Thursday, November 28, 2013

Culinary Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for so many things on this wonderful holiday, but let me be specific in a light-hearted culinary way:

I am thankful that today is one of a handful of Pancake Holidays in our household. It was a good way to start the day.

The great debate: Sausage
vs. Bread Stuffing
I am thankful for my mother's recipes that continue to be a part of our holiday, even though Mom is many miles away. We'll have Mom's Bread Stuffing and Mom's Apple Pie today.

I am thankful for the food traditions gained from the Baileys, including Sausage and Rice Stuffing, and Oyster Casserole.

I am thankful for favorite recipes contributed by friends, including Dave Byerly's Cranberry Chutney.

I am thankful for the bounty of information on the Internet, which today is providing the means for me to make Ruth Chris' version of Sweet Potato Casserole.

I am thankful for shortcuts, like the Stouffer's Spinach Souffle that I bought.

I am thankful for Ron's skills as a home chef. He's doing so much of the work today - including the manhandling of the turkey. And he made Cranberry Syrup, for what will be an awesome holiday martini.

Enjoy the day! I am eating up the Facebook posts that give me the flavor of your Thanksgiving, and help bring you closer than the actual miles that separate us.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

50 Year Memory

In the history of the Unites States of America, four Presidents have been assassinated. The most recent was President John F. Kennedy, on November 22, 1963...fifty years ago tomorrow.

I was 8 years old, in third grade at Meadow Hall Elementary in Rockville, Maryland. When the news of the shooting in Dallas broke, I was in Mrs. Gonano's class. A teacher from another class came into our room, and she was crying. This was startling at a young age, to see an adult teacher crying. She spoke quietly to Mrs. Gonano, who then shakily told us what had happened. Minutes later, the school principal came on the public address system to make an official announcement. School was cancelled, and we were told to go home.

As young children, we couldn't completely comprehend what had happened. But the message that it was really bad news got through, and we were scared. I remember the walk home, with panicked, crying children around me. Fortunately, I lived only about 2 blocks from school, so was home quickly.

Although I clearly remember the reaction at school, I don't really recall how my parents dealt with it at home. For me, it was enough that we felt safe and reassured with Mom and Dad.

We watched the funeral procession on TV, and I remember feeling sad for Carolyn and John, because their Daddy was gone forever.

Years later, as a teenager living in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, I visited Arlington Cemetery, the site of Kennedy's grave and the Eternal Flame. Early in my work career I lived in Dallas for 14 years, and many times drove the route of the President's motorcade on that fateful day 50 years ago, past Dealey Plaza. 

We are connected to this and other historic events that occur during our lifetimes in many ways - some small and some very influential to who we are or who we become. To many people today, the assassination of President Kennedy is merely history. For some of us, it is a vivid memory.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Comforting Food

What is comfort food to you? We all have our own definition. Some of my favorites are things Mom served the family for years...meatloaf, tuna noodle casserole, and creamed tuna on toast. But I have an additional set of comfort foods that are all ethnic. The paternal side of my family is 100% Greek. My Yiayia (grandmother) was a REALLY good cook, and some of the things she made became my comfort foods.

The difficulty is that my Yiayia is long gone. She didn't write down her recipes. Now I roam the earth searching for happiness in the form of truly good Greek food.

Fortunately, I have some good recipes that dirty every pan in the kitchen, but yield good results. And I have some favorite Greek restaurants too. They include Molyvos on 7th Avenue in NYC, and Melanthios or the Parthenon in Chicago. But I keep looking...

Last night we tried Greekfest in Phoenix, and were disappointed. Several things were overcooked, and the seasonings were off base. But the owner had just made fresh kourambiethes (a Greek version of something you might know as wedding cookies). So my consulation was to take a bag of those back to the hotel for dessert. Not as good as Yiayia's, but comparisons rarely measure up.

Comfort food elicits groans of glee and memories of happy, loving times. Don't we all pursue those feelings? I'm always on the prowl.

P.S. This blog entry was written on my cell phone at the airport. I apologize for any errors caused by big fingers on itty bitty keys.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dishpan Hands, My Ass!

Our dishwasher died a sudden, dramatic death about a month ago (after a protracted illness). Since then, we have been washing dishes by hand and using disposable party plates as much as possible. The replacement dishwasher has now been identified, and will be ordered today. In the meantime, when I scuff my feet and moan my way to the stack of dirty dishes by the kitchen sink, I give myself a mental slap and think about how spoiled we are today.

We have the luxury of appliances that do most of our work for us. In the 1950's and early 60's Mom wasn't exactly down by the stream beating our dirty clothing on rocks, but with four children, it was a true and constant chore to keep clothes and dishes clean. In the early years, Mom had a clothes washer, but no dryer. There was a clothesline in the back yard. I have no idea how Mom kept up with it, with four small children underfoot.

There was no internet shopping. Instead, shopping excursions were a family affair.
We didn't download books - we went to the library almost every Saturday.
Remember the days before cash machines? If you needed cash, you went to the bank during business hours.
Cell phones hadn't been invented. Kids had curfews and came home when the street lights came on, or in response to shouted summons from the back door.
There were no movies on demand. We had a black and white TV with about 3 channels, and we all watched it together.
Designer clothes for kids? Harumph. Special outfits were made by Mom on her own sewing machine.
No video games. We read books, played Monopoly, skated on the sidewalk, and played dress-ups.
Gentlemen always had a clean, pressed handkerchief handy. We kids would iron them for Dad.

I could go on, but this sort of thing has been done to death and passed around via email and on Facebook. Every once in a while, it doesn't hurt to put things into perspective a bit. Right now, I'm going to enjoy a little "Retro Housekeeping". In other words, I'll be washing and drying the dishes by hand.