striped-cloth-napkin-lined basket. My dad was outside using his kaboda, a mini-tractor, to position grills, chairs, and recycling bins. Tall piles of burgers (from our own steer) were thawing in the kitchen, and my mother’s delicious homemade cole slaw and potato salad were blending their flavors in the refrigerator. The gorgeous, cool green cabbages for the cole slaw were harvested from my mom’s garden last night. An early morning, last-minute trip down to the vegetable garden has yielded the last of the season’s lettuce greens. My assignment is to cut and arrange trays of peaches, plums, and mangos for the celebration. I have blueberries, raspberries and cherries to add, too. Raspberries are ripening all over my parents’ farm this time of year.

Across the street, our neighbors Connie & Duane are in the process of composing several magnificent marinated salads, and my mouth is watering as I contemplate the taste of them. Just the other night, to give you an example of the spectacles for which Connie & Duane are known, they arrived for a different meal with a large tray laden with mounds of marinated asparagus on one side, haricot verts on the other, triangles of sharp Parmigiana, leaves of basil and lettuce, and thickly cut tomatoes sprinkled with fresh oregano and fresh black pepper. Humble and generous, they would have you believe they tossed it together in just a few minutes. Connie is the daughter of a fireworks scion from the Midwest, a fact which always makes me feel like we have fourth-of-July royalty in our midst.

I like to embed recipes in my stories, and here’s one for a delicious homemade ranch dressing without secret ingredients: Add the following to a blender or food processor: 6 Tbsp. sour cream, 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise, 1 chopped green onion, 1 tsp. each honey and mustard, 1 Tbsp. chopped celery leaves, 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar, 2 chopped garlic cloves, and salt and fresh pepper to taste. Puree the ingredients for a minute, and add shredded Parmesan for more taste if desired. This dressing may be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

In a few hours, the holiday table will be piled high with cornucopias of plenty. I saw the fixings for a gallon of black bean, corn, and cilantro salsa on my sister-in-law’s counter yesterday morning. If we’re lucky, Aunt Gerda will show with a bowl of the same creamy arborio rice pudding she brought to my wedding 30 years ago. Libby always brings one of her beautiful fruit pies, some years peach and other years strawberry-rhubarb, and sometimes she brings her guitar, too. My sister, a cantor, has also invited a bunch of her musician friends. So in addition to the great sights and smells, there should also be some great sounds coming from here in a little while. Food is not the only thing by which we will be nourished today. The music, food and friendship should last late into the night.

I indulged a desire for a bucket of silly bands to share with all the children we’re expecting today, and I picked out a few of the red, white and blue ones for myself. Ever since the grandparents taught a bunch of their grandchildren to play cribbage a few years ago, and then began to attend competitions together, the big kids have been honing their skills. So some of them will definitely be spending the afternoon playing cribbage inside, in the air-conditioned living room. The annual soccer game will convene down in the field, and it will most likely end with a large influx of young people doing cannonballs right into the pool. I expect that the pool will see even more activity than usual today, with temperatures expected to reach the mid 90’s.

I hope you enjoy your celebrations, large and small, this week.

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When we no longer have good cooking in the world, we will have no literature, nor high and sharp intelligence, nor friendly gatherings, nor social harmony.  Marie-Antoine Carême

Eat wonderful meals brimming with taste. Dance, drink, laugh, love. Think Zorba the Greek meets Julia Child.
W.C. Willett

Eating with the fullest pleasure — pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance — is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.  Wendell Berry

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.  Erma Bombeck

 


Baseball in Cleveland

Living as we do in Northeast Ohio, we take our baseball seriously, and never more than this year. It was terrifically exciting, and made ever the more so when we received, just moments before game time, a selfie from my son overseas, at 3 am Israel time, wide-eyed, geared up, in high spirits, and ready for baseball! This son who, once upon a time, along with his older brother, used to spread the Plain Dealer on the driveway every morning to digest the baseball stats while they awaited the bus that would take them to kindergarten and fourth grade. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Delicata Squash

The first time I had this dish was two years ago, in Santa Cruz, while celebrating the wedding of a wonderful couple. In keeping with an old family custom, and so that we could easily identify the affiliation of each guest, one side was instructed to wear gold and the other white. Guests mingled to create a sea of gold, yellow, cream, beige and white, all joined together to form a new and beautiful family. It was a sight I hope never to forget. The simple beauty of this recipe continues to reminds me of the love and joy of which we all became a part on that beautiful October day. Continue reading


Late Summer Moments

As the summer has been winding into fall, these past few weeks have been filled with many moments of the exceptional-yet-ordinary variety. These were moments of crystalline clarity, when nothing existed except for what was right there on the table: the food, people talking and listening, glass, cloth, pottery, and metal. The air sparkled faintly with a transcendent sense of space that was minute and endless at the same time, inconsequential and all-encompassing at once. And I loved it. Consumed in and by it, I loved it. Continue reading


2016 Memorial Day Menu

Company’s coming! and I thought it might be nice to share the menu. 🙂

My friends and family inspire me so much every day, and I am grateful beyond words. Chief-cook-and-bottle-washer is making a trip to the grocery store today to gather the necessary provisions. Judith, a fine cook if ever there was one, is bringing her extremely fine baked beans. Lori has a tomato-watermelon salad (feta optional). And there is more, much more. We will raise a toast to the magnificent new garden envisioned and then built by the team of T&J. The new bride and groom will be here. And my parents will celebrate their 60th, yes, sixtieth(!), wedding anniversary. They were actually married (in the middle of the week) on May 30th, 1956, in the years before Memorial Day was moved to Mondays! Continue reading


Potatoes, Horseradish, and Other Gifts

Some years ago, when winter was coming to an end and spring was still soggy and cold, I discovered a lone organic potato in my kitchen. I have to specify that it was organic because conventionally grown potatoes are much less likely to root and generate offspring. This sad little potato was dried out, wrinkly, and way past edible. At least six little rootlets were beginning to form on the skin, and so I decided to try an experiment. I cut that little potato into six chunks, each containing a single rootlet. I dug a trench in the garden on the far side of our backyard, and dropped each of the pieces into the trench, about 1 foot apart. Then I covered them with dirt and waited. Continue reading



Reflections on Weight

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately: When we English speakers talk about our weight, we say “I weigh xxx pounds.” As if you have a say in the matter, and you could dial in what you want to weigh when you wake up in the morning. Not. We’re not machines — we’re dynamic creatures who are always adapting and responding to our environments. And what we weigh is a reflection of those environments, no matter how supportive or challenging.  Continue reading



Sometimes You’ve Gotta Go Slow To Go Fast

I’ve heard that race car drivers have a saying: “Sometimes you’ve gotta go slow to go fast.” If you want to shave seconds off your time, you need to slow down as you head into a curve. If you want to keep up your speed, sometimes you need to back off a little. Continue reading