Weekly Photo Challenge: Dinner’s Ready!

What a fun challenge! Dinner, supper, the evening meal is an opportunity to establish a daily feast or celebration of sustenance, to gather your nuclear family together, share stories of the day, and unwind .

Yeah, right. I am amazed at how rushed and chaotic this time was for me when my four children were living at home and involved in extra-curricular activities!

However, they are living on their own, now. Their schedules are their own, and my schedule is that I work part-time 2 days a week and my partner works from home. I have re-claimed dinnertime for savoring food and conversation! I like to have a glass of wine or a gin cocktail or simply ginger ale with a lime wedge to wet my whistle while I prepare a meal for two in our tiny kitchen. Jazz by Chris Botti, Chet Baker, or any of the vocalists from the ’40s-’60s keeps me humming along in a great mood for evening pleasures.
My camera comes out for special dinner occasions, a new recipe or a holiday meal with family. I love the bustle of a potluck dinner with my children, and I fully acknowledge that they are better cooks than I. My mother’s dinners were elegant affairs where she was the clear Commander in Chief. (There’s one photo taken at her table – a distinct difference in style.) And I love dinner outdoors by the campfire or on the lawn of a music festival. Such a lot of delicious memories! 


Dinnertime

Weekly Photo Challenge: Orange You Glad?

“When it’s cherry blossom time in Orange, New Jersey, we’ll make a peach of a pair!” (If you know me, you know that any prompt will lead to a song cue.  It’s how my brain is wired, for some reason.)

Nothing rhymes with orange, but lots of my favorite things go with orange: warmth, food, Fall. 

I hope your day is cozy and that you find many reasons to be glad you live in this wonderful world!

Orange you glad it’s photo challenge time?

80 Years in 8 Days – Day 2: 10 Family Foods

10 Family Foods.  10 Fabulously Festive Family Foods!  (Ah, ah, ah…*thunder and lightening*)

Is this a Muppet Count-down?  No, not really.  This is Day #2 of my mother’s birthday present.  Yesterday’s post introduced the project and 10 Background Bits of my mother’s life.  Today being Christmas Day, I want to tell you about my mother’s culinary talents.  This is a day that we would spend feasting and in high spirits.  Christmas Eve Mass having been accomplished and Mom’s choir commitment completed, she’d turn her attention to Christmas dinner.  There’s so much I could write about, but I’ll keep it down to 10 things, and I’ll limit them to things that I have actually made myself.  Except for this first item…

1) Fruitcake —  You may shudder, but wait!  My mother’s fruitcake is a triumph of dark, rum-and-brandy-soaked cake popping with candied fruits and savory nuts.  The recipe is from Julia Child herself.  Mom used to make it weeks ahead of Christmas in a huge, plastic tub (which later served as an infant bathtub for my baby brother), wrap it in cheesecloth, douse it with brandy and let it age.  A dozen foil-wrapped parcels went out to the most appreciative friends and neighbors.  Now my sister Sarah makes it, and if I’ve been good, I may get one in the mail this year, too.  I have NEVER attempted this on my own.  I doubt I could live up to the legacy. 

2) Roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and gravy from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook —  Fannie and I have become good friends, and though my original copy is pretty trashed, I am partner to a bookseller and have a few new editions at my fingertips.  Yes, I can make this…and have!

photo by Steve

photo by Steve

3) Cran-orange relish —  The recipe is on a postcard my mother sent to me when I moved back to the Midwest from California.  It simply says, “1 bag cranberries, 2 navel oranges, 1 cup sugar.  Grind and enjoy!”  I should mention that I’m still using Grandma Marion’s food grinder from the 1940s.  I’ll probably keep using it until that worn out cord and plug start a fire.

pecan pie & cran orange relish

4) Pecan pie (and mince pie) —  Again, from Fannie Farmer. 

5) Lobster — When we lived in Massachusetts where I was born, Mom learned how to cook a live lobster.  I didn’t end up cooking the first one on my own until we were living in California, and I was in college.  My fiance Jim drove home from the fish market with the live lobster on his shoulder just to freak out passing motorists.  I showed him how to hypnotize the lobster by holding it head down and stroking its tail.  When it was limp, dropping it into the pot of boiling water (don’t forget a bit of Vermouth!) was a cinch. 

6) Roast leg of lamb —  Make slits in the outside and insert slivers of garlic cloves before putting it in the oven.  I like rosemary and gravy more than mint sauce with it.  I have a picture of myself one Christmas with a Lambchop puppet on my arm; we’re both looking aghast at the serving platter. 

We can’t feast like Christmas all year long, so here are some samples of every day fare. 

7) Soup —  My mother kept a stock pot in her ‘fridge all week.  On Wednesdays, when she’d be going out to choir practice, she’d make a batch of soup from leftovers and stock that we could eat ‘whenever’ and clean up without her supervision.  To this day, she makes soup every week for the Food Pantry.  Steve and I have dubbed her “Our Lady Of Perpetual Soup”. 

8) Chili —  The family recipe is pretty mild.  Steve adds Tabasco and cheese and oyster crackers, and if I let him really indulge his Milwaukee roots, I’ll serve it on spaghetti noodles.  Texas folk, please avert your eyes!

9) Chicken and rice —  Basic dinner memories: the smell of onions and mushrooms sauteing in butter as the sun goes down.  Add the chicken, rice and liquid to the same pot.  Season with your favorite flavor combinations.

10) Brownies —  Not from a box! Made by melting Baker’s chocolate and butter on a double boiler and adding it to the creamed butter and sugar. Then add the eggs and the flour and dry ingredients.  Memorable mishaps: pouring hot, melted butter and chocolate into the creamed butter and sugar AFTER having added the eggs and watching bits of cooked scrambled eggs emerge.  And my sister putting in half a cup of baking SODA instead of half a TEASPOON of baking POWDER.  The brown, bubbly stuff spilling out of the pan and all over the oven resembled lava!  Cool! 

Tomorrow, for St. Stephen’s Day, 10 Musical Memories…

Long, dark nights – brief, sunless days

A poem I wrote many years ago, re-written slightly.  Originally about Advent, it works well with Solstice, too. 

A cold dissatisfaction oozes poison into hours

of solitary boredom that once tasted summer’s warmth

and rejoiced in sensate ponderings of heaven’s languid clime.

 

Now prayers lie frozen on my lips these bitter, ashen afternoons.

 

Glossy catalogs and magazines lie orphaned at my door,

but I will not adopt their cheer

nor bed th’insouciant whoring of our winter holy days.

 

So melancholy punctuates the numbing march of time

into that darkened solstice of medieval isolation —

propelled into the farthest arc, forsaken by the sun.

 

Thus emptied into neediness, to famine and despair,

I search the yawning pitch-smeared void

and there behold a piercing Star!

 

No gaily burning candle nor twinkling hearthside glow,

this is the hard-edged hopefulness forged pure and straight of cosmic might,

arising out of nothingness toward Life’s salvific land.

 

My soul, a silent universe,

lies naked in its beam,

a prayer more fragile and profound

than any summer dream.

For warmth and life, nothing beats baking and eating tasty treats!  Steve made a Pear Rosemary quick bread the other day.  It filled the house with a savory aroma of sweetness, tartness and tangy evergreen. 

May your brief, sunless days be warmed with life, your long, dark nights with be warmed with love!

© 2014, poem and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Harvesting Hope

I have just finished reading a very informative book by Jane Goodall on the subject of Food.  Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating has led me to reconsider the way I buy and cook and eat food.  Much of it is based on common sense and natural practices (What would a chimp choose to eat?  Have you ever seen an overweight chimp in the wild?), and much of it exposes the insanity that is our factory food production here in the “civilized” world. How civilized is it to cram thousands of chickens together in a cage, remove their beaks so that they can’t peck each other to death, pump them with antibiotics and force them to cannibalize their own kind by giving them non-vegetarian feed?  And then to slaughter them, ship their polluted flesh over thousands of miles burning fossil fuels, and eat it?  I was not thinking about that when I bought Super Saver packages of chicken breasts at my local super market.  I think about it now.

And here is the surprising gift of hope: my children have been thinking about this for years.  I didn’t lead the way. 

Here is another arena of hope: reclaiming, salvaging and recycling living space.  My daughter and her fiance purchased a home that had been severely water damaged and mold and mildew infested.  The inhabitants had moved out to hospice care and died; the house was abandoned, but the water wasn’t shut off.  In the winter freeze and thaw, the pipes broke and flooded the place.  What a mess!  But Joe comes from a family line of carpenters and construction wizards.  He has completely re-worked the house: plumbing, electric, heating, floor plan and surfaces.  He’s gotten neighbors, friends and family involved in the labor and in donating fixtures. The final step will be relocating the back yard garden.  You see, this house is just a few doors down the street from the one they’ve rented for the past 3 years.  So, by their wedding date one year from this month, they will have their own home and garden.  They are marvelous role models for sustainable living, and I am so proud of them! Yesterday I went down to visit and take pictures.  They sent me home with a bunch of produce from their garden.  I am so grateful and awed by how life unfolds.  The next generation is certainly capable of taking responsibility and working hard in a sustainable direction.  Let’s just hope many of them choose to!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime

I gotta admit, my first reaction was something along the lines of “WTF?  Who takes photos at night when there’s no LIGHT?!”  But this is supposed to be a Challenge, right?  (an aside….Steve mentions in passing that he’d be great at making up one word photo challenges.  “Yeah, like what?”  “Crouton,” he said, not even skipping a beat.  I am glad that “Crouton” is not this week’s theme.  I have zero photos on that subject.)

Recently (well, almost 2 months ago now), we had a marvelous nighttime adventure in Chicago with my youngest, Emily.  We went to Ravinia, the outdoor musical festival, for a Brahms concert.  We bought only lawn seats, not the more expensive Pavilion seats.  It rained all day, not too fiercely, but fairly steadily.  We found that we were among the few diehard music fans that did not let that deter us from setting up a picnic on the wet lawn and dining happily under our umbrellas.  When the music started officially (after a brief practice during our picnic), we packed up the food and huddled beneath the umbrellas.  The rain was falling in earnest by then.  At intermission, an invitation came over the loudspeaker for anyone on the lawn to move into the pavilion, as most seats were empty.  A kind man handed us tickets to a box seat well under the shelter, and we moved in to warm up and dry off.  It was a thrilling evening, being out in the elements, listening to live music played by real, live, dedicated musicians from Germany…and the occasional roll of thunder.

But my photos from that evening did not come out as I expected.  Trying to adjust for low light is very tricky.  Still, the sparkle and color and blurry atmosphere is rather fun. Pretend you’ve had a few drinks before you look at them. 🙂

BTW – on the menu: 5 different kinds of cheeses,  3 salads, handmade chocolate-dipped strawberries (thank you, Emily!), a light Chardonnay and the best beer on the planet (from Belgium – Maredsous).