Food, Family, and Memory

What's in Your Basement?

Print Email
by Susan Russo

home-canned-food1.jpg Peter John is my favorite cousin. He has a knack for saying, in a hilarious manner, what everyone else is thinking. At a family dinner he once joked that in the event of World War III, after the nuclear fall out, he would somehow manage to make it to my dad’s house, because it would be the only place left in Rhode Island that wouldn't run out of food.

It's true. My dad has a large basement whose food contents could rival that of any Super Stop n’ Shop or Costco. I am not sure if this is an Italian thing, or a 1950's bomb shelter thing, or because he grew up in a large family where money was not plentiful but manual labor was. I could write several posts about his canning tomatoes, pickling peppers, and stuffing sausages his whole life. I suspect there is a part of him hard-wired to always have ample amounts of food stored. Trust me, he does.

The Wife I Always Wanted, Part 3: Get Me to a Spa

Print Email
by Don Seigel

ImageI’m changing – slowly, but surely, morphing into some life form I no longer recognize as myself. With this neurotic thought stampeding through my mind, I rise this morning and put up a pot of Rose’s favorite coffee—Peets Major Dickason. Despite her penchant to skip breakfast, I prepare a healthful little dish, hoping my angel will think twice: a dollop of non-fat yogurt sprinkled with Urth Café granola and topped with a red glistening strawberry. Into the kitchen she comes, looking every bit the marketing director of an International law firm that she is and the woman whose bras I’m continually picking up off our bedroom floor. I proudly present her the breakfast plate. “Would you mind getting my dry cleaning today, honey?” she asks, walking by me to the coffee pot, where she fills her cup to the brim. I tell her I’ll think about it. A perfunctory peck to my cheek and she’s gone, off to work.

A few seconds later and a forty-pound school bag strapped to his back, Julian comes clomping down the stairs and into my face, “You’re nuts if you think I’m gonna eat that!” he warns, motioning derisively to the plate I find I’m still holding. In one large spoonful I consume the yogurt and take him to school, stopping along the way at Starbucks for his customary ham and egg sandwich; after numerous attempts at getting Julian to eat real eggs I have given up; begrudgingly conceded that the disgusting pale yellow layer in the sandwich he crams into his mouth each morning, while not the Real McCoy, is, at the very least, some distant relative.

My First European Summer

Print Email
by Brenda Athanus

passportsIt was the early 70’s and my sister and I went to Europe for the summer just like everyone in colleges across America. The only thing different for me was I was in my first year of high school and no one could quite believe that my parents encouraged us to don hiking boots, a sleeping bag and backpacks - not even me. “Take your sister or you can’t go.” With 500 dollars each in American Express travelers’ cheques we could afford to eat very well as long as we stayed in youth hostels and camped some of the time.

Our parents dropped us at Logan airport in Boston giving us the following lecture: always stay together, be careful with your passports and call home every week. “See you in August!” and we were off on our first solo adventure. Young and ignorantly fearless.

We landed in London, took a train to the ferry to cross the English Channel and reveled at how easy this traveling solo was. That was until an older couple tapped my sister on her shoulder and asked to speak with us. “Are you traveling alone, just the two of you?” they asked. Yes, we answered in unison, like we always do. Then we got a lecture about keeping ones travel documents safe. The man reached in his pocket and showed us our passports. How could that have happened? My sister had both passports freshly stamped in her back pocket. She had missed her pocket and they had picked them up. They had a difficult time catching up to us because they both needed a cane to walk. Lesson #1, learned.

Savoring Creamy Cauliflower Chestnut Soup and Nat King Cole

Print Email
by Susan Russo

nkcNat King Cole holds some magical power over me. I was shopping the week before Thanksgiving when I heard it--

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping on your nose,

Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,

And folks dressed up like Eskimos.

That most mellow of voices (along with Frank and Bing) transfixes me. I hear it, and I'm instantly struck with holiday cheer, which for me, means shopping for foods such as cranberries, pomegranates, and, of course, chestnuts.

Here's the thing with roasting chestnuts. The actual roasting and removing of the nut from its shell is a lot less romantic than it sounds. Every year growing up it was the same thing: We would enthusiastically purchase a big bag of fresh chestnuts, roast them, and then puncture our fingers in a desperate attempt to eke out the tiniest piece of chestnut we could find that wasn't studded with sharp shards of shell or tinged with mold.

Thank goodness someone came up with bottled chestnuts. My mom first bought them a few years ago and sent me some. I removed the bottle top and, in 5 seconds flat, was eating a chewy, moist, chestnut devoid of shell and mold. Bottled chestnuts can be found at most organic markets and Italian specialty markets. I also like Trader Joe's vacuumed-packed chestnuts.

Mini Maple Almond Tea Cakes

Print Email
by Susan Salzman

teacake mapleOne of my favorite desserts growing up were these little square tea cakes from Martino’s Bakery in Burbank. My dad would pick them up from time to time and surprise me with a little after dinner treat. Their flavor and their shape were distinct. They were moist, not too sweet, and oh so addicting. When I was pregnant with my first, I craved them; couldn’t get enough. Weekly my dad would bring me a few and I would covet them and eat them all by myself, one by one.

For years I have been making this Caramel Cake. The first time I bit into it, it brought back so many childhood memories. It felt like I had come home. And it reminded me of my dad. Recreating many of our favorite family recipes and converting them into gluten free versions has become a weekend hobby.

Maple almond tea cakes are every bit as good, if not better, than the originals from my childhood. I made the first batch last week. Eli ate 90% of them. Today, he saw the photos on my computer and begged for more. I made him a deal;  if he gathered all the ingredients I would make more. Never saw him move so fast!

Little Mermaid

Print Email
by Fredrica Duke

david-hockneys-a-bigger-splash-1967-300x300.jpgAs a little girl, I loved to swim, still do. Just about any chance I got to go swimming, I would. I dreamed of having my own pool. My bigger dreams were to be an Olympic swimmer and also to swim the English Channel.

Pools and water became an obsession as well as a love. I would look into my backyard and fantasize a swimming pool. It never appeared. My dad always lived in an apartment building with a pool so there was usually a place for me to swim. When I was older and using his for exercise, I would have to share it with his elderly neighbors. They could get nasty and it was tricky navigating around their crankiness. Some of them became my new best friends in long as we stayed in our own lanes.

When I saw the David Hockney series of pools, I totally understood how the swimming pool was his muse.

Tasting Passion

Print Email
by Brenda Athanus

sorrentohotel.jpgI was barely six years old and on an early summer vacation with my sister, Tanya and my Mother, a woman way a head of her time. The three of us were off on another adventure this time to the small town of Sorrento, Italy. Our father loved to travel but never outside the United States after he immigrated from Albania during the first World War to escape the atrocities in his village.

He indulged our mother's wanderlust and desire to show us the world with enthusiasm. That summer, our adventuresome mother picked the spectacular hotel Bellevue Syrene perched on a sheer cliff hundreds of feet above the ocean. The converted palace was surrounded by formal gardens in full bloom and the ocean side terrace dripped with blue Wisteria. It was dinner that evening that awoke my love of food and changed the course of my life.

The dining room was a formal affair like things used to be fifty years ago. As we three approached the entrance guarded by the Maitre D', he pulled back the heavy velvet drapes exposing the jewel box like dining room. As he led us to our table the azure blue color of the Gulf of Naples view from the floor to ceiling windows was so clear we could see Capri.


restaurant news

The Stand
Los Angeles
by Lisa Dinsmore

standoutside.jpg Not only were we celebrating our nation’s birthday this past weekend, but the birthdays of two of our closest friends as well, one born on the 4th, one on the 5th. Since nothing says summer like...

McCormick & Schmick's
by Kitty Kaufman

McCormick 3Sometimes you just need a big restaurant in the middle of the city to warm you up on girls night out. We're at McCormick & Schmick's in the Park Plaza Hotel in Back Bay. Everyone is glad to see us...

The Ledford House - Mendocino, CA
Northern California
by Amy Ephron

ledford-logo-new.jpgWhat if your favorite restaurant was in the same state you were in but it was 9 hours away???

We really couldn’t take a vacation this summer but we did run off for a week-end to Mendocino (don’t...

Eat at Jae's, Live Forever - Boston Sushi
by Kitty Kaufman

jaes 4A long time ago, in the previous century before sushi was ubiquitous - although it was making headway piece by piece - I was introduced by my friend Liz to an up-and-comer named Jae who was doing...