A Recipe for Memories

I just spent one hour looking for my recipe for artichoke dip. Though it’s simple to make, consisting of three ingredients; artichoke hearts, mayonnaise and parmesan cheese, and I’ve made it every holiday for the past 25 years, I still needed to rummage for that dog-eared document.

It’s kept in a ragged, taped, gold cardboard box labeled Schrafft’s Miniature Chocolates, a vessel that affords me my yearly trip down memory lane.

All sorts of recipes are stuffed inside, some printed neatly on index cards, handwritten on scraps of paper or torn out of magazines, most of which are no longer in print. But they come from the people I have cherished throughout my life.

The largest number are from my late mother-in-law, Dorothy Fisher, or as she writes on the top of all her offerings, “Dot Fisher.” They appear in her handwriting with little added gems: “These can be frozen for later use and, in fact, are good eaten frozen.” I’m immediately thrown back to Christmas pasts, recalling how Dot’s buttery wreath cookies melted on my tongue. (I have yet to replicate her delicate perfection but I always make her cherry cheesecakes and chocolate chip cookies.)

Her son (my late husband) Charlie, was a great cook in his own right. So the recipe box includes some of his contributions. The one for chicken marsala is written in Charlie’s hand on a memo sheet from United Press International (my first job as a reporter).

Decades ago, my sister, Susie, started me on a collection of recipes, each one painstakingly handwritten on yellow 3 X 5 cards. A personal comment was added to each, such as on the one for 1890 chicken she wrote, “3 guesses where I got this recipe…” (Our mother.) Or her recipe for Chocolate Chip Cake that calls for a bundt pan. Knowing me to be a novice in the kitchen, she added, “A bundt pan looks like a jello mold pan (Again, a shoutout to our mother) with a round hole in the center. I’m sure you must have a dozen lying around.”

For some reason, a graduation card from my sister with a 1973 postmark remains in the box. I know it’s out of place, but I look at it every year and put it right back inside.

I have recipes from old friends, including two exceptional cooks, Carol Bress (all of hers are meticulously written on index cards with little heart borders and encased in plastic,) and Helen Bosley, who 20 years ago the day after I attended a cocktail party in her house and proclaimed how good her broccoli casserole was, a recipe arrived in the mail. The box includes recipes that remind me of my kids as preschoolers. One says, “Parents: We made Apple Crisp in school today. If you want to make it at home, here’s the recipe.” Of course, we did the next day.

Every time I pull the old candy box from the cabinet I think I really should organize the scattered pieces into a tidy collection of recipes. And then I just say, Nah, and replace the rubber band that holds the lid on the box.

I never did find the artichoke dip recipe.

But, I never actually needed it.

26
Dec
2014

Kate: A Brightness that Can’t Be Dulled

For my extended family, this has been a very trying time. Two weeks ago my irrepressible, ebullient and exquisite step-niece died suddenly from as-yet unknown causes. She was 27.

Over the weekend, my step-brother, my former sister-in-law (I use the term “former” for the sake of exactitude because she very much remains a part of our family), my nephew and my niece’s fiancé led a tribute to Kate at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

The memorial service opened with a loving, honest anecdotal eulogy from my brother and closed with the tossing of flowers into the Boston Harbor. The women in attendance were given a tube of rich red lipstick, a favorite of Kate’s, who was a talented makeup artist.

We became a family more than 27 years ago with the union of my mother and their father, both widowed at the time. Between them they had five children, and 10 grandchildren, Kate being the third from the youngest. Despite everyone spread throughout the United States and one overseas, we have come together often, usually for happy occasions like milestone birthdays, weddings, b’nai mitzvahs and the occasional Thanksgiving.

Amazingly, our parents are both in their late eighties, and as a family we haven’t faced a tragic event in more than 20 years. And now this.

As Kate’s parents would want, we remember this young woman, not with sadness, but rather for the joy she brought to life. We picture her at every family event – most recently at two weddings – acting as the social coordinator, dragging her cousins onto the dance floor and moving spiritedly to the music. Her smile and energy filled a space the way helium expands a balloon. And so Kate lifted our spirits.

No life should end as young as this one. And no parents and sibling should feel such pain. As family and friends we can do little but validate their loss, love them with all of our hearts, and remember their Kate in all her vibrancy.

That, and rock her red lipstick.

30
Apr
2014

My Daughter, the Glowing Bride

 

Recycling day is tomorrow. I just unceremoniously tossed into the can a large paper calendar on which I had written every single daily task associated with planning my daughter’s wedding. The wedding was this past Sunday. The squares for the rest of the week were blank.

Thank goodness.

I’m still floating about, feeling a bit tired, useless and a little unfocused. But I’m smiling, a big, loopy, uncontrollable grin. What a weekend it has been. All those words I’ve used to describe other people’s weddings: magical, spectacular, fairytale, I can now use to illustrate my daughter’s.

She was a beautiful bride. Yes, I know. I’m biased. So, no editorial comment, just description. Petite and fair with long cascading blonde hair, framing her blue eyes and her cherubic face (just like her dad’s). Her tiny waste cinched by a charmeuse sash that created definition between the embroidered bodice with sweetheart neckline and the flowing silk taffeta Cinderella bottom, all ivory and swishy above the crinolines. The soft train was graced by a floor-length veil trimmed in pearls and tiny crystals to match the bodice of the gown.

This delicate, exquisite princess was my daughter.

Her dad might not have been around to see his little girl get married but his memory was invoked by so many this past weekend. I am certain he and our old friend, Mark, were cracking open the scotch and watching from the balcony.

So many new words have entered our vocabulary: wife, husband, married, brother-in-law, son-in-law, mother-in-law, (oh yeah, I’ve finally turned into one of those!). Words so common, yet unfamiliar. Until now.

I love my new son-in-law. With all the wedding planning, from the gorgeous museum where the reception was held to the icebox groom cake that was personally delivered from a New York bakery, my daughter and son-in-law seemed blissfully happy.

And HE is the reason my daughter was a glowing bride.

 

P.S. Love you both very much.

 

 

08
Aug
2012

Where Has All the Time Gone?

It’s been much too long since I last blogged. A lot has been going on; some wonderful, some not so wonderful.

I always ask to hear the bad news first. (Why? I don’t know. Especially since I then become preoccupied and tend not to hear the good news). But I’m a creature of habit so here goes: A few weeks ago my long-term boyfriend, Jon, had a serious fall rupturing the tendons that connect the quadriceps to the knees, on both legs. Ouch. I know. After surgery and rehab he’s now back home, but the focus of life for him, and consequently, in a much, much, much lesser extent, me, has been altered.

Both of Jon’s legs are locked securely in braces and can bend only 40 degrees (that’s up a whopping 10 percent as of our post-op visit to the surgeon this week). This of course means lots of things; notably, he won’t be dancing at my daughter’s wedding in August.

But it also means, according to the surgeon, that by the day of the festivities he should be able to participate as much as possible. He’s a trooper and an athlete so he’s already pushing through. And that’s the wonderful part. The wedding! It’s progressing nicely, though not without the normal kinks – the caterer’s representative has gotten a promotion and is suddenly not so available, the manager of the hotel where our out-of- town guests will stay and who had promised the world, stopped answering my emails. Yep, she’s gone. But, hey, the new guy seems very nice.

But I love the calligrapher, the florist, and most importantly, and unequivocally, the groom! So no complaints.

What I have learned in this crazy season of wedding planning is that it is so easy to lose perspective. To get bogged down with the details, the unnecessary worries. Is it going to rain? Does this purple match the invitation? And if I keep doing that, I’ll end up looking back on this period with regret. This should be FUN. So, screw the twists and turns and the unexpected changes.

It’s a wonderful time after all.

Besides, even with two strong legs, Jon ain’t much of a dancer.

19
Jun
2012

Book Signing Today in Peddler’s Village!!!

If you’re looking for something fun to do on this gorgeous Sunday, come to the Apple Festival at Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA. While you’re there, stop by the Canterbury Tales Book Store between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and say hello. I’ll be signing my books, and munching on everything apple (including the world’s best chocolate covered apples!)

06
Nov
2011


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