Lessons through Food- Dad’s 80th

April 6, 2003

Lessons through Food- Dad’s 80th

My Dad turned 80 last week. This week I will share with you the sentiment that I wrote for him. Below that, you will find two recipes that Dad has particularly enjoyed.

You have had many years- 80 at this point- and have had numerous food experiences. Over the years, I have found that I express myself best through food, and that I have many food-related memories. Many of my memories of growing up and being with you somehow relate to food. It is often through food that we can show someone that we care. This is my spin on some of the lessons that I learned, through some of my memories of being with you and food!

Trying something is important, but if it’s not your thing, do something else.
When we chartered a sailboat in the Caribbean, I was very uncomfortable doing the sailing part, even though everyone was pitching in. You made me feel okay by allowing me to be the galley master and supplying everyone on deck with lunches, etc. You did push me to try sailing the boat one time, though, just as I now push my children to try just one bite.

Stand up for yourself if you believe something is fair- even if others don’t at first see that.
I remember going out to dinner at places like Bonanza and Ponderosa. While my siblings ordered their dinners, and drinks, I often picked a more expensive entrée but drank only water. You would, at first, be displeased that I was ordering something pricey. I learned how to point out that it was comparable.

Make someone else feel good about something they do.
I remember a few times going with you alone to fancy restaurants. We would be sitting there reading over the menu, and you would ask me what I had chosen. I would tell you, and you would usually say- “where did you find that?!” I always felt so special when you said that, as if I were able to show you something that I saw in the menu that had gotten past you… like I was really good at finding interesting things.

Ask the right question to get the needed answer.
There were quite a number of kids sitting around the table in the kitchen at the Gurley house in Nantucket. We were old enough to start getting “smart”. You went around the table and asked us all if we liked bacon. We all said yes, and you proceeded to cook up a large batch. When you tried to serve it to us, we all took great glee in telling you that none of us wanted it, but that we did like it. You had never asked us if we wanted any, just if we liked it!

If it is important to you, it is important to do it.
Countless times, you left the lunch table to go to the other room to squish your sandwich! We would all be sitting there, knowing what you were doing, but it was important to you to have your sandwich “less tall” so you still did it. You just did it out of sight.

Keep the plates warm.
We always had plates that were warmed to eat from. When you have eggs for breakfast, you bring them to the table still in the pan! You put a hot pad under the pan and sit down to enjoy your meal the way it should be- very warm! Others have picked on you for it, but I saw it as a learning opportunity. If something is supposed to be hot-or cold, find a way to keep it that way until eaten. It has led to creative ways to serve things and paying attention to food temps. I have learned to heat serving bowls, platters and even to serve ice cream in a frozen ice bowl.

When someone is sick, make something special for them to eat and present it well. Show them you care.
Growing up, I never remember being sick as being fun, but I do remember the fancy trays of food that we were treated to by you. The tray was loaded with small cups, plates and bowls (usually Haviland china) filled with tiny amounts of a variety of things. The variety ensured that there would be something that we might like. The presentation made us feel special even if we felt yucky.

Pay attention to little things that make someone happy. It is often easy and it shows that you cared enough to notice.

I remember how simple things, like Necco wafers, fruit jellies, and ribbon candy can bring you pleasure. When I have made the effort over the years to get these somewhat hard to find things, they have always made you smile. I have cooked some things that you really enjoy for my own family, and have shared some with you on numerous occasions. You have always appreciated the food and acknowledged it. I have also learned that it is as important, if not more so, to do those little things than the big things.

Bon Appétit

Macaroni and Cheese

This one is really creamy and good! From Gourmet February 1994 – although I changed it a little.

7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk, warmed
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 pound elbow macaroni
3 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (about 2 slices of bread)

Preheat oven to 350°F. and butter a 3- to 4-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish.
In a heavy saucepan melt 6 tablespoons butter over moderately low heat. Add flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Add mustard, and salt to taste, and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

In a kettle of salted boiling water cook macaroni until just al dente, about 7 minutes, and drain well. In a large bowl stir together macaroni, sauce, Cheddar, and 1 cup Parmesan and transfer to prepared dish.

In a small bowl stir together bread crumbs and remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and sprinkle evenly over macaroni. Cut remaining 1 tablespoon butter into bits and scatter over topping.

Bake macaroni in middle of oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.
Serves 6 to 8 as entrée or 8 to 10 as a side dish.

Sour Cream Apple Pie

From The Silver Palate. I’ve been making this pie for years so I’ve changed it a little bit, but not much. It is really good! The crust is really tasty and really easy if you mix it in the food processor. It is the only pie that I insist on making the crust (as opposed to using the Pillsbury folded kind in the box). Also, if you have an apple peeling gizmo(under $30 from Bean’s or Williams-Sonoma) apple pies are a breeze! I peel and slice them on it, then just cut down the sides of the apple. Takes all of about 3 minutes!!
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
8 Tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
4 Tbsp shortening
4-6 Tbsp. apple cider (or apple juice)
2/3 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp flour
5-7 apples, peeled, cored and chopped- I use Cortlands
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

1.Mix together dry ingredients for crust in food processor. Add butter and shortening. Pulse until it resembles fine oatmeal. Add cider 1 Tbsp at a time with machine running, just until it all holds together. Then take it out and chill it in the fridge in a baggie for at least 2 hours.
2. Mix together the first 5 ingedients for the filling. Add the apples and toss well.
3. Using about 2/3 of the dough, roll it out and put it into a pie plate. Fill with the apple filling. Mix topping together and sprinkle evenly over apples.
4. Roll out the rest of the dough and cut small decorative shapes (leaves, apples, whatever) and place on top of pie. (There will probably still be extra.)
5. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes.

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