Rachel here: In the days before M’s arrival, John and I spent Saturdays in our kitchen together. Sometimes I’d cook, sometimes we’d both cook, but what felt important–what was important–was that we spent that time together, focused on feeding ourselves well physically in the upcoming week and in feeding our relationship through this weekly pause together. We’d talk and cook, sometimes listening to talk radio. The best, though, was when our friend Brian gave us new music of his.
John and Brian have always been friends (always). Getting to be friends with Brian (and his phenomenal wife–one of my best, best friends–and super awesome daughter) has been one of the great gifts of being with John. The music Brian makes is, in turn, one of the great gifts of knowing Brian. Brian makes music that articulates feelings I stumble to find words for, grasps moments that slip through my fingers. Ethereal and concrete, brave and intimate–the arrival in our kitchen of new music from Brian has always been cause for excitement in our house.
Today, it is my distinct pleasure to direct your attention to Brian’s blog (click here). He has a new album out (called “Call”)and, for the first time, he and John have teamed up with John illustrating each of the five singles Brian is releasing (a sample is our illustration for this post). The album is awesome and so are John’s singles covers.
Spending the day in the kitchen with my best friend and true love, preparing food to fill our bellies while Brian’s music filled our ears–this is as full as I’ve ever been and I feel incredibly lucky for such sustenance.
Janet here: Cara and I met over dancing at Nia, which if you don’t know it, is this amazing form of exercise that feeds the soul and exercises the body. If you want to know more click here.
Anyway Cara mentioned one day that she is a regular LTIR follower so I asked her what I ask everyone who reads it: Would you like to share a food memory/recipe? Happily she said yes, so here you go.
Cara: I am definitely a foodie, so it was true excitement when Janet offered me the opportunity to write something inspired by the topic food in her blog! I think that I have loved food as far back as I can remember. I love the smells, colors, textures, and combinations of different foods.
When I think about what my first memories with food are I remember my mother’s cooking — pasta with a marinara sauce, meatballs, fish, and the baked goods … Oh, the baked goods: banana bread, sugar cookies, muffins. Really my mom cooking for us, with the care and thought that she put into our meals, was an authentic expression of love.
Now as an adult I have grown to appreciate the value of cooking your own food in a way that I am so grateful for. I love to read novels centered around food (Like Water for Chocolate was my first), watch the Food Network, read and collect cookbooks, go out to eat, try different ethnic foods, and of course cook!
The recipe that inspired this story is Grilled Rosemary Salmon Skewers with a Vegetable Feta couscous. I am always trying to find healthy, flavorful and quick meals, and this one was definitely a winner. I made it with my friend, Leticia, who had come over for an evening of good old girl time. Leticia is so much fun to cook (and eat) with because she equally shares my love for a healthy and delicious meal.
The salmon is marinated in a simple combination of rosemary, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and a little salt, and then grilled on skewers with grape tomatoes. It really is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The couscous with diced peppers, tomatoes and goat cheese is light and a great combination with the fish. We spent the night laughing, drinking wine, cooking and having great conversation.
I am pleased that a recipe that I made on such a great night inspired Janet to ask me to write something on her blog for Food for Thought Thursdays. I understand that the topic of “food” can be very delicate (Suggested reading for anyone who is challenged with balancing how to “love” food and not eat compulsively: Women, Food, and God by Gene Roth).
Thank you Mom for giving me the gift of a childhood filled with loving and mouth watering food-filled memories!
Janet here: After 13 years straight of parenting teenagers fulltime and nearly 26 years of being (mostly) first in our children’s lives, Peter and I have officially moved to back-seat status. S, the last child, has left the nest for college and the middle son, G, left yesterday on a jet plane for the next life adventure on the West Coast.
It’s a strange feeling, this empty nest. On the one hand, Peter and I are more than ready. One teenager would be exhausting; having multiples for years on end has left us feeling at times as if we were on the 14th round in a boxing match. There were certainly days when I wondered how I would make it until they actually left.
But now the house is empty and of course it is a lot quieter than I imagined it would be. When I walked into G’s room to strip his bed, it looked and felt different than S’s room, which is still filled with S’s essence in a way that G’s is not. S’s room is a movie on pause; G’s room belongs to a show that is over, its main character gone forever.
It is the way it is supposed to be, of course. I wanted to raise strong-hearted and strong-minded children who would feel the world is their oyster. I didn’t want to be a parent who stood in the way or who made her children feel as if they couldn’t leave. I know, too, that they will be back and that, of course, we will have more family adventures and times together. But the path of the orbit has shifted; where we were once the sun, now we are the moon, still providing light of course but without the same strength.
I know in coming days, I will begin to feel happier about this new change. I am excited to see what it means for Peter and me individually and as a couple. If nothing else, I am no longer going to have to worry about whether a new dish will be well-received; the last fussy eater just left the building and our palate just expanded immeasurably.
Most of all, I am excited to see where our children will go next. This time of their lives is so open with opportunity; it is the decade of complete possibility in so many ways. I can’t wait to see where the ride takes them — and us.
Janet here: Every family has its own language, expressions that we create for events or moments that we forget are unique to us until we utter them out in the world and receive completely blank, if not shocked, stares. (Certain bodily functions immediately come to mind, for instance.) So, too, do families have prized personal recipes and food moments. And in the Reynolds clan, tomato mush is high up on the list.
Tomato mush is basically tomatoes with mayo, salt and pepper. You just cut up the tomato and then add the rest. Chill it before serving and you’re good to go.
I was first served tomato mush at my in-law’s home one summer early in my relationship with Peter. If I hadn’t already been completely smitten by Peter, this concoction might have sealed the deal.
Rachel here: My brothers G and S are such satisfying siblings to me that–unlike most girls I know!–I have never wanted sisters, never even wondered about having them. Each of my brothers offers me incredible company in his own way and has shaped me immeasurably. This post, though, is about S in particular. It is for S and from me as he prepares to go off to college. Here goes…
I was going to write a memory about you, S, a food memory to pause in before you go forth into the next chapter of your life. There are too many to choose from, though (you’ve always been an adventurous eater). We have had countless meals together, relished myriad treats. Instead, I am going to offer you a little piece of food advice.
Janet here: Rachel’s post this week on Books That Make Us Hungry got me thinking about our children and food. It’s a big topic, as you can imagine, so I’m only going to tackle one little bit here in memoryland.
I went into feeding my children with a couple of food versions of Things I Would Never Do or Say to My Children — you know, those things you vow as a child/teenager you will NEVER do when you’re a parent, about half of which you do within the first few years of your first child’s life. Anyway, I lived in a house where you did not leave the table until your plate was clean. After all, there were children starving in India (or Africa or whatever other country your parent wanted to insert, which they all did, at least among my friends). I can remember a few memorable nights where I was left sitting alone at the kitchen table, ice cold fish lying on the plate and my mother checking in periodically to make sure I didn’t try something clever like hiding it in my napkin. (Although my Golden Retriever, Sunshine, ate all of my Brussel sprouts for 15 years, even she would not eat this fish.)
Janet here: While it may not seem as if a Great Camp in the Adirondacks is about food, for our family it is. That’s because we have spent two weeks there just about every summer for most of the last 20 years. Only a trip to London, out West, a wedding and the birth of our grandchild has held us back.
I know we’ve been lucky as a family to make this happen for so long. I was sure that our children would begin to reject this rustic retreat on the shores of Upper Saranac Lake as they reached the teenage years and entering a technology-free zone for two weeks would become decidedly uncool. (Full disclosure: our rental cabin did get cable TV a few years ago, but the only way to get cell phone service is to stand on a picnic table by the dock and even then it’s dicey.) Instead, I have been thrilled that they’ve continued to love it and that they’ve been clambering to return and worked to make sure their summer jobs allowed them at least one week with us in this very special place.
But on to the food:
Now I’ve been to California before. I remember my father eagerly taking me to the local supermarket chain when they lived in Sunnyvale 20 years ago and, like a kid in a candy store, exclaiming over the size of the lemons! The freshness of the lettuce! The variety of plums! At the time, he and my mother had just moved from Maine, which wasn’t exactly known for its fresh produce after, say, September. This was an era in which asparagus were really only available in the spring because that’s the way things rolled. Now you can get asparagus practically year-round — not necessarily tasty asparagus but asparagus nonetheless. At the time, while I enjoyed a good melon as much as my dad, I wasn’t quite as impressed as he was. I was, after all, 28 and, um, stupid the way 28-year-olds can be.
Now, though, the variety and general quality of the food around Berkeley completely blew my mind. I am used to buying most fruits, apples excepted, at least a few days in advance of when I would actually like to eat them because that’s when they’ll actually be ripe. Eating in the summer months, when more fresh produce is available, is obviously better all around in the Northeast, but when the fall comes, it’s back to eating stewed tomatoes for another 9 months until real vine-ripened tomatoes are available. Those faux tomatoes supermarkets try to claim are ripe are just not and are virtually without taste.
So I found myself thinking about how differently I would eat if I lived someplace where fresh fruit and veggies were basically available all year. I also thought about how this availability and general insistence by a large percentage of the population that of course this is the way their food will be even impacts what kinds of meats and dairy products are available. Virtually none of the meats were pre-packaged as they are in the Northeast and the percentage of meats, poultry and fish that were natural, i.e. hormone/antibiotic-free, free range, organic, wild vs. farm-raised for fish, etc., was much higher than where I regularly shop.
It also got me thinking about class and food. This access to food like this is much more about what you can pay for in the Northeast than I think it is in the Berkeley area. (I say this without having done much research but I’ve got a hunch I’m right.)
What does all this mean? I’m not sure, but I left California feeling a little bit like I’ve got a raw deal in the Northeast and feeling a little annoyed that locavore living and eating isn’t easier for us all. I’m certain we would all be the healthier for it.
Janet here: We started Life Told in Recipes because we love cooking and we love serving the people we love good food. (It was also an excuse to talk on the phone every day.)
But the idea behind the blog was also to get other people talking about food and remembering their happiest moments sharing food with the people they love. With that in mind, we want to let you know about the Family Cookbook Project. Basically it’s an online company that helps you organize all those family recipes into a printable product that you can then share with everyone in your family. They’ve got templates and timelines and suggestions for how to corral your family into this project. Yes, there’s a fee, but it’s reasonable, especially since what you have at the end is a piece of family history that will last forever.
I got interested in our family food history after my mother died and I discovered all the notes she had written in her cookbooks. They were an abbreviated diary of her life and while wonderful to have, I was left feeling incomplete. Why hadn’t we talked about these recipes while she was alive?
The Family Cookbook Project is one way to make sure that doesn’t happen in your family. Check it out. You won’t be sorry.