Creativity Cooks

Collage ~ Cooking ~ Creativity … inspired by three generations of women

Memorial Day Deviled Eggs

This past Monday was Memorial Day and it was really hot, sunny, what some might call the perfect beach day. I call it a day I wish for winter. But that’s just me, anything above 65 degrees and I’m complaining. I love shoveling snow? Needless to say it was the kind of day for cold foods. Salads. Deviled eggs…yes, absolutely!

I remember Memorial Days of my childhood, how chilly it was in the morning and how anxious we kids were to dress in our summer clothes and play outside from the moment we awoke. I was a very ‘serious’ child, full of conscience and gravity, especially about this particular holiday. I seemed to feel, very strongly, about how wrong it was to be at war and how sad and pointless it seemed to lose so many lives to conflict. Even as an 8-year-old I carried the weight of it ~ which in 1965 meant I was “too interested for such a young girl” in the conflict in Vietnam. My way of acknowledging all those dead soldiers and the hope for no more war carried me right out to the steps of our front porch to watch the first rose of the season bloom in the late morning sun. Every year only one rose was ahead of the others, one red rose that bloomed right next to where I would sit, on the cold step, waiting patiently for the sun to reach us and warm us – the rose to the point of its protective petals opening to let that first rose have its moment. This might have gone mostly unnoticed, had it not been for my sense of gravity and my sense of hope along with my insistence of sitting on the cold, cement step. My mother thought I was crazy to go out in sleeveless shirt, shorts and new sandals in the chilly morning, demanding I wear a sweater and bring yesterday’s newspaper to sit on, lest I get ‘piles’, whatever that was.

There I sat, waiting and thinking. My 8-year-old mind was full of battle scenes and worrisome thoughts about what soldiers had to go through in a war. My 8-year-old heart was full of sadness for all the death and destruction war caused. Head in my hands, near tears, I waited to feel the warmth of the sun as it crept across our tiny yard toward me and the rose-bush. I am sure I must have hummed or even sang the words to one of my favorite songs, Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” while I watched and waited. That song usually brought tears, or sobs…so serious I was, so burdened under the weight of what was happening so far away. Neighborhood kids were still inside watching cartoons, overhearing their folks talk about plans for the afternoon barbecue; who would bring what, how many hot dogs and what’s for desert. There I sat, on the cold step, mournful.

When the sun reached us the rose began to warm and respond to its inner sense of timing. As a second-grader I hadn’t taken the science classes that would have assured me the rose was just doing its natural thing. I was sure this red rose was blooming for the soldiers. Red for the shed blood and blooming in hope of a brighter day to come, one where war was just a memory, never a reality. As the rose opened my hope renewed and my mood lightened. I ran to tell my mother, who was in the kitchen boiling potatoes and cooking macaroni.

Memorial Day is usually the first barbecue holiday of the season, with all the summertime foods that come with such an event. Our family favorite is Deviled Eggs and we don’t care when the season begins, we will make them anytime. My daughter’s graduation the week before heralded a plate of delicious eggs that were gobbled up in no time. It seemed only fitting to make them again – it felt like July outside – what is summer repast without Deviled Eggs? Saturday evening found me boiling 8 gorgeous brown eggs for 12 minutes and setting them on a rack to cool. I mixed my simplest ingredients in a bowl: 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp. mayo (mine is homemade, French style), 1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley, sea salt and pepper to taste. I peeled, cut in half and de-yolked the eggs, putting the yolks in the bowl with the mustard/mayo mixture and smashing them with my pastry cutter/blender but a fork will do, just mash it together well. Using one of my Nana’s ice tea spoons, I spoon the mixture into each egg half and put the eggs in a container with a lid for chilling in the refrigerator. I especially like to eat them when they are just made and still room temperature. I thought I might include a picture of the last remaining egg (actually now it’s in my stomach) complimented on the plate by the sweet potato salad I made last night.

For the record, my 4th of July eggs might be spiced up a bit ~ with a tsp. or two of curry powder, or with fresh dill and chives. I might even go all out if I am bringing them to a party by topping my ‘dilly’ eggs with tiny capers and thin strips of smoked salmon. These will go fast so I should consider making a larger batch and keeping some at home!

Let me end this by saying how much I appreciate and acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of our soldiers and veterans. Gratitude is not enough payment for their suffering or the loss of life. Ending war might be.

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Nothing Says November Like Thanksgiving!

 

Wow… how time flies. It’s already November. Once school starts for my grand kids summer feels long gone and it’s a fast, downhill slide into the Christmas holidays. No sooner did I put the Halloween witches and pumpkins away then I start to notice all the Christmas commercials for the holiday programs, and worse, holiday shopping. UGH! I cannot possibly think about that now! I refuse to watch anything related to Christmas until I see Santa in his sleigh at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I will boycott all holiday hints or notions until I have had that infamous leftover hot turkey sandwich with cold cranberry sauce falling out as I take my first bite!

November first is when I start gearing up for my favorite food holiday, next to St. Paddy’s Day – I cannot tell a lie, I love corned beef and cabbage! I have waited to open up my Martha Stewart Living, November issue, until today. I make it a practice not to look ahead. My pen in hand, white sheets of paper next to the magazine, I anticipate jotting down my alterations of her holiday recipes as I thumb one page to the next. I am rarely disappointed, and this issue is giving me some great ideas. After about three pages of notes on possible stuffing choices, deciding to do pumpkin mousse this year (though I bet I will be thoroughly harassed into also making pumpkin pie again) and jotting down changes to the turkey brine recipe, I start to feel my pulse rate increase. My mind starts to swim trying to remember how many vegetable side dishes I got up to last year…was it eleven or thirteen? I had a personal contest going to see how many side dishes I could make, adding one per year for the last seven or so years. Oh, no… I have lost track. A hot flash starts to take over my whole body as I rack my brain counting. It’s no use. Fifteen side dishes is ridiculous. And they never eat my homemade cranberry relish.

Thanksgiving seems to get more and more ignored by the media as a holiday, let alone a time to give thanks, the older I get. Perhaps it’s because of commercialism, but I refuse to let my family be shopping sucker punched into shrinking this fantastic food holiday. Not only is this the holiday of harvest foods – providing a virtual cornucopia of veggies to choose from, which is terrific if you happen to be a vegetarian, but all the fall colors are represented on the table. This is the most, in my opinion, visually beautiful holiday, if we are talking tabletop aesthetics! And then the aesthetics of the meal itself. Think of those brightly colored yams topped with golden brown marshmallows, or those freshly steamed green beans flecked with toasted almonds. How about that snowy mound of mashed potatoes? Let’s not forget the bright yellow corn with bits of red and green peppers and red onion!
If I look to pictures of this holiday from my childhood, I see that I took an interest in what was on the table at a young age. Considering the almost 30 years I spent working as a cook in restaurants, I was not really surprised to find a picture of myself at age one and a half, and again the following year, perched at the Thanksgiving table looking very excited at what was about to happen. Here is a glimpse of little me, almost two decades before my entry into restaurant…how telling!

Me, age 1 1/2

Me, age 2 1/2

I found a nice photo of my mother, from 1952 at age 13, at the Thanksgiving table with family. I thought I would include it as I seem to have a penchant for shots of tables full of holiday food. Funny, my parents wanted me to be a graphic artist, but they should have known I would end up in the food industry by the look on my face. In the two shots above, I clearly know a nicely done table with a good size turkey on it to be the way to go!

Thanksgiving, 1952

Fast forward to present day… or at least last Thanksgiving. Photographs are, of course, in color and taken by a digital camera, not the old Polaroid. Last year, we didn’t want to crowd the table with the turkey platter, side dishes and the like, keeping all that stuff on the serving bar. My daughter’s table is nicely set, wine glasses and tablecloth, all of us sitting around our well-appointed plates. Here is a shot of our family at table, and of course, a picture of my grandson tearing into his turkey leg.

Thanksgiving, 2010

So here I sit, typing my thoughts and memories into this blog post, when I could be fine tuning my menu for a holiday that certainly deserves our attention! Over the next week I will hone the menu, getting the last okay’s from the family members so as not to forget anyone’s favorites. The week before I begin to shop for the non perishables and the turkey, which is frozen solid. By the 19th I will begin to let it thaw in the refrigerator, preparing the brine on the 21st. Bathing in that brine for two days while I prep all the other components for cooking on the 24th will make sure a fantastic feast by 5pm on the big day. I will be sure to give myself time to catch the parade while I dart back and forth to the kitchen. Phew! Only eighteen days to go until we sit down to give thanks, for the food but more importantly, for each other.

 

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Thanksgiving 1959

Thanksgiving 1959

Me, at 2 1/2

I came across this photo in my very, very old photo album, one my mother had put together when I was little. I had to use Photoshop Elements to adjust the contrast and shadows of the shot, it was a bit hard to see details after all these years, 51 1/2 to be exact. It is clear by my facial expression that I was very interested in the holiday table. I might be folding napkins in this shot, I can’t really see what I am doing, or I might have helped my Nana with something to go on the table. I might have been thrilled with the size of the turkey, dry as it was – thank goodness for gravy.  Yes, all the turkeys of my childhood were dreadfully dry. Luckily gravy is always wet. Cranberry sauce also helped. You could also take some mashed potatoes on the fork with some turkey, better even was sweet potatoes.

Holiday tables were objects of my desire as a kid, along with all the special food preparation. My Nana was instrumental in teaching me all sorts of domestic agenda in such a way that fascinated me. She was very excited about holiday meals with all their accoutrement – jello molds in red and green and her famous cheese balls made with cream cheese mixed with chopped olives with their red pimento centers, rolled in chopped walnuts. Christmas meant her ‘Roly Polys’ (rolled pie dough filled with cinnamon sugar, a Pennsylvania Dutch version of Rugelach) and Spritz cookies graced special Christmas platters. Ham was served instead of another dry turkey, for Christmas. It was a canned ham, baked in 7-UP to cut the saltiness, covered in pineapple rings stuck to the ham with spiky dried cloves. It smelled wonderful while it baked, this was the only meat we had for two holidays, we had ham at Easter too.

Nana’s attention to details of dining, parties and holidays was something she passed along to me. One year, my Christmas party was old holiday movie themed. I had a different, old movie playing on small televisions in each designated ‘party’ rooms. Cocktails were indicative of the times, Grasshoppers, Strawberry Daquiris and Kir Royale. I decorated with the mint greens and pale red colors from holidays long gone by. I thank my Nana for inspiring me.  She is my ‘go-to’ gal for all things domestically inclined, Martha Stewart follows as a close second.

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Thanksgiving 1958

Thanksgiving 1958

Little me, age 1 1/2

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