I spent yesterday doing volunteer work, medicating sick cats at a shelter. There was plenty left to do, but I clocked out at 6:40. That allowed me to get dinner on the table by 8.
My husband resents the amount of time I spend at the animal shelter, and one way I make it up to him is to serve a sumptuous Saturday night dinner. Nobody messes with our Saturday night dinner. This week I fell back on a quick but festive standby, Filetto Siciliana. I bought steaks on my way home, pan-broiled them, and served them in a silken sauce made with Marsala wine, butter, and onions. From the freezer I rescued a pan of Tortellini al Forno. The meat-stuffed pasta circles weren’t homemade, but who knows the difference when they’re baked in garlic butter with Parmesan cheese? Saturday night was just fine.
Food has always been important—maybe overly important—to my family and my husband’s. Last night’s meal wasn’t just a taste treat; it evoked memories. On one of our early dates, Scott drove me from the Northwestern University campus to a wonderful Italian restaurant in Highwood, Illinois, where he introduced me to that steak-and-pasta menu. Last weekend we visited my sister-in-law Adrienne, and she too made a point of recreating a favorite meal for us, preparing boudin noir sausages like the ones she and her husband enjoyed on a trip to France.
I remember tears coming to my eyes once when I tasted a salad with Russian dressing. The salad wasn’t that good, but we were in Honolulu in 1970 during Scott’s R&R from Vietnam, and this dinner of salad and Beef Stroganoff was the one “fancy meal” we indulged in. I frequently copy that meal and recall the occasion.
My family expresses love through food ...
To put it simply, my family expresses love through food. Shortly after my parents retired from the store they managed, my mother suffered a debilitating stroke. Mom couldn’t do the cooking, so Dad took over. For the next five years, he collected cookbooks and researched recipes, constantly trying to come up with something new to tempt Mom’s flagging appetite. Dad hadn’t been the most faithful husband, and I don’t know how often he told my mother he loved her, but I’m sure she knew. One of the few things I have left of my father is a collection of recipe cards in his handwriting (above).
I believe this obsession with food has something to do with our Jewish roots. My friend Essi once told me about a party her stepdaughter attended. The festivities ran into the dinner hour, and the hostess wasn’t prepared. She ended up with a group of teenagers bouncing off the walls while she heated a tray of frozen lasagna. “Well, she obviously wasn’t Jewish!” I remarked to Essi, who is.
“Right,” Essi agreed. “We’d start with the menu and then figure out who to invite!”
I can’t understand people who eat only to live.
PS: Next week I’ll be writing from the land of bratwurst and booyah. I’ll be signing INCOMPLETE PASSES at Bosse’s News & Tobacco during Artstreet in Green Bay, Saturday and Sunday, August 25-26, between 12 and 3 each day.