January 26, 2010

Alice and Julia (and Lizzie and Beth)

Passion for food and cooking was recently rekindled in me when a few things converged harmonically in my little corner of the universe. First, my Mom gave me two great books for Christmas.

The romantic, impractical, often eccentric, ultimately brilliant making of a food revolution:

and the lively, first person story of one of my earliest heroes, Julia Child, when she lived in France:

Both books include very vivid, detailed recipes and mouth-watering descriptions of food. In addition, it is the dead of winter in Omaha, Nebraska, so indoor activities are preferable to outdoor ones. So, it's off to create in the kitchen for Lizzie!

Yesterday, I sent out this email to select family members so that they could look forward to the luscious dinner I was preparing:

Dear Family,

Chez Panisse is not the only place that can do this!

Bifteck Sauté a la Bordelaise
(Sirloin steak in a red wine sauce)

Pommes de Terre Gratin Jurassien
(Scalloped potatoes with cream and cheese)

Salade Verte a la Vinaigrette avec de l'avocat
(Green salad with avocado and vinaigrette dressing)

Asperges Braisées avec du Beurre Biologique
(Braised asparagus in organic butter)

Pain Francaise Multigrain
(Multigrain French bread)

Vin Rouge
(Red wine)

Fruits de Bois avec de la Glace et de la Creme Fraiche
(Berries with ice cream and whipped cream)

As Julia would say, "Bon Appétit"


In solidarity with Alice and Julia, I went foraging for the best, freshest ingredients for my meal. Fortunately, I already had on hand the grass-fed, naturally-raised, beautiful sirloin steak from our mentor and neighbor in organic farming, Dan Wood. For the rest, instead of the intimate markets of Berkeley or Paris, I made do with the local grocery store -- Baker's. It was liberating to shop for just one meal, not worrying about the rest of the week...not very efficient, but liberating!

I arrived home with my ingredients, set to work about 2:00pm preparing the strawberries and blueberries and setting them aside to make their sugar, cut and dried the lettuce and wrapped it gingerly in paper towels and placed it the refrigerator, chopped shallots and parsley, greeted the children about 3:00pm, welcomed them into the kitchen to help layer slices of potatoes, butter, and cheese for the casserole and mix the vinaigrette for the salad, sautéed the sirloin and made its sauce, broiled the asparagus and baked the bread.

Hubby arrived home about 6:00pm and opened the special bottle of red wine for the occasion.

The children set the table.

The food was served.

We said grace.

The phone rang.

The youngest ran to answer the phone. She is trained to let people know if we are sitting down to dinner and tells them that we will call back. This caller would have none of it. This caller was Beth Gaynes. She is a force of nature and a woman who has had a great influence in our lives, especially the lives of our oldest two daughters who studied classical ballet with her for many, formative young years. The eldest nabbed a berth at NYU with an essay in homage to Beth. But Beth has been out of commission for about two years after the death of her husband and a bad fall at home alone. She is on the mend and wanted to re-connect.

So, while my family enjoyed the fruits of my labors, I chatted with Beth.

Beth, you are one of the few people on this earth who would have kept me from this meal. Consider it another homage to you!

Beth and Julie in better times.

I'm off to make two kinds of quiche with homemade pastry crusts, another green salad, cream of asparagus soup, among other things. Set your clocks, folks, and don't call around 6:00pm CST!

Bon appetit!

January 18, 2010

Felix Update

Since I'm sure you've all been waiting impatiently to know how Felix is doing, here's what's going on.

We went to the vet today and found out that he has a pretty bad upper respiratory infection. Not to fear, though. Doctor Dave gave him a shot and gave me a vial of antibiotics to administer twice a day for the next eight days, not unlike what one would do for a human child. He also gave me a bill.

Yet more exceptions were made. Felix now has a chart at the vet. We are paying to get him better. He even slept on our bed last night.

But it's all worth it...he's perking up already, starting to eat again, hanging out with people again.

I think my Mom was right. Felix probably won't be going back to the harsh life of the farm. It's a good thing he gets along with our other house cat, Angel. Let's just hope Dad doesn't get attached to too many farm cats in the future.

January 14, 2010

Like Father, Like Son?

Life at our farm revolves around the cats.

At the beginning of our exploits at the farm some four years ago, a single, female cat with two very small kittens decided to take up residence with us. She was very loyal to us and a good mother and her descendants still live with us -- well, the female ones do.

The way of nature seems to be that the male kittens, once weaned, head off for greener pastures (or, more likely, more distinct females). This has been the case for all of our male cats except one -- Felix. Hubby has made great efforts to tolerate the cats because the rest of us females love them, but, in the case of Felix, the boys bonded -- the only two males in a sea of estrogen. Felix wanted to stay around but our current head female had other plans for him. Exasperated with his advances, one day she took a bite out of him.

Having decided long ago that we weren't going to run to the vet with every ailment that beset the cats, we created our own DIY animal clinic at the farm. We iced the wound, stitched it up, and covered it with tape...the all-purpose duct kind!

Felix hung around for a few more days and then was gone. The neighbors spotted him a couple of times in the next week or two. Then, he was gone for good. We assumed he died in the woods.

That was six months ago.

Then, just before Christmas, the neighbors called to say that Felix had appeared on their doorstep! He was skin and bones and could barely walk, but he was back. Somehow, he had survived. Our neighbor mused about the stories he could tell! He immediately took to Hubby once again. Here they are napping.

After a couple of weeks of R&R back at home (an exception made for Felix is that we brought him home from the farm to recuperate), Felix is looking pretty good.
Then, a couple of days ago, he seemed to come down with a cold. Another exception will be made.

We already have a call in to the vet.

January 5, 2010

You Can Pick Your Friends...

ScienceDaily (Dec. 28, 2009) — If you ever thought the stress of seeing your extended family over the holidays was slowly killing you -- bad news: a new research report in the December 2009 print issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology shows that you might be right.

I love my family. Don't get me wrong. But I didn't pick them. I do the best I can by them, but I have chosen the few friends that I have. One such friend swooped in the other day and rescued me from the morass of family drama and laughed with me, took me to work out (always needed after the holidays) and then treated me to a fine lunch. It was the perfect pick-me-up at the most needed time.

Henry B. Adams said, One friend in a lifetime is much, two are many, three are hardly possible.

In my case, I'm up to the "many" of Adams' friends. One of my two friends is in England, so she's not as much help as the local one during the holidays. But I feel fortunate to have them both.

This blog entry goes out to my friend, Kim. (Don't be jealous, Jayne...I'll do one for you soon!)

Thanks for understanding me. Thanks for spending some time with me. Thanks for treating me like an important person in your life.

But most of all, thanks for not being related to me.