The Lovely Beach of Umami-Land

I am feasting: right now, by myself, in front of the computer. When my husband’s out of town—which he is, hiking the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail—I indulge in my favorites. Tonight, it’s spinach salad with pine nuts, artichoke hearts, and lemon; sautéed mushrooms; and brie cheese with flat bread. I’m drifting off to umami-land even as I type.

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.

1 comment:

mwiegers said...

Ok after reading this post I'm so very hungry! All that food sounds great to me. Glad you had some good times with family.