Friday, April 9, 2010

Yet Another Food Fest

Our Easter week was a busy one. I managed to go grocery shopping on Wednesday anticipating crowds as the weekend approached – I think that was a good idea, although as usual, needed to make several trips to the local market for things I overlooked. Thank goodness Thierry is such a good sport – he made one trip to the store for me.

Chemo was on Thursday. My nurse, Jackie, was terrific and got us out by 2:00. Friday I managed to get to the gym. Made a pizza out of whole wheat pita which fell upside down in the oven, well mainly on the oven door, which I had just cleaned two days prior because I had done exactly the same thing the week before. Follow? Then I began making the lemon squares for Sunday. Things were humming along until I added the baking soda to the egg/sugar, lemon juice mixture. The recipe did not warn me that this was also a science project. The liquid started to fizz and rise to the top of the bowl, eventually spilling over the edge and onto the counter. I began to scream for help, along with a few other choice words. Thierry rushed in and actually looked somewhat stunned. I managed to lay out some aluminum foil and moved the bowl on top enabling me to save some of the liquid. What fun!

Saturday I picked up my sister Jean and Joan and we trucked out to Lauren’s and Mike’s (L&M's) to get our part of Easter dinner ready. It is so wonderful to have a “team” to work on the preparations, and after having done so many dinners together it is like a well rehearsed performance. We made stuffed shells, basically from scratch meaning we boiled the pasta shells, mixed the cheeses and stuffed the little buggers. We also made our own sauce from canned tomatoes. We cooked 4 boxes of shells (don’t ask me what WE were thinking, but they made good leftovers). While this was going on, preparations for Italian wedding soup were also underway.

We had ordered (on Pop’s recommendation) two 10 lb pork shoulders, so we could prepare Joan’s pulled pork dish. Don’t ask me what HE was thinking! We made a group decision that that was too much and cut a hunk off one of the legs. Joan showed Lauren how to prepare the pork, which was once again, wonderful. We helped put Easter baskets together for the kids, stuffed plastic eggs for the egg hunt and got the tables ready. When we left at 3:00 things were in good shape.

Thierry and I took our bikes out Easter Sunday and rode up to Fairmount (near the Art Museum) for breakfast, then up and down the West River Drive along the Schuylkill River. It was a beautiful day and the Cherry Blossoms were in bloom. We rode a bit slow as I have little power pushing me these days, but it was a great relaxing ride just the same.

Later we picked up Lisa and Kirk and their 20 lb. Easter Bunny Cake and headed to L&M’s. Due to the precarious nature of the cake “plate” one of our passengers had to lean over the back of the seat to hold the cake in place on what turned out be almost an hour long trip. We arrived to find the house bustling with kids and food prep. Lauren’s brother-in-law, Ed, loves to cook. He prepared a chicken dish, veal marsala, linguini, rice pilaf, a ham, and roasted peppers. Of course, there were appetizers to start – cheeses, dips and Koniko made Sushi! We were all thrilled as her Sushi is wonderful. For desert there was another bunny cake prepared by Lauren’s sister-in-law (Kathy) and Michael’s Aunt Bernie brought an amazing strawberry cheesecake, and then there were my lemon squares and all kinds of chocolate candy. I am sure there is something I have left out (Oh mom’s broccoli-rabe), but you can only focus on so much food at one time.

I should mention that Lauren expected about 35 people, not counting the four under 16. I believe she did have that many over the course of the afternoon. Yet, as you can imagine, there was a ton of food left over.

Growing up, Easter was one of those holidays celebrated with the “families”, my two aunts/uncles who lived about 20 miles away in Newtown Square. They each had children close to our ages (for a combined total of 5-add our 4), it was always a bit chaotic. My grandmother lived with my one aunt/uncle which is why we usually went there. Holiday dinners generally consisted of soup, often pasta, meat as the main course, fruit and nuts, dessert and of course, after dinner drinks. Afterward everyone sat around the living room dozing in front of the TV.

Holidays always carry a certain amount of angst when it comes time to decide where you are going to spend it. Some families celebrate with both sets of parents, others alternate holidays – Thanksgiving with one, Christmas with another, e.g.. Others spend Christmas one year with the wife’s side, the other with the husband’s side. It seems that adjusting to these arrangements is always most difficult for the wife and the set of parent’s that are left on their own.

I could never give up Christmas with my family, but was willing to alternate Thanksgiving – which worked well especially when Lauren was in West Virginia during her college years. Easter was one holiday I really had no feelings for – I mean what is Easter anyway (I get the religious significance, but this is subject matter for another time). Doug and I handled the Christmas issue by having it at our house. That way we never had to make a decision as to where to go. This may not always have been the best decision for those attending, but it worked great for us.

My sister, who lived in New Hampshire, would come home for Thanksgiving (I think sometimes for Easter), but stayed home for Christmas. A few times my parents would go up to NH to spend it with them, and once or twice I went when I was single. I always missed having my parents around at Christmas, but can imagine what it was like for Ann not to have any family around.

When we started cruising on Curlew, we were away for Thanksgiving and Easter. I was able to adapt at Thanksgiving, missing only the time spent with family that I hadn’t seen for several months. We always flew home for Christmas. My sister went away with her husband this Easter. I know deep down it was probably a little hard for her to not be there with all the activity. But I think it is good sometimes to just do your own thing, especially during a holiday that has a very deep spiritual meaning for many, and a highly commercialized component focused on distributing and eating massive amounts of colorful junk food. We frequently have family meals together, we shouldn’t need to attach such significance to “holiday” meals, but traditions are hard to break. I can imagine for those who see so little family, that these occasions are important times. Any time spent with family is important to me, and I truly enjoy each opportunity – even when I have to cook (and complain to myself about it).

It was a wonderful week!

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