For those of you keeping track, I believe our last official family portraits (you know, the kind taken by an actual photographer), are dated circa 1999. No, that’s not a typo…it’s an outright embarrassment. Because looking back now, it just does not seem possible that we could not have fit in at least one session somewhere between two careers, two school schedules, club and high school soccer practices, games and tournaments, family trips, cooking, eating, sleeping, breathing…I know there were moments somewhere that would have served. But here we are, better late than never, right?
We all wear glasses now, folks. Yep, it’s not just Steve anymore. And truthfully, none of us really mind them that much (once I got used to progressive lenses). We’re a strange little family in that sense. But this was my favorite picture of us (we took several with glasses and several without), so I picked it. I think Steve feels a little uncomfortable about it. Like it is some form of bait and switch. I told him that’s what disclaimers are all about. This paragraph has been an official disclaimer. I believe in the liberal use of disclaimers. It keeps you honest and is therefore good for the soul.
I wanted to talk about my guys because they are a huge influence in my life, and each has in his own way been a major contributor to the evolution of my love affair with food preparation. My mom was a wonderful home cook who I miss every day since we lost her, so I was blessed with some genetic and cultural legacies that compel me to feed people. But beyond her, I married this amazing guy who learned from his dad that when mom works all day and still comes home and makes a meal, you better eat it whether you like it or not.
Don’t get me wrong. Steve has a wonderfully evolved appreciation for all kinds of food. But when we were first married, I made a lot of mistakes. Frequent, embarrassingly disastrous (tons of cinnamon in my taco meat, people), taste it and realize “why are you eating it because I just can’t” kinds of mistakes. But he ate it all, and learned that if it was good, he would compliment it. He also learned that if it wasn’t so good, he might want to mention that I should not repeat that particular dish or he might be likely to suffer through it another time. The man mentors and guides with strategic thinking and compassion. So I’m keeping him.
Look at my handsome Matt, everyone! Graduated and out in career-world for a couple of years or so now. He’s my “eat just about everything you put in front of him” (except maybe pickles) guy. The one who cleans my plate when I can’t finish it, or when anyone can’t finish theirs, for that matter. His vovó (Portuguese for grandma) would be so proud to see that he inherited her “rabbit” gene. Man, that woman loved a salad. At the end of the meal, if there was any salad left, she would ask if there were any takers, and if not, she would polish it right off, right out of the serving bowl. That’s my Matt-man too.
And from late grade school on, he’s been a big force behind my cooking exploration. See, he has this amazing palate. We would go out to restaurants and he would eat something and start listing the ingredients he could taste. Sometimes we would test him and ask the wait staff, who would consult with the chef. He never tried to identify all of the ingredients, but the ones that he did were not often wrong. It was his ability to do that that led me to try more complicated recipes. Matt made me think of food as layers of flavor, which was not how I approached cooking before.
And my newly minted college graduate! My Sam-Sam previously known as (and discarded at his request) Sammy. Although when a cute girl calls him Sammy his slow, lopsided, charming little grin makes a definite appearance. We call him a picky eater. But to his credit, by most standards, he most definitely is not. As a matter of fact, this young man will consume many foods the average person would not entertain. But within our family he is probably the one who has the longer “can you not put such-and-such in this time?” list.
Sam is my reason for re-purposing food. Well, if you read my “Old” Steak and Egg recipe, we are both my reason for re-purposing food. The list of straight leftovers we actually like to eat is much more limited than Steve’s and Matt’s, or many other people’s for that matter. So much so that I have learned to take previously prepared foods and make it into a different dish entirely. To date myself and speak to the Monty Python fan that should reside in all of us, it is my “…and now, for something completely different” take on food. Thank you, Sam, for your contribution. You helped create a whole new reality in our kitchen.
That’s a bit of my story, y’all. I did live in Texas for over 15 years, so I have earned the right to say it like a native. Cooking for me is a family thing that extended to friends and gatherings. I really do love it. I love creating something tasty. I love feeding people and watching them enjoy it. I love sitting down after putting it together and sharing it with the people I care about.
But most of all, Steve and I love these two. And it’s pretty clear that they love each other too. As a parent, the joy of watching siblings who love and support each other is just the cherry on the whipped cream (made from heavy cream, vanilla, and sugar in a chilled mixer bowl and whisk attachment, of course).