Scenes from Sunday (5)

I would be lying if I said my family needed an excuse to throw a dinner party. Everyday is a dinner party.

Living with a chef, life is food-focused 90% of the time. The other 10% is allocated for sleep, but if dreams about mealtime count, then closer to 95% of our daily lives are spent around the table or planning what to put on said table. Before James came along designating me as household sous chef, my Italian heritage had already placed food at the core of my identity. My tapestry was woven in edible thread from the beginning. Pastas, pastries, produce and stew. Wake up thinking of breakfast, finish breakfast to begin planning lunch/dinner, and at dinner's end dream of dessert. The next morning, the cycle continues and it begins again. 

When I began writing this journal a few years back, I had selected the title "Pensive Foodie" for myself because a) I am an avid overthinker, hence pensive, and b) I relish in eating, cooking, reading of food, the foodie. The term "foodie" carries a pretentious connotation for some, insinuating refined culinary endeavors and tastes. Me, I enjoy food in its simplest forms. Crisp cherries, a warm chcocolate chip cookie straight out of the oven, or a crusty grilled cheese dipped in tomato soup. I'm no authority on obscure ingredients and don't use them often. I was raised on nourishing basics and never wanted for anything; happy and fed. Whatever was left in the refrigerator became a hearty soup, frittata or pasta. 

 I'll likely never be the caliber cook my grandma is. Her generation has something special that isn't readily replicated; I have much to learn from her. Making mistakes, and accidentally cutting or burning myself is commonplace. I still follow recipes most of the time and am more than contented to watch James in the kitchen, chopping vegtables by his side rather than do it by myself. I embrace my shortcomings but the ease and comfort with which he prepares food inspires me to become better. He assures me it takes practice and lots of mistakes to hone any craft. Regardless of my appreciation for the simple, I greatly admire the awe-inspiring skills of innovators in the industry, would skip, hop and jump at the opportunity to eat in lavish locales, and gawk with benign envy at folks who've made food a sustainable living whether styling, writing, or photographing. Nonetheless, I savor my personal dialogue with food - cookbooks, takeout, burnt cookies and all. It's in my power to orchestrate a dance among the ingredients, rendering the sum far greater than its parts and that's special to me. 

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That brings us to Sunday. We don't make a habit of following soccer, but the World Cup final gave us the opportunity to make a few themed dishes. For the Argentines, we planned empanadas and a German potato salad for their opponents. Mom tracked down an authentic Argentinian market for the pastry circles. James instructed me in preparing the filling- ground beef, onions, garlic, green and jalapeno peppers, chili powder and a collection of other spices. It simmered long and on low. I turned out the pastry circles on to a floured surface and topped each with a generous helping of beef. I spread water around the perimeters and each empanada was sealed with a fork. In to the deep fryer they went. Meanwhile, I prepped a corn and black bean salsa, tapenade and guacamole for dipping. The lines blurred between the culinary traditions of multiple countries that afternoon but it was pleasing overall.  

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We bit into piping hot empanadas, burned our tongues, and soothed them with fruit filled sangria. Animated conversation filled the kitchen and living room. After we had more than enough savory, coffee and cupcakes were dessert. The match began and we passively watched; it was never about the game anyway.

Scenes from Sunday (4)

Any day that is designated to celebrate a specific group of people leaves me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I am overjoyed to recognize the efforts and love of, in this instance, Dads everywhere. My Dad is a generous and hard working man. An athlete and all around big guy, in personality and stature, he never wanted for a son after he was blessed with two girls. We were enough. He taught us how to get back up after a fall, and rebound from life's disappointments. When you're a teenage girl, there are many. My grandfather is also a gem of a human being, with an enormous heart and even greater spirit. There are many men in my life to give thanks for.

My Nonny used to read Taste of Home magazine so I tend to look to their website for comfort food favorites; it reminds me of her.  My Dad, Nonny's son, has been pining after Banana Cream pie, so for Father's Day I finally granted his wish, with this easy to prepare  recipe . 

My Nonny used to read Taste of Home magazine so I tend to look to their website for comfort food favorites; it reminds me of her.  My Dad, Nonny's son, has been pining after Banana Cream pie, so for Father's Day I finally granted his wish, with this easy to prepare recipe

A layer of cream, followed by a layer of sliced banana.

A layer of cream, followed by a layer of sliced banana.

On the other hand, a close friend of mine lost his father around this time a few years back, and I can't help but think that where there is celebration, there is also the potential for bittersweetness.   Everyone's circumstances are different. Non-biological fathers stand in and exceed the roles of a father, deployed dads are very far from home and their loved ones, or mothers go it alone. Others might not have a close relationship with their fathers so they are starting new traditions with children of their own. Nonetheless, Father's Day is open to interpretation. A silent prayer on a fishing dock, remembering summers spent with Dad before he passed, a day at the Rodeo, or a banana cream pie in the backyard, the residual smell of barbecue lingering in the air. 

Another layer of cream.  Whip waiting in the wings.

Another layer of cream.  Whip waiting in the wings.

Dad volunteered at a Church carnival all of last week with the exception of Saturday when he worked at Monster Jam. He actually slept most of Sunday, fatigue setting in. But we spent time by the pool, noshing on burgers, dogs, and smoked chicken thighs. Nana's German potato salad was two parts German and one part Italian. She adapted the recipe like her mother used to, bringing a little Sicilian flair to the table. However Sunday is spent, may everyone find something or someone to celebrate. And of course, a pie makes any celebration doubly delicious. Happy belated Father's Day. 

Lastly and most importantly (for me), the fresh whip.  Williams Sonoma  liked our pie enough to share it on their Instagram feed! 

Lastly and most importantly (for me), the fresh whip. Williams Sonoma liked our pie enough to share it on their Instagram feed!