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Showing posts with label family meals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family meals. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Celebrating 80 Years

Joe Dan Parker celebrated his 80th birthday this week, all week long! He chose some favorite ways to spend days this week - a movie with me (The Big Sick), another with Ben (Dunkirk), barbecue at the Swinging Door with Ben, Kristen, Nora, and Oliver followed by cake at home on his midweek actual birthday and a family celebration with Sean, Teion, Lauren, and Skye Saturday. We missed Jeremy, Michala, Maddie, and Jordann but he got phone greetings from them.

At Joe's request, the birthday cake on Saturday was baked by Sean, a Norwegian success cake. Suksesskake is traditionally served at important celebrations, and turning 80 is certainly important and celebration!

Also at his request, Joe himself made our dinner,  German Lentil Stew, and turned down all offers of assistance. Both Joe's soup and Sean's cake were welcomed.  I would have gladly made any meal he requested, but this was what he most wanted.  There is something about a batch of homemade soup on the table that adds to any family gathering, but this was special. He first made this soup on February 4 1973 when I was pregnant with Ben.  I have made it too many times to count, he has continued to make it too so it has been a family favorite; all my sons make it and their families vote for it too.  In years to come, I wonder if the name will change to "Papa's Birthday Soup."  That makes me smile. Happy Birthday, Joe!  You are so loved.  When the candle was lit and the birthday song sung, I smiled, too, at the mixture of names when the words came to "Happy Birthday, dear....Joe, Dad, Joe, Papa."  What a gift you are to us, and what a treasure of family gathers and loves, all beginning with the birth of a 10 pound baby boy on July 26, 1937.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Changing Times

A  post with this title could refer to Daylight Savings Time, or Spring Forward, which happened a week or so ago. We changed clocks on everything that is not computerized so that the clock changes automatically and prepared ourselves for darker mornings and light lasting longer in the evenings, with everything seeming off balance for a few days.  Or it could refer to the fast changing cultural time we are experiencing. Or just the changes involved in the arrival of Spring.  But I am telling the story of a family dinner that has changed.

Once I wrote how I loved our Sunday dinners after church, with most of our family gathered around our dining table which once belonged to my Grandma Terrell.  She loved Sunday dinners after church too,. I remember thinking and saying then that I was grateful for those times together because I knew it would not always be like that. Our family grew and schedules changed and people changed and the picture tilted. For a time it seemed like family dinners were no longer going to be a regular thing.

Then something familiar began to happen. After Joe and I began to share this home with Ben and his family, we decided to have 2 shared meals a week -  on Fridays, I would prepare dinner and Ben would be chef for another weekend night. About 2 months ago when I was making Beef Bourguignon,  I considered how big my pot was and wondered if our busy oldest son and daughter in law would like to come after work and bring their daughter who is in high school.  Teion, our daughter in law, responded quickly that she and Skye would love to come but Sean would be working late. They came early and Skye played with Nora, who adores her.  Baby Oliver is always in demand for cuddling.  I finished making my beef and wine and toasted sourdough bread to serve it on and we feasted. Sean got some leftovers brought to him.  Teion and Skye said they would love to come next Friday night, Our oldest granddaughter texted that she wanted to come to Friday nights and bring her friend Kasey.  Sean began to leave work in time to come for part of the meal. And suddenly, our Sunday dinner after the church began to happen on Friday nights!  Of course, Jeremy and Michala live in Nevada now and that is not an option for them to join us, but when they were here in January with Jordann and Maddie, our whole family gathered for the feast. Ben and Kristen are gracious co-hosts.

We are too many to go around Grandma's smaller oak table, but we can all fit around Ben and Kristen's dining table which we use in our dining room now.  I served the Chicken Nogales ( * KitchenKeeper blog link posted below)  pictured above. The only difference was I doubled the recipe! We are many more around the table as the years pass.  We are a noisy, happy bunch that enjoys each other and good food. Times do change, but some things about us never do.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

My Kitchen Table

During the preparation for our recent move, one of the pieces of furniture we chose not to bring with us was this table.  We were moving to share a home with our youngest son and his family. We would be using their furniture in our new dining room, and in the kitchen would be the table long used as our dining table, Grandma Terrell's oak table.  The butcher block parson's table that had graced our kitchens in 9 different homes over more than 40 years would need to go. It was sagging in the middle - showing its age and the number of times it had been moved, not to mention the markings acquired during cooking preparations, meals, snacks, art and sewing productions worked on by our growing family of little boys, and in most recent years, their daughters. There were even spots where glue and glitter and the paint from model airplanes seemed to be ingrained in the wood.  But my oldest son wanted the table. Sean remembered the table as a fixture of his growing up years, a leaning place later.  He was 6 years old when my parents gave us the money to buy a new table because our family had outgrown a table for 4.

So, the table would go to Sean.  But first, I wanted to give it a little help. Joe and I bought the table from Storehouse, a company at the time with a reputation for quality natural wood furniture. We had it made from pecan wood.  The butcher block wood and parson's style made it perfect for a succession of chairs to go around it.  I knew of a local craftsman who makes things from old wood. His artistry is beyond recycling or repurposing. So we loaded the table into my truck, took it to Mr. Hawkins in Rosenberg, and asked him what he could do with it. He loved the table and in spite of the cost he quoted for its restoration, I left it in his hands.  I liked that he loved the table too. Nearly 3 months later, our family table is in another kitchen, and it is still our family table.  we recently had breakfast with Sean and Teion and Skye, along with Ben, Nora, plus Tim and Debi, family friends. It felt right.  On the table, along with the breakfast casserole, they placed a framed poem I wrote many years ago. The following is the copy of the poem I posted once on my "kitchen" blog.                       

It would be a mistake to indicate that the only ingredients in my kitchen required for successfully and joyfully feeding my family were found in my pantry or simmering on the stove.  I will occasionally include table blessings, some “table talk”, and important for the keeper of this kitchen, prayers.  I wrote this one as a prayer poem in 1998.
                                              My Kitchen Table
                      As I open your Word and lean here one more time,
                  Make my table a holy place with your presence, Lord…
                     This table of pecan wood, not hand crafted acacia.
              This table scratched and stained with family years and family tears.
             This table that has been a family gathering place in so many places,
                 A place of offering and receiving nourishment of many kinds.
                     A place of joy and jelly, high chairs, and holding hands.
                   Birthday cakes and boy talks, spilled milk and spilled hearts.
            A place where I have put my head down and wet the wood with tears.
                         A place where your care and feeding of my soul
                            Joined the care and feeding of my family.
                              My heart is seated at this table, Lord.
                                You make this a holy place.
                                   I worship you.
                                                      Mary Ann Parker, March 1, 1998

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Thanksgiving Day has come and gone, Advent begins tomorrow. The 2 days are not always so close together, but it seems appropriate to move from the posture of marking gratitude to these next weeks of waiting and expectancy. I love so many things about these celebrations. There is the time set aside for personal reflection and recollection. There is time for family gathering and celebrating. This Thanksgiving has brought a keen awareness of how precious our times together are and how much I appreciate the occasion because it draws people home. The coming year brings great change for all of us, some already known. Jobs and homeplaces are relocating, our grandchildren are growing up. Next year gatherings may be different in numbers and place. So I need to say one more time how grateful I am that all our thirteen of our sons, their wives and our grandchildren were together for hugs and laughter, fun in the kitchen, remembering, and circling our great feast for Joe to pray a blessing and thanksgiving for our family, our food, our being together.  Not many pictures, but so many, many good memories.

Thanksgiving 2015. Blessed.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Maddie mailed me a note with a gift inside and the instructions "Here is a sticker you can add to almost anything..." I grinned as I attached it to the pumpkin on my counter. P for pumpkin, P for pie, but also P for Parker!  Our family has grown to number 13 Parkers (and alot more counting extended family.)  With a grateful heart every day, and Thanksgiving gathering coming soon, I am glad for our times together as a family.  See you soon, Maddie!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chips and Salsa and More

This post also appears in my blog Kitchen Keepers.
There I usually write about what is happening in my kitchen, and offer both old favorite and new family recipes. This story could so easily have gone into either blog, I decided to post in both!

In 1976, Joe and I and our sons Benjamin, Jeremy, and Sean  (age almost 3, 5 1/2, and 8) moved from North Dallas to the growing suburb of Plano, Texas. From the time we were getting ready to move to our house on Deep Valley until the time we moved from there, our favorite Mexican food restaurant was Tino’s, owned by Tino Trujillo. Even after we moved away from Plano, we tried to make it to Tino’s when we were back in the area. From the location we first visited in 1976, Tino moved to a spot in Plano’s Collin Creek Mall. Later, there was a third location called Tino’s Too. .
I can still remember Tino’s smile, his warm welcome, and his personal greetings to our sons as they grew. When we first began having meals there, Ben was still 2. Once as we left the restaurant after stopping by the front register to pay, Ben began coughing and choking. He had picked up one of the little round peppermints so often found in restaurants and tried to swallow it. We picked him up and turned him upside down and out popped the mint! Tino always called Ben by his full name, Benjamin, but pronounced ben ha min in Tino's lilting Spanish accent.
One of our favorite dishes was Chicken Flautas so I was delighted to get the recipe when it appeared in the Plano Star Courier, our local newspaper. There was a feature in the paper titled Cooking Corner.  The recipe was titled Pollos Flautas and was contributed by Georgie Farmer, a lady we knew whose picture appeared along with a plate of flautas.
Interesting to me when I pick up the now yellowed and tattered newsprint:  It does not say Tino’s Flautas, but I have always called it that. It has been many years since we had a meal with Tino, and he is no longer with us, so I can’t ask him. But these flautas are exactly like the ones I remember enjoying so long ago. We remember you fondly, Tino!
Tino’s Chicken Flautas
3 Tablespoons margarine (use butter now!)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chicken broth
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon grated onion
dash each of paprika, ground nutmeg, and black pepper
2 cups finely diced cooked chicken
24 corn tortillas
guacamole and sour cream (optional)
In sauce pan melt butter. Blend in flour, salt, and chicken broth. Cook and stir until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Add lemon juice, parsley, onion, paprika, nutmeg, and pepper. Stir in chicken and cool slightly. Place about 1 1/2 Tablespoons chicken mixture on each tortilla. Roll up tightly.  Fry in deep hot oil at 350 degrees, holding together with tongs for about 10 seconds or until tortilla is crisp. Spoon on guacamole and/or sour cream. We also serve with salsa.
I could have sworn that newspaper recipe was called Tino's Chicken Flautas. Now it is!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Gathering to Celebrate

                                                          Benjamin Andrew Parker, July 15
                                                     Joe Dan Parker,  July 26

Now that our family numbers 13 when we are all here to celebrate a birthday, celebrations are often so lively my photos are not great, but the smiles and joy they capture certainly are.  Since Ben's and Joe's birthdays are close on the calendar and we spread the celebrating out over various times and occasions, we start sometime after the 4th of July and finish up the month in the afterglow!  Ben's cake was Maddie's creation, using a family recipe called Mississippi Mud Cake. Maddie and Jordann and Skye made a butterfly cake and Reese's cupcakes for Joe's party.  I am happy to have lots of help in the kitchen!


Friday, April 3, 2015

Not About the Rabbits

Recently a topic of conversation in a group of women friends: "What Easter stories or memories come to mind?"

I thought about Easters in the seventies when we decorated and hid eggs for our three little boys, dressed them up and took them to church and to visit grandparents. I thought about Easters in the past 15 years when I found just the right Easter dress to delight first one, then two, three, four, and now five sweet granddaughters! I smiled when I pictured the fun we have had with our little boys and these little girls decorating eggs, cookies, and cakes, and gathering our growing family around Grandma Terrell's dining table in our home.  Which led me to think of that same table surrounded by my grandparents, parents, my sister and me, and sometimes others.  Always my sister and I proudly wore Easter dresses sewed by Mother.  Often we had a coat, hat, and purse to match!  Those little girl Easters always included going to an outdoor Easter sunrise service in a rock ampitheater.  Those red rocks made for hard, cold seating and shivering little girls in the early hours.

I thought about all the Easter baskets and Easter bunnies these memories represent, including this stern looking celluloid blue and white bunny that was mine in 1941, my very first Easter.  I have no recollection of that Easter, of course, but the fact that this odd little rattle was something Mother kept and passed on to me is significant.  She remembered.

Remembering is really what matters after all. In all the little signs and symbols of Easter there is one common thread, one reason for each:  to help us remember. We remember that Christ came, that he lived to show us how to live, was crucified, laid in a grave, and that he rose on the third day.  We sing the Easter songs and celebrate with joy because we remember.

We practice resurrection and redemption.  Happy Easter!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Gift

Last week Joe received cards, gifts, hugs, and celebrated with our sons who are also fathers as we gathered around our full table (once the place where my Grandma Terrell gathered her own clan to share meals).  This drawing was a gift to him from our oldest son, Sean.  Joe had hinted to him that he would like one of Sean's drawings.

The "canvas" for this work of art is a plain paper table napkin!  Sean has done hundreds of these, all unique, for tucking into his daughter's school lunch box!  What began when she was in preschool continued for several years, each morning bringing a representation of Skye's choice the night before.  When I was little, my mother used to ask me what I wanted for breakfast this next morning.  I would tell her "cinnamon toast" and that is what was on the table the following day before I went to school.  Skye would answer the question "What do you want for your napkin tomorrow?" And there would be seahorse,a dragonfly a tiger a mermaid, bees or a wolf!  All for Skye,  all containing "I love you, Dad."

Joe didn't tell Sean what image he wanted. The image is a gift in that way too. Joe's July birthday makes him a Leo.  But Sean's love of The Lion of Judah and Narnia's Aslan shines through his offering to his Dad, Sean's own dear Lion King.

This "I love you, Dad"  is a to instead of from.  I love it.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Garden Gifts

Fall gardens on the South Texas Gulf Coast are sometimes even more productive than Spring plantings, but not this year.  Tomato plants are big and leafy, with only a few small green tomatoes.  Peppers are still growing, but barely.  A combination of unusual wet cool weather has all but stalled any further setting of blooms. My youngest granddaughters have just spent some time here, and prove that though the gathering may be small, the joy is large.  There are a number of reasons I choose to garden, and these grins are one of them.  These little girls have helped me in a number of ways, and I am thrilled to pass on the joy of harvest to them.  This week, as we have cut herbs and gathered peppers and chopped and cooked together, our Thanksgiving has been much more than a meal.  It is a celebration of the happiness of being together, working together, and gathering all the family around Grandma Terrell's old oak table.  The table is now mine, and I am now the grandmother, but I probably won't ever call it Granmary's table.  The girls, however, will, and I am glad. I am thankful for those who have gone before, and these who will go beyond.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Celebrating Beginnings

                                                             Happy Birthday, Sean!

Two weeks ago, those in our family who live in this part of Texas gathered to enjoy the hospitality of our  son, Sean, his wife, Teion, and their daughters Lauren and Skye.  We enjoyed the traditional New Year's Black Eye Peas and Cabbage (with a twist of Indian seasoning) as we welcomed the beginning of another year and thanked God for the blessings we share as a family.  Forty-five years ago, Joe and I celebrated the beginning of 1968 in San Antonio as we waited for Sean's birth.  The morning of January 13, 1968 was blustery and cold as I struggled into a coat I had made for myself that no longer would meet in the front to button!  Our lives changed forever with his birth, and we celebrated it with joy.  There is even deeper joy as we celebrate his life after these years shared.  Each year, New Year's thoughts and plans will always include our pride and gratitude for him.  

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Celebrating our anniversary last week and heading into both our 50th year of marriage as well as the year 2013 has meant spending time in reflection and gratitude, savoring memories and looking forward to making more. Joe is the love of my life, my partner, and my forever friend.  Our sons are my pride and joy; my granddaughters fill my life with delight and laughter, more than I could have ever imagined.  That is why I love this image of our oldest son, Sean, and his daughter, Skye.  They are standing in our kitchen, surrounded by my pot rack,  the little altar at my kitchen window where I worship even while washing dishes, and that word, "Imagine" on the cabinet top. Just to the left is a smaller phrase, harder to see, but very big in importance.  On it are the words "Celebrate Family,  Friends, Tradition.  Here in one small photo - what a wonderful life!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Happy Birthday Joe!

Planning birthday celebrations has always been fun at our house. From the first year of our marriage, Joe has loved to have me bake an unusual cake called "Cheap Cream Cake" for his birthday cake. When our sons were little, we had such good times thinking how each one would be a special occasion for the birthday boy!  Jeremy had a frog birthday when he was four complete with a frog cake baked in a bowl and turned upside down with green frosting and a homemade pin the fly on the frog's tongue instead of a tail on the donkey.  Sean had a birthday scavenger hunt one year, Ben's 6th birthday was a bicycle parade around the block.  We have had parties where everyone came dressed in stripes, bake your own cake parties with paper chef hats, and those where we made our own banana splits or ice cream sundaes or pizzas.  The year Joe turned 40, the boys and I made him a huge poster with 40 things we wished for him for his birthday and gave him a Baskin Robbins cake shaped like a train with frosting that said "Keep on Chugging, Honey, You're Not over the Hill yet!"
I have enjoyed asking family members each year "What would you like for your birthday dinner?"  That has produced Italian meals more than once, Indonesian and Mexican food often.  We have had a murder mystery game dinner, a luau, and cookouts. 

So I was not surprised recently when Joe said "I have decided what I want to do for my birthday!"  "A dinner," he said -with our family.  Here.  (at home) And I want violin music!"  So of course, that is exactly what we had this past weekend. For Joe's 75th birthday he finally did not have "Cheap Cream Cake."  He had lasagne and all the trimmings, tiny cupcakes, family, and unspeakably beautiful violin music.  Aija Isaacs, who teaches music to several family members, brought her family and violin and gave us an enchanted evening. 

My birthday present to Joe is in the photo below, a collage of a great many of the tickets to events, musicals, and theatre  we have enjoyed through our nearly 50 years together.  I can say without hesitation that his birthday evening of violin music was the best of all by the expression on his face.  Many thanks to Aija, to our children for all their help with the evening, and to our friend Tommy Gay Dawson for her lasagne!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Roses for Your Birthday

Another family birthday comes into view while we are still basking in the glow of last week's celebration for Maddie.  One hundred twenty-five years ago on March 15, 1887, a baby girl given the name Mary Clyde Curley was born to a 34 year old  French immigrant whose husband died during the pregnancy.  This baby was the youngest of 9 living children born to Ernestine, who had buried a child in addition to two husbands, both of whom died before seeing their last child. 

Clyde, as the baby was called, was born into adversity and affliction of circumstance.  But she was also born into a close family circle as her mother moved back home to relatives.  I don't know much about her childhood, but I do know she loved her siblings dearly and spoke of them often.  In 1904 she married Hezekiah Peyton Terrell and gave birth to 3 sons and a daughter.  Opal, her daughter, was my mother.  I became Clyde and Ky's first grandchild.

Clyde Terrell mourned the death of her oldest son, Vinnon, due to a hunting accident on Christmas Day in 1922.  She never drove a car, never lived in a house with indoor plumbing until she was nearly 80.  She raised her family on a farm in Smith County, Texas, drew water from a well, washed the family laundry in an iron wash pot set over a fire in the yard, and hung the clothes on a line outside to dry after which she ironed them with a flatiron kept hot on the wood stove.  She planted morning glories and old maids,  kept a garden for vegetables,  milked a cow, hung slaughtered meat in a smokehouse, and kept chickens for eggs as well as wringing their necks for Sunday dinner for the preacher.  She put up berries and peaches along with peas and green beans in mason jars with sealed lids and baked pies and tea cakes. She lived by "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!"  Therefore, she sewed her own clothing, replaced buttons, turned collars and cuffs on Papa's shirts, and made patchwork quilts with what was left.  She was an adept seamstress, adding embellishments of crochet, tatting, hemstitching, and cutwork to aprons,  pillowcases and tea towels.

I remember being folded into her soft, sweet embrace and never felt more loved.  I remember drinking cold well water from a dipper, picking berries with her, and stubbing my toe on the red dirt road when we walked to the mailbox.  I remember that she welcomed folks to her door and to her table, the same one that my own family gathered around for lunch after church today.  However, she always put a clean white tablecloth on top, and when anything was blooming, a jar of flowers on the table. Whether we were eating fried chicken or cornbread, biscuits or berry cobbler, the food was always delicious and warm and her welcome even moreso.

But most of all I remember her deep faith in and love of God.  She knew God loved her and trusted him unfalteringly. She was a woman of prayer.  She didn't just go to church, it was a part of her and she was a part of the people and their worship and service.  Her pastor and his wife were her best friends.  I loved going to church with her because she loved it so much.  She had tragedies.  She did not have what most would call an easy life.  But she lived in gratitude and praise for the blessings she had. 

Grandma died one month before her 90th birthday in 1977.  I still miss her. This morning just as dawn was arriving, I went out into our garden and picked these yellow roses in her honor.  She had an old  rose bush near the front window of their house at the top of the red dirt road. She often brought bouquets of the blooms in for her table.  They were golden yellow.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Completely Present

In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present. -Eleanor Roosevelt.

I found these words while reading a blog I enjoy  -

I want to echo "in family life, be completely present."  In today's busy schedules, the actual waking hours families spend with each other can be reduced to few.  By the time work, school, sports, music and/or dance classes get their share of a calendar day, there may not be much left.  Meals grabbed to be eaten in the car on the way to another activity and family members each on their own cell phone or electronic device are common sights.

  Is it possible to make choices that claim actually being present in family life?   I think so.

 Preparing food together and then sitting down around a table at home is an important, and certainly a great boost for the budget.  If we turn off the television, give the same attention to each other that we seem to give to phone calls and texts, I believe family time can not only be something to look forward to, but a time we can learn to enjoy being together, completely present.

When our children and grandchildren gather here, we make an effort to have sit-down meals together.  Many times, this is around the old oak dining table which belonged to my grandmother.  I believe her smile joins ours as we have our table blessing and pass the potatoes, present to each other.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Come Into My Christmas House

As this year comes to an end, I am thinking of joys we have shared in our journey as a family, just as the blog subtitle suggests. This year has included many changes as Joe had surgery after surgery and has bravely met challenges of severe pain and limited mobility.  Our outings have been mostly to medical appointments, and gatherings have been different. The joys of this journey are nonetheless vividly apparent.  The love and caring concern of our sons, daughters in law, and granddaughters is lavish and intense.  They have helped with household chores from changing lightbulbs to moving furniture.  Meals have been joint ventures.  Phone calls "just checking on us" are frequent.  Little hands have helped set the table and take trays to Papa. Michala gave Joe his medicine.  Teion worked on the broken dishwasher.   Skye read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to Maddie and Jordann.  Kristen played dominoes with Maddie.  Jeremy played the Indonesian shell game with Lauren.  Ben gave Jordann rides on his shoulders. Sean started a fire outside to roast marshmallows.  It is not that these things never happened before, it is that they are intensified now, and deeply appreciated.  We decorated together, cooked together, prayed together, and even if our meals were not always around Grandma Terrell's table, they were family celebrations and joyful occasions.  So, come into my Christmas House, and share the joy of our journey as a family. Winter is upon us, but Spring is on the way.  I am grateful.    "With" is a powerful and joyful thing.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Remembering Indonesia

I was recently asked to talk about the country of Indonesia to some groups of children at my granddaughter's school.  I guess a picture really is worth a thousand words, because it would take me more than a thousand to tell the stories behind the objects shown here.  After almost 20 years, I am surprised that the time we spent in Jakarta, Indonesia came to mind so vividly as I showed them dolls and puppets, played gamelan music, passed around rupiah, shared photos and books and spread out batik.  To finish, we shared a snack of pisang, nanas, and krupuk (bananas, pineapple, and shrimp crackers).  Since we had family birthdays to celebrate the next weekend, our youngest son, Ben, grilled sate and and made nasi goreng for us to eat while we watched old videos of Jakarta and Bali.  It was a time long ago and far away, but we remember.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Squash Baby

Sometimes a vegetable hides under its foliage until it is beyond edible.  Jordann found this yellow squash  and obviously loves it, warts and all!  Seeing her cradle it reminds me of a zucchini I displayed in the same fashion a few years ago.  I come from a long line of farmers. When I was Jordann's age, we often used surplus cucumbers and squash from the garden to make a menagerie of animals with toothpick legs and button eyes.  I still create with these fresh treats, but now it is in the kitchen. Today's produce prices at the supermarket are making me expand my list of vegetables to grow in the coming season.  Tomatoes are in and finally beginning to grow as temperatures come down from triple digits.  Soon we will plant collards, swiss chard, and bok choy which winter well here. When possible I find heirloom seeds and plants to use.  I am thankful for my garden, and I delight in seeing my children and grandchildren becoming gardeners, too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Last night Joe and I were invited by our youngest son, Ben, to share a meal with him and his wife Kristen in their new home. Ben promised to make us one of Kristen's favorite dishes, Leek and Two Cheese Quiche. We brought some homemade gazpacho and an arugula salad. The table was set beautifully, with wedding goblets and a huge bunch of basil from their garden. Just as I was thinking how special they had made our evening, one more realization gave me a smile as well as a tear.

As I picked up my spoon, I recognized a piece of vintage silverplate. Not a fancy pattern, but simple, beautiful, and achingly familiar. We didn't have a lot of fancy kitchenware when I was growing up – no matching pots and pans, no crystal, mostly mismatched plates and bowls and glasses,stainless flatware, miscellaneous plastic and wood handled spoons and serving items. The knives and forks and spoons we used for every day meals were in a shallow drawer on one side of the short kitchen counter. But the spoon I held in my hand was kept with a matched set. This was my mother's silverplate, the pieces she kept in a box she had painted light green to match her kitchen at one point. She had a set of butter yellow china that she kept on a high cabinet shelf. The silverware box sat by itself at the end of the counter. This flatware she pulled out for use for special or holiday meals, or when we had company.

When my mother sold her small house to move into a still smaller apartment, she gave many things to my sister and me, and to her grandchildren, who call her Nana.

She gave Ben the green box. In the years to come he kept the box and its contents on his own kitchen counter. He made Sunday after-church dinners and a Mothers' Day lunch to which Nana was invited.  She noticed his use of her silverware, and bragged on his cooking.  Now, he and Kristen have given the delicately traced knives and forks and spoons a place of honor in a drawer of their beautiful china cabinet. I felt Nana nodding and saw her smile last night as we began to fork bites of Ben's delicious pastry. I know she approved. Her spirit and her spoons continue to bless the gathering of family.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Red, White, and Blue

We celebrated with a Fourth of July breakfast this morning.  A Dutch Baby (puffed pancake) with blueberries, rasperries, and strawberries.  We enjoy a variety of pancakes of various origins, but this may just be voted family favorite.  Nearly 25 years ago, our friends Bob and Dorothy Thomas made this.  Once I tasted it, I hastily scribbled the bones of the recipe on a torn piece of paper, which is still the one I pull out when I get ready to make it.  Even though I know the simple ingredients and preparation by heart, I like to connect with the memories by handling this tattered little note. It may be simple, but because it rises and puffs and is always beautiful with any assortment of fresh fruit, it is a great way to make guests feel special, whether served at breakfast, brunch, or a lovely dinner dessert.

                                                                  1/3 cup butter
                                                                   4 eggs
                                                                   1 cup milk
                                                                   1 cup flour

Begin heating oven to 425 degrees.  Put butter into an 8 inch round iron skillet and place in oven.  While butter is melting, put eggs, milk, and flour into blender jar and mix throughly.  Take hot skillet out of oven and pour batter directly into melted butter.  Do not stir.  Place back into oven for about 20 minutes, or until puffed and browned.  I cut it into fourths and top with fresh berries or peaches and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.  If you wish, add a dollop if whipped cream.  Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Optional:  Add vanilla or a dash of nutmeg for flavor.  We like it plain.