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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Honor

Major Owen Thomas Yates, Jr. 1922-2000

World War II
Korean War

Veteran.

My hero.

*Korean Service Medal of Honor
*American Campaign WW II Medal of Honor
*National Defense Medal of Honor
*Europeaan African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal of Honor
*Army of Occupation WW II Medal of Honor
*World War Victory Medal of Honor





He was a good man and a good father.  He dragged us (my brother and me) around the world by himself.   He didn't have to, at all. He did it because of love and honor. Single father. Widowed. Army.


He was strict and fair.  Generous and kind. Rough  and gentle.

Balanced.

His life was devoted to the military.

                                                            
*Military Merit Medal of Honor
Career Army.  He sacrificed his happiness for his country and two boys. He gave us everything. (well almost, when I pleaded for a Barbie doll, he gave me Midge,..her freckled-faced  ugly friend. He didn't know the difference.).   He tried his entire life to provide everything and anything  for us. He was kind.

He was all Army......and my dad.

I loved him
and he loved me.

When I told him I was gay, he still loved me.....perhaps even more. He never wavered.  Ever. Not once. Ever.
When he was dying, he told me how much he loved Michael and how grateful he was that I had Michael in my life.  Safe and loved. He cared about that. Brave army man, my father. Hero.

I miss him.

The Legion of Merit

Awarded for exceptionally meritorious
conduct in the performance of outstanding
services and achievements.  The Legion
of Merit is one of only two United States
military decorations issued as a neck order.


He was very proud of The Legion of Merit.
I wanted to bury him with it, but was not
allowed to. He and my mother are buried together just below the Amphitheatre and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldires at Arlington National Cemetary.

Peaceful and quiet.

Thank you, Dad. Thank you for your example, love, courage, and devotion.



Honor.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Peas In A Pod

Shopping at the farmers' market twice a week has its advantages.  By hitting the downtown market on Saturdays and the Maxwell/Broadway market on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I know I'll miss nothing new. If it's there, I'll have it. Some things come and go very quickly.  It also assures me that Michael and I will eat seasonally as the fresh produce changes and the market evolves throughout the growing season.  

I stopped by the market last Thursday morning before work to scope things out.  Fresh plump strawberries. Check. Fresh local rhubarb. Check.  Early tender lettuces.  Double check.  I've done them all.

I drove off with a small pint of Madison County sugar snap peas and spent the rest of the day planning an entire meal around those pea pods.


I had scallops on my mind. Scallops, delicate and fresh-pea worthy. I thought, maybe  black sesame-encrusted pan seared scallops with chive oil or blackened scallops over risotto dotted with steamed sugar snap peas.

After work, I drove to the grocery to satisfy my mental scallop orgy. I had my heart set on them.....until I spotted drop dead goegeous Frenched lamb chops.  I had to have them.  Period.

Game changer.

I  mentally  reinvented our evening meal while scurrying around the store picking up beef stock, fresh mint, and heavy cream.

Meat and potatoes, kind of.
And fun.

I had a blast throwing it together. 
Potatoes. As an experiment, I thought I'd attempt individual potato gratins. I used my mandolin to thinly slice 2 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes before layering them into two 4-ounce buttered ramekins with sliced fontina d' agosta, parmigiano reggiano, salt, and pepper.  Just before topping the gratins with a final layer of potatoes, I drizzled 2 tablespoons of heavy cream into each ramekin, covered them with foil, and slid them into the oven to bake for an hour.  I removed the foil after 45 minutes to brown the tops of the gratins.



Sauce. I'm a fool for lamb with mint and a slave to sauces, so I decided to make a fresh mint sauce.  I brought 2 cups of beef stock to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, added 2 tablespoons of minced fresh mint, 1 tablespoon of caster sugar, and 1 tablespoon of aged balsamico di modena. Stirring occasionally, I let the sauce simmer until it reduced by half and was slightly thickened.

Lamb. While enjoying a few glasses of wine, I allowed the lamb chops to come to room temperature. After an hour or so,  I brushed the chops with olive oil and liberally seasoned them with salt and cracked black pepper. I got a grill pan screaming hot and seared the chops 3 minutes on each side (for medium rare) before pulling them from the smoking pan, tenting them, and letting them rest while I played the sugar snap peas.

Peas. I didn't want to muck around with the pretty fresh peas, so I simple sauteed them in butter until they turned bright green, removed the sugar snap peas from the heat, and scattered fresh julliened red bell pepper strips over the pea pods for crunch.


Just before we ate, I tossed market-fresh baby arugula leaves with fresh lemon juiice and olive oil,  nestled the peppery tart arugula salads onto our plates, and topped them with the golden creamy potato gratins. Fresh snipped chives finished them off. 

After plating the buttery sugar snap peas, I criss-crossed the lamb chops next to them with a drizzle of mint sauce and showered our plates with diced red pepper for final bursts of color and freshness.





Oh my.
My my my.

Mouth party.  Complex.  Wonderful.





The succulent lamb was perfectly pink, moist, and juicy.  The mint sauce gently bathed the chops with subtle savoury and sweet mint essence.  Lucsious and light.
When sliced, the tiny gratins oozed cheese and cream through seven layers of thinly sliced soft baked yukon gold potatoes. Caramelized.  Ridiculous.  Three luxurious  bites of potato perfection with a biting lemon-dressed peppery baby arugula salad cutting through the richness with bright acidity. Heaven.  Really.

Through the frenzy of the lamb, sauce, gratins, and arugula, the buttery sugar snap peas were key. They were snappingly crisp and  bursting with garden fresh  wetness. Clean.  Perfect balance.

The added bonus of frenched lamb chops?  Built-in handles to gnaw the meat from the bones. Yep. Did it. Stripped. Clean bones.

Crazy.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pasta

I adore making fresh pasta.  I know there are great dried pastas available.  I've used  them...a lot, but there is nothing like fresh made pasta.  I like the way it feels in my hands when I make it and love the mouthfeel it has when I eat it. I've made it so often that I don't really follow pasta recipes any longer.  I simply feel it. 

Lately, I've been on a tear, making two batches of fresh pasta in the past week. Somehow, I got distracted and forgot about the first batch until it was too late, so I was determined to put the second batch of pasta dough to good use. 

The second batch.  I was out of semolina flour, so I sifted 1 1/2 cups of 00 flour into a bowl and made a well in the center of the flour.  I dropped one whole egg along with one egg yolk into the center of the well and drizzled olive oil over the eggs with a pinch of salt.  I carefully pulled the flour from the outer edges of the well into the eggs and mixed the flour with the eggs until it formed a loose ball of dough. After turning it out onto a floured board, I kneaded it for several minutes until it was perfect, adding additional flour or water as neccessary to reach the correct consistency.  I wrapped it up and let it rest for 30 minutes.

The fun part. Using an ordinary bench scraper, I divided the pasta dough into fourths. With my pasta roller set to the lowest setting, I passed the dough through the rollers several times, folding it in half and flouring it before each pass until it was smooth an pliable. When it was ready to roll, I cranked the dough through the rollers,  increasing the setting with each pass until it was paper thin.  I floured each sheet and let them dry for a few minutes before cutting them.

Once cut, I tumbled the floured pasta ribbons into nests to dry before cooking them.







Pasta with......what? I had a small chicken and few miniature bell peppers.  I decided to drape the fresh pasta with a sensual chicken paprikash.

Mise en place. I thinly sliced miniature red, orange, and yellow bell peppers.  I smashed a couple of garlic cloves, thinly sliced an onion, and dropped them into a bowl with the peppers..

I cut the backbone from  the chicken and tossed it into my chicken-parts freezer bag for future stock making.

After removing the backbone, I sliced the chicken in half, seasoned the halves liberally with salt and cracked black pepper, seared them on both sides in a hot skillet until well browned, and removed them from the pan.  While the pan was still hot, I drizzled it with olive oil and sauteed the peppers and onions until they started to caramelize. Just before they melted  into pepper-onion candy, I added the smashed garlic and a heaping tablespoon of Spanish paprika. 

When the paprika was nicely toasted in the sizzling oil, I deglazed the pan with a cup of white wine and let it reduce by half before adding 3 cups of chicken stock. As the braising liquid started to bubble, I slid the chicken back into the pan, scattered quartered roma tomatoes over the chicken, clamped a lid on the pepper pot, reduced the heat to a simmer, and let the chicken braise for 45 minutes-ish.  That was the plan.

That was the plan before I joined Michael in the parlor for several glasses of wine.  Even though the house smelled amazing with paprikash wafting through every room, I forgot about it. My bad.  Thank goodness long braises are very forgiving.  The paprikash was very very forgiving. After an hour and a half, I resumed my kitchen duties.

It went fast.

I dropped the pasta into heavily salted boiling water to cook for 2 minutes until al dente.  While the pasta boiled away, I removed the chicken from the reduced braising liquid,  pulled the pan from the heat, and folded a cup of creme fraiche into the sauce, turning  the vivid red  paprika-pepper sauce into a umber blanket of silkiness. I slid the chicken back into the sauce, turning it several times to completely bathe it.

I pulled the pasta from the boiling water, tossed it with butter and minced fresh parsley, plated it, nestled the chicken into the pasta, and spooned the remaining sauce over the chicken.

It was decadent. The moist tender chicken  literally fell from the bones into the pasta, swirling through the velvety rich and sweetly spiced paprika sauce. Michael and I tore it apart, slurping pasta, sucking bones, and licking our fingers until it was completely gone.

I'm not kidding.

Chicken paprikash with fresh pasta.

Fabulous.




Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Strawberry Patch

My last few visits to the Tuesday/Thursday farmers' market have baffled me. Granted, it's very early in the growing season and the weather has been chilly, but there hasn't been much local produce to choose from. The early season sparse vendor count added to the confusion.  Elmwood Stock Farm has always been there selling eggs, meat, and early lettuces.  A few other vendors dot the parking lot hawking melons, apples, and tomatoes from other states.


The past couple of weeks, Bybee Farm Produce has set up shop on one side of the parking lot, disconnected from the other vendors offering fresh strawberries. Really? It just seemed odd.  With cold rainy weather, a huge table covered with pint baskets overflowing with gorgeous fresh strawberries just seemed weird.  This past Tuesday, I finally asked them what was going on.  How did they have fresh strawberries so early in May? They proudly display their "100% Growers" sign, which means they can only sell what they grow.  Got it. I expected a hydroponic answer of some kind.  Nope.  "We've had them coming in for a  couple of weeks now.", was the answer I recieved.  Sold.

As I tumbled a basket of strawberries into my canvas Martha Stewart Living tote bag, an older gentleman in front of me muttered," Better run to Kroger for a 5 pound bag of sugar to sweeten 'em."

Nervous laughter.

Once back in my warm car, I started eating the strawberries.  The first one was tart.  Sucker.  Fell for it, didn't you?  The second one squirted sweet strawberry juice down my chin.  The third one did the same. They were fantastic. By the time I got to work, my fingers were tinted strawberry red.

I don't bake.  I don't even  pretend to bake, so the prospect of strawberry shortcakes or scones was out of the question.

I certainly wasn't going to macerate them in 5 pounds of sugar.

I simply sliced the strawberries in half, unhulled, and drizzled 8 year old Olivia Bella Balsamico di Medena over them.  After the intensely sweet aged balsamic vinegar oozed down the strawberries and puddled onto the plate, I showered them with freshly cracked Tellicherry peppercorns.  Yep.

The pungent fruity black pepper added  crunchy spice to the sweet tart balsamico-draped strawberries. 

They were wet and juicy with aromatic sweet heat.

Early season strawberries. Fabulous. Go figure.








Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pear Chips

Michael gave me my French mandolin almost 20 years ago.  I still store it in the original box it arrived in long ago wrapped in pretty paper and tied with ribbon.  After many years of use and storage, the box is battered and ragged. The mandolin remains pristine and I adore it.  I use it for everything;  potato gratins, paper thin cucumbers, julienned vegetables, waffle fries, and chips.  Especially chips.  Specifically, pear chips.  I've made sweet potato chips, apple chips, turnip chips, beet chips, carrot chips, and pear chips. When I need a go to snack,  I always return to the sweet and savoury pear chip.


A couple of nights ago, I did just that.  I pulled the mandolin from its tucked-away cabinet garage to make a batch of pear chips for cocktail snacks.  I've served them many ways over the years, but my  inclination has always been to pair the pears with gorgonzola cheese because the two have a  a natural affinity to each other. Lately, my inclination has morphed into serving the chips with a light and airy gorgonzola mousse. Cocktails, pear chips, and gorgonzola mousse.
Easy and fun. 

I sliced three unpeeled Bosc pears as thinly as possible on the mandolin. 





After bringing a basic simple syrup to a simmer in a large stock pot, I dropped the wafer-thin sliced pears into the syrup to blanche for 3 minutes.  Using tongs, I carefully pulled them from the sryup and placed them onto a non-stick silicone Silpat  before sliding them into a 350 degree oven to bake for about  18 minutes, or until they were browned and crisp.  While they were still hot and a wee bit sticky, I dusted them with fleur de sel sea salt.

The mousse was embarrassingly simple to throw together.  Using a 1/4 pound of creamy gorgonzola dolce that I picked up from W + M Market, I crumbled the gorgonzola into a mixing bowl along with 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream, a tablespoon of clover honey, and a drizzle of sherry. Armed with an archaic hand mixer, I whipped the cheese mixture until it was quite smooth and set it aside.

Mousse making.  I poured a cup of heavy whipping cream into a stand mixer and whipped it until it was stiff and firm. After folding 1/3 of the whipped cream into the dense cheese to lighten it, I carefully incorporated the remaining whipped cream until the entire mixture was as light as a feather. 

Pears and gorgonzola cheese.....classic. Crisp, sweet, and savoury pear chips with airy gorgonzola mousse....ridiculous.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Oysters & Corndogs

Michael and I made our way out to Windy Corner Market for lunch today. Even though it was raining cats and dogs, the place was packed.  While we waited in line to order, a table cleared and Michael  shooed me  to grab it. It was convivial and very hectic, belying its remote location in the countryside. Apparently, the regulars of Windy Corner knew exactly what to do and how to order. Their precision in the chaos was fascinating. 
We went  for lunch.  Specifically, I went for the Fried Oyster Po-Boy.  Although impressive, the rest of the menu didn't matter.  It was all about the oyster po-boy.  I've not had fried oysters in quite some time. I couldn't wait.

A server shouted, "Michael" over the noisy crowd.  He raised his hand and she brought our baskets of food to the table. Wow. 
All Po-Boys come fully dressed---shredded lettuce, tomato, Windy Corner Special Sauce and sliced pickles on 8-inch brioche rolls.
Yep. Nestled in a humble plastic basket, the gorgeous brioche roll bulged with  select oysters fried in seasoned cornmeal.  Lisa's remoulade was drizzled over the top with lettuce, pickles, special sauce, and tomatoes underneath.  I actually made noises when I ate it.  The first bite of oyster exploded through the crunchy cornmeal, squirting sweet oyster juice down my throat.  G-spot. Oyster bliss.  I'm re-evaluating my fondness for raw half-shelled oysters.  The Fried Oyster Po-Boy was perfection in a plastic basket.

The drive to Windy Corner Market conjured up a flood of memories from my college summers spent masquerading as a gigantic furry raccoon at Beech Bend Amusement Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Yep.

The undualting tree-canopied road to Windy Corner reminded me of the long tree-canopied entrance to Beech Bend. During those summer days, the drive to Beech Bend represented the calm before the storm.  Ricky Raccoon was my name for two long hot summers.  Along with Orange Orangutan, Red Monkey, and  Purple Blob,  we made merry with the patrons of Beech Bend Amusement Park. It wasn't a hard job, but it did have its challenges.  Back then, well ventilated foam fabricated costumes didn't exist.  Basically, my costume was a sleeping bag covered in raccoon fur. My head was huge and heavy with a 2 foot long nose.  After it was strapped on, I used my meshed mouth to see and navigate.

The costumes were hot.  Very hot.  We had to take salt pills every two hours to retain water. Although melting under fur beneath the beating sun every day was tiresome, it was also great fun. The four of us spent our days strolling through the park making children happy, posing for photographs, and dancing.  Ocassionaly, the park managers would make us climb onto rides in full costume.  Photo ops?   Thankfully, those misguided attempts to prostitute our adorableness ended the day my raccoon head flew off while riding the Pirate Ship.  Gravity.  It scared the children.

We took mandatory breaks every two hours.  Housed over the video arcade game room, we shared our breakroom shed with a kit of pigeons. Day in and day out, we rested in their roost. We followed the rules. There we were, three sweaty monkeys and one wet raccoon gasping for air in a pigeon roost.  Just imagine it. Histoplasmosis, anyone?  Negative.

After hanging our furry sleeping bags to dry before the next day of frolicing fun, we'd clock out. The animal kingdom with time cards. Go figure.

I ended every day with a corndog. Bliss.  Fried in days/weeks/months-old oil, the corndogs at Beech Bend Park were amazing. They were always extremely hot and deeply browned from old oil and over frying, crackling with every bite. Yellow mustard subdued the heat and tamed the aroma. They were hot, huge, and delicious. I loved those corndogs. Park food. My food.

Windy Corner Market.
Beech Bend Amusement Park.

With a gazillion degrees of separation between the two,
the roads to reach them felt familiar.  Thought provoking.

Haven't thought of my raccoon days in a very long time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Urban Foraging

Michael and I live downtown, play downtown, and try to shop downtown.

So,  is it really  feasable or possible to rely exclusively on urban markets to fulfill shopping needs for food and supplies? 

Last weekend, we gave it a shot.  As an experiment, we decided to skip  the larger supermarkets on Saturday morning and only hit the farmers' market  before heading across the street to Shorty's grocery to pick up other things we needed.

Granted, it's early in the growing season for the farmers' market vendors. Homegrown pickings were slim, but an abundance of lovely fresh local produce was available.  We strolled through the stalls drinking coffee, bumping into friends, and buying stuff.  I wanted honey, specifically Abigail's Wildflower  honey.  She had it, but only in quart jars. Nobody needs that much honey. We opted for a smaller jar of clover honey.  

We picked up purple-tipped fresh asparagus from Blue Moon Farm, Anderson County spring baby turnips, Madison County greens onions, and Scott County dirt-covered radishes.

As we passed the Cookin' Up Kentucky tent, I yearned for the heavenly smelling smoked lamb burgoo. It was 9:30 a.m.  Too early.   The burgoo was ready.  I wasn't.

We took a short break before moseying over to Shorty's grocery.  There were quite a few people milling about the store. It was hard to tell if they were shopping or snooping.  Didn't matter.  We were there to shop.  While Michael waited on shaved maple honey ham from the meat counter, I loaded our basket with catfood, windex, carrots, peruvian purple potatoes, miniature bell peppers, and a disc of 7 grain Boule bread from Blugrass Bakery.


I was quite taken with gorgeous  fresh morel mushrooms that were matter-of-factly piled onto a plate in the produce section.  Morel mushrooms?  Really?  They were $39.99 a pound.  Yep.  Morels weigh nothing.  The whole plate probably would have cost $3.00. I didn't buy any, missing my opportunity for morel magic. Maybe next week.


We headed home with everything we needed.  It was a successful shopping excursion for what we needed on  that particular day.  Could it happen every Saturday?  Probably not, but last Saturday it was possible and fun.

I usually hoard fresh produce as if it will never be available again, spacing it out over the course of a few days.  Sunday night, I decided to cook up the whole farmers' market  kit and caboodle by using angel hair pasta primavera as my vehicle.
 
I washed and trimmed the baby turnips and radishes, leaving snippets of green stems intact.  For variety, I sliced a few in half, leaving  the remaining ones whole.  I sliced the tender asparagus and green onions on  severe diagonals to offset the bulbous shapes of the baby spring root vegetables.


Wanting to saute the vegetables before tossing them with the pasta, I knew I needed to blanch the radishes and turnips to promote even cooking for all the vegetables.  After bringing water to a rapid boil in a large stock pot,  I tossed in a handful of kosher salt before dropping the radishes and turnips into the salty cauldron for 5 minutes to cook and soften.  Within a short 5 minute blanche, their vivid bold shapes and colors softened into faded demure translucent jewel tones.  They were beautiful.
Mise en place. Done....almost.

I had a small pork tenderloin that I wanted to pan-fry as an accompiamnet to the pasta primavera.  It was Sunday supper, after all.  I sliced the tenderloin into medallions, placed the medallions between plastic wrap, and pounded them into 1/2 inch cutlets. Using a dry breading method, I dredged the cutlets in a mixture of panko bread crumbs, fresh minced parsley,salt, pepper, and grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.  I parked the breaded tenderloins in the refrigerator and  joined Michael in the parlor for a glass of wine....finally.

After several glasses of wine, I made my way back to the kitchen and cranked the burners.  While waiting for the water to boil for the pasta, I sauteed the pork tenderloin medallions until well browned, topped them with lemon zest, and set them aside to rest. I dropped the angel hair pasta into the heavily salted boiling water and turned my attention to the vegetables.  When equal parts butter and olive oil sizzled in a large saute pan, I tossed the vegetables into the pan.  I let the vegetables slightly caramelize before  adding salt, pepper, and minced garlic. 

After deglazing the pan with chicken stock and white wine, I pulled the pasta from the boiling water and dropped it into the saute pan to finish cooking with the vegetables.  A shower of parsley and fresh squeezed lemon juice finished it off.

The piquant bite of the radishes and turnips mellowed from cooking. Their edible tender green stems added slight texture with subtle flavour.  The delicate angel hair pasta nests lightly entangled the vegetables, allowing a few to tumble free onto our plates. Subtle lemon acidity cut through the buttery texture and mild peppery undertones of the radishes and turnips.  Fabulous. While the green onions totally melted into the pasta,  the slender tender asparagus batons  poked through with tiny bites of spring freshness.



Although the jucy parmigiano reggiano-encrusted pork tenderloin medallions were pratty damn tasty, it was all about the early spring vegetables.


Last Saturday, we foraged and shopped for food and necessities without leaving the downtown area.
When it was all said and done,
we had our stuff,
our cats had food,
and our housekeeper had windex.

Not a bad haul. 
Mission accomplished.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Letters

Mothers are the keepers of secrets. They pass down our legacies of love and hope through their storytelling. Mothers remember everything. Wishful thinking.

 Mommie died of breast cancer when I was four years old.  I don't remember her.  She didn't live long enough to tell the stories....my stories.

I have letters.  Thousands of  letters.
My mother wrote my grandmother twice a week for five years.  She wrote letters  twice a week while pregnant with me and for four years afterward  until she passed away.

I have all of those letters.  They're  wrapped in fragile tattered  ribbon. I  devour them like a hungry child.  Mommie had many miscarriages before I was born.  I lived. She wanted more babies. I was it.

Her letters are filled with love for me.  My learning to walk and talk.  My first birthday.  My kindergarten graduation. My...

Tommy spent 4 weeks in ICU wrapped in plastic.  Nobody could touch him.  He was very sick.
When he was finally released, all he wanted was to lay in my arms, forever.

Indeed. 

She was 29 years old when she died.

My father wrote my grandmother once a week for 40 years.  I have those letters, also. All of them.  I read them today for the first time.  Today.

Sept. 26, 1963.  11 days after my mother pased away.
The kids are fine, Tommy sleeps with me and Mickey needs a little extra attention, but is ok.
Mother, Tommy seems to understand that Mommie died and went to Heaven because there
weren't enough angels up there and God needed her.

I needed her, too. 

God won.

Running from hope and despair, we moved back to Europe.  Dad was career Army. He had a job to do. No prisoners. Frau Olga (my second mother)  was our nanny in Vienna , Austria. I loved her with all my heart. As an escaped Czechoslovakain hotel chef, she took refuge in our home, cared for us, and cooked a lot.   She cooked my first soft boiled egg perched in an egg cup with the top cut away, exposing deep golden runny yolks. To this day, I still adore soft boiled eggs. Everything she prepared was perfect. Consomme. Stroganoff. Schnitzel. Demitasse glass of wine? Yes.

Frau Olga always grasped my tiny hand while we shopped the Naschmarkt, leading me, teaching me, and feeding my soul.
I worshiped her.

October 16, 1964.  Vienna, Austria.
    
Frau Olga should be back from Germany before Xmas. 
She has to live there for three months under the conditions that she is applying for citizenship. 
There have been 5 million Germans that have reclaimed
their citizenship under these conditions.  We have a young Swedish teacher/student
living with us now.
She has never cooked much, but is trying. The kids don't like her as much as Olga. 
She doesn't mother
Tommy like Frau Olga did.

Shockingly, I have no memory of the Swedish teacher who lived with us.  She certainly wasn't Frau Olga.
When Frau Olga returned, my father became very ill.  I have cold memories of the old brick hospital that I wasn't allowed to enter. Too young.  Excuses.  Always.

March 9, 1965. Vienna, Austria.

Frau Olga took very good care of the kids. and there was no problem with my being
gone at all.  I talked to them on the phone and they made out real well. Frau Olga still doesn't speak any English, but Tommy is speaking pretty good German now, much better
than mine, so they are just fine.  She was very pleased with her Xmas present and asked
me to thank you.
 After three years in Austria, we left Frau Olga. Because my dad worked with army security (aka spy), we weren't allowed to communicate with anyone from our previous locations. Ever. Period. Stealth.  We simply left.

Without warning, we disapeared in the middle of the night. Frau Olga was gone. I didn't understand. I missed her and she missed us. Frau Olga wrote letters to my grandmother for several years. I wasn't allowed to know of her letters. Security. Secrecy. Stealth. Dammit. I found her letters today. They were sweetly and neatly bundled together with the others. Her last name was Blaho.  I never knew that until today.  Today. 

September 9, 1966. Prussia.
My thoughts are with the boys and I am sorry that they are not with me.  I am happy
the boys fimmished sckoll fine and soult go up the next grade. Please give my best
wishese to ther Birthday to them because I do not hove there adress. I want to wish I
would hear more from the boys and from Mr. Yates too. Please write me again.

We left her, forever. Forever. I still miss her because there was someone to miss. She was part of my life. I don't/can't miss my mother. I miss the lost forgotten stories and what could have been. That's enough to miss.

I have her letters, though.  Dad's letters.  Olga's letters.

I have some memories and letters.  I've had many mothers and have loved them all. Sometimes, I don't think I realize how much they are a part of me.  Like breathing.


We are all who we are because of our mothers. Hold them close.
Happy Mothers Day.







Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sunday Supper

 Last Saturday, we meandered around the farmers'  market nibbling on cheese samples from various vendors.  Dad's Favorites had a fantastic smoked gouda and cheddar pimento cheese that was delicious. It was firm and chunky, perfect for grilled cheese sandwiches. Michael bought a 1/2 pound.  Boone Creek Creamery had amazing cheeses. We sampled  nutty Manchego de Vaca and a wonderfully stinky Fromage de Stilton infused with ginger.  Oh my.  I wanted the pungent ginger-infused aged blue cheese, but had spent my last dollar on a gorgeous chervil plant. Next week, I'll have a better plan and that hunk of smelly cheese will be mine.
 While shopping and eating, we ran into our friend Heather.  She  turned us on to Abigail's Gourmet Nut Butter. After a few samplings, Michael purchased the ridiculously fabulous and dense all-natural cashew honey nut butter. Happy.

As we strolled through the center of the pavillion, something really interesting caught my eye. Poking out from a basket on the table of Blue Moon Farms stand was a feathered bunch of beautiful green something. It appeared to be some kind of baby spring swiss chard.  It turned out to be red-stemmed bordeaux spinach.  I had to have it. I had no idea what I'd do with it, but that wasn't  the point.  I simply had to have it.  Delicate garlic greens fluttered in the breeze next to the spinach. Yep.  Sold.  Impulse purchase.
It was a good day at the market.

Sunday proved to be an incredibly lazy day. Without any obligations, it was the kind of day  we all crave from time to time.  Lazy day.  Lazy cooking.  Low impact. 

Sunday supper....with a twist.

I associate roast chicken with Sunday supper. Its soothing aroma gently perfumes the house while it quietly cooks on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

I had a large cornish game hen that could serve two for a perfect  Sunday supper. After rinsing the game hen, I cut out the backbone and sliced it down the breast to form two perfect halves. I slid thinly sliced orange wheels along with  fresh parsley leaves under the skin before tucking the wing tips behind the breasts and securing the legs into  slits of breast skin to hold its shape.

After preheating the oven to 350 degrees, I rubbed olive oil over the meat, drizzled a scant one tablespoon of Vermont pure maple syrup over the hen halves,  showered them with salt and pepper, and slid them into the oven to roast for 45 minutes, basting them with the pan juices every 15 minutes to brown the skin.

 While the hens roasted, I turned my attention to the spinach. The texture of the bordeaux spinach was  lovely. I knew I didn't want to kill it by cooking it to death, so I decided to slightly wilt it with a warm bacon vinaigrette.

I plucked the stems from the spinach and tossed the leaves into a large bowl with sliced radishes, slivered dried apricots, toasted almonds, and sliced onions.  When the games hens were beautifully browned, I pulled them from the oven to rest. I sliced 5 slabs of thick cut apple-wood smoked bacon into lardons and fried them until crisp.  After carefully removing the bacon to drain, I dropped sliced garlic greens and sliced onions into the hot bacon fat to saute until tender.  When the garlic and onions were slightly caramelized, I added a tablespoon of cane sugar  into the hot bacon drippings. When the sugar dissolved into the sizzling fat, I deglazed the pan with 1/4 cup pomegranate red wine vinegar.

After drizzling the hot bacon vinaigrette over the huge pile of red-stemmed spinach, I tossed it vigorously until the leaves wilted ever so slightly from the heat, twirled the limp spinach onto our plates, and nestled a halved hard boiled egg onto the spinach nests.  I nudged the roasted game hens against the gorgeous wilted spinach and finished them with a sparse sprinkling of minced fresh parsley.

Surprisingly, the maple syrup pan juices bronzed the game hens without sweetening them. The skin crackled when sliced, revealing very moist meat with a smoky maple essence. The softly cooked orange wheels under the skin melted into the flesh and provided  subtle sweet acidity.  We tried eating the delicate birds with knives and forks, but  surrendered to finger licking gnawing and sucking. Heathens.


Although wilted, the star-shaped red-stemmed spinach salad held up under the hot,  tart, and sweet bacon vinaigrette. The juicy leaves punched through the vinagrette with earthy undertones. Sauteed spring garlic greens added  subtle garlic flavour to the salad  while sliced raw radishes provided peppery crunch.  

Roasted game hens paired with a wilted early spring bordeaux spinach salad.

A perfect Sunday supper.