Showing posts with label supper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label supper. Show all posts

18 March 2007

Suppertime at Grandma Annie's: A Light Approach and Plenty of Raw Vegetables

March is a funny month in Wisconsin. You never know about the weather. Will it be winter or spring?

But there comes a time, about mid-month, when the weather turns toward warm and the birds of spring are back to battle for position with the birds of winter. The juncos stick around a while longer, and the cardinals become aggressive as they guard their turf. The finches trill merrily at all hours of the day, and the red wing blackbirds cling to reeds and tall grass and join the song with a raspier trill.

Jerry, my neighbor, continues to burn wood, filling the air with that pungent aroma I remember from childhood. Dusk and the gathering night draw us inside to putter about in the warm kitchen.

My kitchen is small, not an eat-in kitchen at all, not like Grandma Annie's. Hers was truly the heart of the home, the comfort zone, the place we all felt secure and loved.

She was not an exotic cook at all. It is Grandma Annie from whom I derive my notion that it is not what you make but how you make it, and her meals were always made with love for the process, for the food and for the people who would eat it.

Annie and Mémere subscribed to the theory that large meals should be eaten early in the day, and light meals at night. So evening meals, which we called supper, were usually soup, salad and cold meat sandwiches.

Annie would set out plates of chicken or ham or turkey and various cheeses along with spreads and pickle or tomato slices. She adopted the "build your own sandwich" approach long ago.

Always on her table was a plate of raw carrots, celery and radishes. As a result, I prefer sandwiches eaten with these crudités.

I bought the radishes above because they still held dirt from the ground in which they were planted. That allowed me to cling to the idea that they were very fresh.

The radishes are very lovely and piquant, and they reminded me of a shiva with their root stems pointing this way and that.

21 December 2006

Kitchen Tools: Annie's Pie Crimper

December darkness came quickly and stealthily to Old Frenchtown, sneaking around the corners of the ancient weather-beaten barns and sheds.

Only the shops on Dunlap Avenue were bright with red and green lights — the shops and the little IGA store located just north of Grandma Annie’s back yard.

Often we went home with Annie in the evenings for a comforting supper in her bright kitchen. The house was cold and dark when we entered, but soon the furnace would roar on and Annie would walk toward the back of the house, shedding her dark coat and hat as she went and neatly stashing them in her closet before turning on the kitchen light.

She’d ignite the gas oven with a tiny poof! and light the burner under the kettle. Always, there was tea to be made and bread to be sliced and pickles to be placed on a cut-glass, leaf-shaped plate.

There would be ham or chicken or turkey and vegetable soup, for Annie’s suppers were simple but homey affairs. Always there was dessert, served with a twinkle in her eye, because of course, it was her favorite.

Annie’s sweet tooth was legendary in family lore.

In the years before she married my handsome Irish grandfather, Annie worked as a seamstress for one of the many French Canadian dressmakers who had shops downtown. On her first payday, she walked past a candy shop on the way home — and promptly spent all her earnings on sweets.

As an adult, Annie loved to bake cakes and cupcakes and pies. The latter is something she shared with my father, her son-in-law. Pies were his specialty, when he wasn’t cooking dinner.

Especially at Christmas, my father made pies for people: Librarians, elderly ladies living alone, old family friends. He rose early on Christmas Eve and made a variety, from fruit pies to cream pies. By 9 a.m., he’d have the car loaded with pies for delivery.

This year, there will be no exchanges of lavish gifts. Instead, I asked my mother for Annie’s pie crimper.

Really, that is all I need.