Family Dinner

Tonight was an awful night. I lost my claddagh ring and feel naked without it. Love, friendship and loyalty. I’ll check my shirt and sweaters in sunlight because the crown nicks everything so it’ll probably be on the floor or carpet.

Years ago it was a rule, I was in college (on break) and my siblings were as young as seven, to have dinner together every night. I fear that families do not do that these days. It’s just my husband and me, and the dog, and my husband is usually on his cell phone or texting or on his laptop dealing with other people and not us. Even though he is here writing a book I see the old dog and now Snowflake Deux more than him.

In former years we had to do a “how was your day” routine. One day someone introduced “let’s rate Mom’s meals!” She was devastated. Dad hated her orange chicken and beef stew. They were not things he grew up with in a Teutonic household where he spoke German all his childhood and Grandma taught Mom how to cook. Then a certain someone got her a lifelong subscription to Gourmet magazine and she started making things called “health soup.” And a chicken salad with peaches that she served an honored man known for a geodesic dome for his 86th birthday and their 62nd wedding anniversary.

Dad said afterward that he didn’t like fruit with his meat. Whoops!

Mom’s gone nearly nine years and Dad died over the holiday season last year. I barely knew grandma except she used to sing me Bye, Bye, Blackbird as a lullaby before she passed when I was one year old. Dad was a musician and much more, I’ll have to teach myself that song . I just need the lyrics. Maybe not. I just learned it was a Nazi song.

Don’t worry, even though Mom’s mother died earlier than Dad’s and I do not remember her at all, I’ve another grandmother, my husband’s dear Nanny. Yes, she interviewed me before I married her eldest grandson and she made me an honorary “grand.” It is a pleasure to be the sixth and to watch her “great grands” grow up and marry.

We share food with about 60 people every Thanksgiving at Nanny’s and my m-i-l and everyone cooks and we have good and much food. And now the “greats” provide music as well from time to time, that is when football is not on the television.

I’ve made Orange Chicken twice in two weeks. My husband is a Texas beef and potato guy so it’s taken me years to get him to eat chicken. Mom used to use orange juice concentrate. Here’s my version.

Orange Chicken a Deux (for two)

Two chicken breast cutlets, pounded thin and seasoned

Flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, and zest of an orange from which you will use its’ juice for sauce

Olive oil to  sautee the chicken

When chicken is just cooked remove it to a plate. Add the juice of 1-3 seeded oranges to the pan and reduce. Add a pat of butter, taste for seasoning and place the chicken back in to warm.

I serve it over warm Israeli couscous cooked in chicken broth, and a veg. Last night he made a jicama salad with fresh orange juice and I ate a few heirloom cherry tomatoes. He’s brilliant but not that great in the kitchen in any manner, especially the knife department, I call it “log salad.”

That’s the way it goes in Dee-Land. Nearly 16 years and I got him to eat chicken, Israeli couscous, and jicama? He’s even a cheese snob now, asking whether for day-to-day use on a cracker or toast is three-year or five-year better? Once a year I go back to my childhood taste memories and buy individually wrapped American processed cheese slices. Mom would never allow us individually wrapped. I make grilled cheese on hearty whole wheat bread. I also have ginger ale on hand, for tummy issues and because it was the only soda we were allowed to have as kids.

Never, ever rate your parents’ meals. It is a recipe for disaster. To Orange Chicken and my beef stew (later). Bye, bye blackbird, Dee




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