This follows an absolutely delicious weekend of food prepared by my sister, Maria, and her husband, John. In Chris’s absence, I met my parents at Maria and John’s West Virginia home and was treated to a weekend of perfectly perfect meals: summery enough for the screen porch, filling enough for my father.
To start, Maria made a luscious banana cream cake with buttery-salty pecans atop; a great breakfast, as the cream soaked into the layers, the cake somehow became richer, denser, and even more delightful. For Saturday’s dinner, John made vinegar-boiled shrimp with creamy cocktail sauce to accompany Maria’s stuffed portabellas and chopped salad. I don’t generally like cold shrimp, but, as Maria predicted, I loved John’s which were piled hot on ice just before serving and steamed their spicy-briny fragrance.
Then, on Memorial Day at Audra State Park, we picnicked with potato salad; perfect, light fruit mix with dressing; and two-handful meatloaf sandwiches with herbed mayo. Ideal picnic fare, even without plates! As I drove home Tuesday, I realized that the delight of food is its life-affirming quality—as you eat, you know you’re alive, and, inherent in food, there’s a promise that life will continue. With family, friends, or alone, food promises not only substistence but some measure of bliss.
I considered my early grad school days, when I was painfully broke—$1000/month stipend, $550/rent—and a grocery bill of $40 caught my breathe. My new puppy was terribly ill and, as the vet instructed, ate the leanest ground beef with rice twice a day as I was left to the bargain of meatlessness. I’ve never enjoyed pasta greatly, but I found a good, affordable jarred marinara to pair with $.99 spaghetti noodles. In need of greater substance, I melted a slice of domestic Swiss over my sauce and noodles—piekna, as my Polish grandfather would say! My favorite grad school dinner was born! And my puppy and I feasted in our hand-me-down-rich apartment, enjoying our delicacies and all the life they promised.