Sunday, June 10, 2012

Scenes From The Table

There are times when you're at family gatherings that you find yourself thinking that you picked the exact right place to sit at the table. I don't get to visit with my family very often, so hitting that sweet spot is important to me when I do. This time around, at the bar-b-cue for my oldest niece, I hit a jackpot. I shared the kitchen table with two of my aunts, Johnnie and Mable, my uncle Leon and one of my oldest friends, Mary, who I saw here in NYC a couple of years ago (and with whom I wish I could visit much more often).

Picture this: a quiet, slightly nervous, kid transfers to a new high school school midway through his freshman year. He's befriended by a sweet young lady in his geometry class. They remain fast friends for the rest of their high school career, graduate and go their separate ways but manage to stay in touch. Thirty-six years later, not only are they still fast friends but she has become a high school teacher, worked along side his aunt (Johnnie) and taught his niece for a year. If you can imagine that, you've got the gist of my relationship with Mary. We share so many connections that it seems as though the universe demands our friendship remain intact. The latest connection we share is blogging. Hers is here and you should check it out; what she has to say about living a sustainable (in all its definitions) life is worth reading.

I've missed being able to sit across a table and talk with Mary, so I made the most of it. Cooking, baking (she brought a fig cake, which everyone loved, to the meal), writing and even graphic novels (she recently read her first one and I'm sending her a copy of V For Vendetta) were all on the agenda. Interestingly enough, we didn't touch on any high school memories; I guess we're more interested in connecting our present lives than in reliving the past.

Auntie Johnnie joined in the conversation and I got a chance to tell her that I still use her sweet potato pie recipe. Many years ago I was talking with my mother about sweet potato pie because I wanted to bake one for some holiday or another. She suggested I call Johnnie because she thought Johnnie's sweet potato pie was delicious. I ended up combining Johnnie's recipe with another I'd found somewhere else into what has since become my sweet potato pie. That's something I'll talk about in a future post. Discussion of buttermilk-based pie crusts, crusts made with vinegar, souffle-like fillings and technique kept us smiling, and eating, for quite a while.

I got an opportunity to talk with my Nana about my attempts at making her egg custard pie. She smiled when I told her that her pies and the love she put into them inspire my final version.

By the end of the night, most of the cherry cheesecake was gone. Mary's fig cake, and the glaze she provided for it, had taken quite a few hits. The strawberry cheesecake had just enough left for my brother to lay claim to at least two more slices. It was a joyous gathering.

Full hearts, full stomachs and well-fed spirits.

Oh. Did I mention that I brought a box of ginger lemon creams with me? When I arrived, I gave it to my father (who was rationed just one from the batch I sent one of his sisters for her birthday) with the intention of it being "for the house". He interpreted that to mean "for him" and by the time I left, he'd managed to scarf down the majority of them. I guess I can't ask for a better compliment than that, can I?

Currently listening to: Andreas Vollenweider - Letter To A Young Rose (Just seemed appropriate...)

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