Sunday, December 18, 2011

S' Wonderful

Is there anything more comforting than hearing a beloved old movie musical playing in the next room, while you are trying a new recipe in the kitchen? There's something about the combination of the familiar and the brand-new that has a powerful appeal for me. As I write this, An American in Paris is on in the family room, Gene Kelly warbling and tapping away. I'm flipping through cookbooks and searching the internet for something fun for dessert. It's the Sunday evening before Christmas, and the operative word is "cozy." Out of church clothes and in my sweats, I putter around, checking for ingredient supplies (nutmeg? white chocolate?) to a Gershwin soundtrack.

This is a moment when I should say "I remember Mama" because Joanie looooved her Gershwin. It's the baking part that doesn't bring her back to me, though. The only cake I think she ever baked, from a mix, mind you, was for an elementary school event (and they must have been truly desperate). She just plunked a full stick of butter in the batter without blending, and when the first intrepid soul cut into it, there was a telltale lump of yellow mid-slice. I don't remember Nana this way either, except to recall her piece de resistance: banana pudding (from a mix, mind you) into which ( master's touch) she had stirred more bananas. Done!!

 I have been cooking seriously since I was 10. And, always, culinary pursuits and background music have gone hand-in-hand. In the early 70s I turned out a decent grasshopper pie ( a trendy sweet, containing nary an insect: the green was crème de menthe). As I whipped and poured into the chocolate cookie crust, I was listening to Carole King's "So Far Away." The summer we lived in Scituate, MA, I was in my Pennsylvania Dutch phase. Chicken with Potato Stuffing was served to the tune of Erik Satie's "Gymnopedies." Philly as a young married: Osso Buco and Al Jarreau.

 The five senses are, each of them, so evocative. When you combine even two of them you are on sensory overload.  But what a joy it is to experience them in tandem: the sight of a hummingbird hovering in the air and the smell of hibiscus (Costa Rica, 2007). The feel of a young girl’s Christmas velvet dress and the rich taste of wiener schnitzel (Luchöw’s, NYC, December 1968). And, this evening, the smell of Chinese noodles (Sheridan’s girlfriend Ya-Jhu at the helm) and the sound of Eagles football (PJ’s home for winter break) intertwined.

Everything is a gift from God. Everything. We just need to take the time to recognize that, and to open the incredible presents constantly before us. I invite you to light a scented candle. Right now. Browse your itunes library to find the precise music to mirror your mood. Eat, as the Allman Brothers Band would suggest, a peach. Take a bite from the succulent banquet that is life.

                                                                          Bon Appetit.

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