Food Finds: New Year’s Eve Plans


Although my astrological sign (Cancer) would tell you otherwise, I don’t have much desire come New Year’s Eve to make lists of all that’s been accomplished this year and things that still need to get done in the next or generally reflect on the past 364 days.  By this time of year, I’m more than ready to get started on a new path with new adventures.  I tell you this because I’d thought about doing a round up of all things food as we head into 2011, but I’d much rather think about what you’re doing on NYE and all the yummy things we have to look forward to in the coming year.

I’ve never been a fan of spending gob loads of money to stand around with a bunch of strangers trying to pretend that we’re having a good time, so I rarely venture out on December 31.  This year, though, I’m putting on a nice outfit and heading to Vermilion for a 5 course Indian-Latin meal.  There appears to be some Iron Chef battle going on that night, too, which I’m not entirely clear on, but if you’re giving me duck vindaloo and shrimp paella while a DJ spins, battle it out to your heart’s content!  Other restaurants you should check out if you’re interested in ringing in the next decade on a tasty note:

  • Mercadito is also doing a 5 course menu with an open bar option.  This is one of my favorites for always good, always fresh and always fun Mexican.
  • Cafe des Architectes will let you celebrate in grand style by adding black truffles to your entrée. Go ahead! You deserve it.
  • Recently reopened Avec is throwing their hat into the 5 course NYE ring and has an optional wine pairing in case you don’t want to have to figure that out on your own.  As one of the best communal table places in the city, you may meet your 2011 crush while feasting on pork belly cassoulet.
  • I’ve never had a bad meal or a boring time at Carnivale, which on top of Caribbean inspired food will have samba dancers and other live entertainment. Really, can you go wrong with that?

If you’re looking to bring in the new year like a rock star, check out these sure to be spectacular parties:

  • After you have dinner at Cafe des Architectes, head to Le Bar which is located on the other side of the Sofitel. It’s one of my favorites for its cozy atmosphere (fire place included!), St. Germain inspired cocktails and lovely park view.
  • Sable Kitchen & Bar (which provided the delish treats and liquor laced cocktails for my birthday this year) is going retro with a 1940s theme party, complete with small plates, desserts and champagne.
  • Only a few tickets are left for Lumen’s Vintage Vegas Party, so get moving (procrastination is sooo 2010!).  I’ve had many a fun night at this swanky and sophisticated club, including birthday ’09.

And when you wake up on Saturday morning, feeling less like a rock star and more like you’ve been hit on the head with a boulder, put a coat on over your pjs (or your going out clothes, either way) and find yourself at one these hangover cure spots:

  • Eatt’s menu reads like the comfort food lover’s dream: corn beef hash and eggs, sausage, bacon and ham skillet (yes, that’s all in one dish!) and Dutch apple pancakes.  Go even if you aren’t hung over.
  • The Bongo Room is a no-brainer.  Just say yes to chocolate tower french toast, smoked duck breast Benedict or (and?) pumpkin spice pancakes.
  • If you can’t get to breakfast, let breakfast come to you.  Grub Hub offers delivery from hundreds of restaurants that usually don’t deliver.

I am wishing you all health, happiness, laughter, love and joy in 2011! Celebrate well and see you next year!

Just a note from your friendly lawyer by day, food blogger by night to say that all of my recommendations above are purely based on my own independent non-NYE visits to these places (except Grub Hub, which I’ve never used) and while I can’t guarantee that they’ll wow you like they did me, I really hope they do.  Obviously let me know if you go and what you think.

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Christmas Treats


I have a friend who is a terrible regifter.  There is nothing wrong with regifting; I’ve done it myself on occasion (never to you or one of your presents though! NEVER! How could you even think that?!?).  The key to regifting is to remember who gave you what and never make the regift seem as though that’s exactly what it is.  I mean, if you have a known dislike of scented candles, don’t go and give someone a set of pine scented tapers that you received. It’s going to be obvious that you didn’t purchase that.  But, if you get something that you already have one of, or that doesn’t fit and you really can’t return, I say regift away in good faith!  This friend, though, has not only regifted me something that I have given her (can you seriously imagine??), but has regifted me something that is so hideous that you know someone regifted it to her at some point.  There was likely a chain of this particular gift dating back to the late 20th century that I had to break.  I couldn’t, with a clear conscience, give it to anyone else (even a work grab bag), yet I couldn’t throw it away because it was a gift, as horrid as it was… So it sits in my closet taking up valuable shoe space.  I wish I could tell you what it is, but I need to protect the regifter here.  Don’t be that person this year.

Anyhoo, I bought many ingredients over the last couple of days to make all manner of Christmas goodies, but truth be told, the transition from sunny Hawai’i to bitter cold Chicago has taken its toll.  Tears have been shed as I watched the weather report while eating from a bag of chocolate chips intended for chocolate covered pretzels.  But this is where the regift is totally acceptable.  I’ve listed below some of my fave recipes from Christmases past so that you can make a list, hit the stores and be ready for Santa or other guests that may drop in unexpectedly.  You can thank me by promising to have a happy, joyful, restful, food-and alchoholful Christmas.  Merry Merry to you!

Chocolate Covered Oreos are my favorite go-to easy dessert year round.  Adding crushed candy canes kicks them up a holiday notch.

Sugar and Gingerbread Cookies are two of Santa’s favorites, so if you haven’t been all that good this year I’d commit these recipes to memory ASAP.  The vanilla cream is addictive, so be careful.

Would it really be Christmas without a fruitcake?  In a perfect world, you would have started soaking yours in rum around Easter, but give your guests a shot of Appleton’s on the side and they’ll be happy.

Speaking of rum, a little goes a long way in this egg nog.  Unless you’ve had a really stressful shopping experience; then you may as well do it up a bit.  I won’t tell.

If you’re feeling like really ramping up the decorating, try making red velvet cupcakes and adding a little green food coloring to the icing.  I don’t know, for some reason it looks really cute in my head.  It could be that I’ve had a bit too much of the spiked egg nog mentioned above…

Growing up, Christmas breakfast was almost as important as Christmas dinner in our house.  These cinnamon rolls are hella labor intensive, but also hella delish and impressive, so get started on making Santa’s good list for next year and have these ready.  Otherwise, doughnut holes or blueberry muffins will definitely hit the spot after all the presents have been unwrapped.

You deserve a break today, and it’s not at McDonald’s.  After all the shopping and wrapping and making chit chat with cousins you (a) see once a year and (b) don’t actually like, relax with a Come Heather Look, brought to you by the letters G-I-N and the friendly folks at St. Germain.  Don’t say I never gave you anything…

Pumpkin Pie Brulée


Oh kids!  Did you think that I’d forgotten about you? Did you worry that I wouldn’t come up with a little Thanksgiving something to complete your holiday table?  Probably not, because if you’re like me, you are so ridiculously overwhelmed by the fact that Thanksgiving is TOMORROW for crying out loud, that you have precious little room to think about anything else.  For the love of all things good, where is the time going??  Remember that one time when I said that I’d have all of these new and exciting things for you? Yeah.  About that… I really truly do, but life came at me fast over the past couple of weeks and things got a bit sidetracked (apologies in advance for a pictureless post.  Fingers crossed that I can get them up this afternoon. You know, after I actually bake the pies and all…).  And then I’m (knock on wood) going on a bit of a holiday next week (Hawaii! Woo hoo!).  I promise that after I disconnect the Mai Tai drip, I will be back in full force.  Please stick around, ok?  You all make me happy and I’d like to return the favor.

Even though I haven’t actually made the pie for this Thanksgiving yet, it is my go to Turkey Day dessert, so I can completely stand behind it.  A couple of years ago, I decided to mix things up a bit and try something else, and you know how that turned out.  It was kind of like when you have your very best friend for years and then the new girl comes to town and she seems like the perfect person to be your new best friend and even though you know better you ditch the old best friend for the new one and she totally stabs you in the back and steals your boyfriend.  And then you have to go begging your old friend to take you back.  Not that that ever happened to me, but you get the point (I hope.  It’s early and while this all makes sense in my head, I worry that it’s not translating).  At any rate, the pie is relatively easy as pies go, but I’m going to say go ahead and use a pre-made crust, because who has time to cut butter into flour and all that other crazy at this late date (and if you do have the time, god love you and please stop by my house with some fresh dough).  I will also suggest that you pick yourself up a handy blow torch to make the brulée topping, because putting it under the broiler is a little iffy and who doesn’t like to have some fun with a blow torch around the holidays? If you do go the broiler route, be sure to cover the edges of your crust with foil so there are no burnt bits.  Oh! And a little whipped cream never hurt anyone.

Since I’ll be making duck, I can’t help you out on the turkey part, but in case you need some ideas for sides, check out the posts on cranberries, roasted sweet potatoes, cornbread stuffing and corn goodness.  All are super easy and delicious, which is exactly what we need as the holiday madness descends.  I, of course, wish you a lovely Thanksgiving, filled with happy times and enough leftovers for a midnight snack…

Updated: I decided to do mini pies and the first time around worked well.  Just bake on a cookie sheet for about 25 minutes, chill and do your bruleeing before serving.  The second time around for a party, I bruleed and then transported, and the sugar melted and there was no turning back to the crunchy sugar coating I’d perfected before I left home.  Lesson learned: carry a blow torch with you at all times.  So, I have to give this 3 stars, because while it’s tasty as can be, the inability to be able to rely on it turning out right each time is too much for my baker’s heart to handle…

Pumpkin Pie Brulée (courtesy of Bon Appetit)

  • 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Fold overhang under and crimp decoratively. Pierce dough all over with fork. Freeze 15 minutes. Line crust with foil; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until sides are set, about 12 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Whisk pumpkin and 3/4 cup sugar in large bowl to blend. Whisk in eggs, then cream, spices, and salt. Pour filling into warm crust. Bake pie until filling is set in center, about 50 minutes. Transfer pie to rack; cool 30 minutes. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Preheat broiler. Sprinkle pie evenly with 2 tablespoons sugar. Broil until sugar melts and begins to caramelize, turning pie for even browning, about 1 minute. Let pie stand until topping hardens, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle pie again with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Broil again until sugar browns, about 1 minute. Refrigerate pie until topping hardens, about 30 minutes. Serve or keep refrigerated no more than 2 hours longer.

Flaky Pie Crust Dough

Yield: Makes one 9-inch crust

  •  1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add butter and shortening. Rub in with fingertips until very coarse meal forms. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons water. Toss until moist clumps form, sprinkling with more water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated. Soften dough slightly at room temperature before using.)

Caramel Apples


Before I got braces, I really really wanted them.  I also wanted glasses and a cast (preferably arm, but I would have made do with a leg).  I’m sure any therapist worth his or her $200 an hour fee would tell you what I really wanted was attention, even in the form of teasing and taunting, but because I went to a school full of nerdy people–even the coolest kids crammed around our old school Apple computers and played Oregon Trail at lunch–having braces and glasses would barely have gotten me noticed.  Unfortunately, thanks to all the carrots I ate, my eyesight was 20/20 (although I did try to fail an eye exam, but took it too far and had a very alarmed school nurse thinking I was legally blind) and I was never adventurous enough to break an arm, but luckily my teeth were a mess.  I’m sure there was a bidding war in the back of the orthodontist’s office to fill my mouth with metal.  I mean, at one point there was talk of breaking my jaw to align my teeth.  So, months before turning 14 I got my wish for braces and they were all I hoped for.

That is, of course, until I was approaching my 16th birthday.  What almost 16 year old wants braces?? I threatened to remove them myself if Dr. G didn’t take them off for me.  I even convinced the man to up the ante in the months leading up to my birthday by removing the wires and giving me a mouth guard to speed up the process (I, of course, did not think of the fact that the mouth guard would prevent me from talking, which I’m sure is why he went for it.  Luckily I only had to wear it while I slept). 

Anyhoo.  The braces came off days before my 16th birthday and the first thing I wanted was a caramel apple.  Obviously they were verboten while I had braces, but even before I’d never been able to eat one right off the stick, because my top and bottom teeth didn’t meet in the middle (you thought I was kidding about how crazy they were, didn’t you??).  I always had to cut them up, which really defeated the purpose.  So, I wanted to bite into a caramel apple and drink sugary drinks and eat Cheetos to my heart’s content.  I was totally foiled though, because my birthday is in July and there was nary a caramel apple to be found.  But I kept my dreams alive and at the first whiff of fall I went in search of caramel to make my own batch of apples.  This is where the shininess of youth starts to color your recollections, because as I remember it all I had to do was melt the caramel, dip my apples in, let them cool and voila! Happiness at my fingertips. 

This go round? Not so much.  First of all, there were no sticks in the bag of caramel like I remember, so I had to schlep to Michaels (usually a happy experience, but I was on a mission) and then it took me forever to actually get them in the apples.  As for the melting of the caramel, I admit that I didn’t follow the package directions completely–I used a double boiler instead of melting it down–but I really don’t remember nearly getting third degree burns while dipping the apples.  Melted caramel is hot, kids! You heard it here first.

In the end, an apple covered in caramel is never a bad thing, no matter the process to get there, so hopefully they’ll make your Halloween to-do list.  As for my teeth, they’ve shifted a bit (I actually went to talk to Dr. G about it last summer and he was SALTY. Like I had done his good work a disservice.  He retired soon after…). I still don’t wear glasses and have no desire for a broken arm or leg any longer.  My need for attention, though, has grown significantly…

Caramel Apples

  • 1 bag Kraft caramels
  • 5 apples
  • lots of patience

We’re going super simple on the recipe today.  Follow the directions on the back of the bag of Kraft caramels.  Don’t be foolish (like me) and try to invent your own.

Red Velvet Cupcakes


After the baking extravaganza of last week, I really considered letting Valentine’s Day come and go without any baked goods, but really, I couldn’t pass up a chance to make red velvet cupcakes and since the recipe is easy enough for any random Wednesday, the upcoming Hallmark holiday seemed like as good a time as any. 

There really is no story behind this one (I figure all the wordiness of the last entry should hold you for a bit), except that I totally cheated and used Betty Crocker frosting, because as much as I enjoyed making my own for the devil’s food cake, I made the decision that the pros are better at it and why mess with a good thing.  That, or I didn’t have any powdered sugar.  Either way.

These are super easy and ridiculously moist and tasty.  And I think I’ll let the pictures be my 1000 words right now…

  

Red Velvet Cupcakes (courtesy of Paula Deen via foodnetwork.com)

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Chocolate Covered Oreos


I had a really good story to go along with this little recipe, and I swear I cannot remember what it was.  No, seriously. I’ve been sitting here for five minutes trying to remember the story that came to mind while I was making these on Saturday and, thank god my life does not depend on it, because I’d have an easier time telling you the square root of 72 than I would remembering the story right now (and if you know me at all, you know that it would be impossible for me to tell you the square root of 72.  I don’t even know if 72 has a square root).  Yikes.  Mama needs to lay off the eggnog

At any rate, suffice it to say that I love Oreos and adding a bit of milk chocolate and sprinkles (or crushed candy canes) takes them from happy to euphoric in about an hour (the time it takes to melt the chocolate, dip the cookies and let them set).  

These aren’t just for holidays, but come in handy when you need a quick dessert to take along to a party or have a sick friend or really just need some comfort food because you realize that you can’t remember as far back as two days ago. 

I’m going to let the pictures do the talking for me while I go looking for my sanity…

Chocolate Covered Oreos

  • 1 bag Hershey’s milk chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
  • Oreos

In a stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water, combine chocolate chips and shortening (you don’t necessarily need the shortening, but I find it helps the chocolate to spread more easily).   Stir until melted; remove from heat.

Using two spoons, dip Oreos (a couple at a time, depending on the size of your bowl) in the melted chocolate and coat both sides.  Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.  Decorate top of cookie with sprinkles or crushed candy canes. 

Let set in refrigerate for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Sugar Cookies, Gingerbread Cookies, Vanilla Cream Filling. Oh my!


A few years ago I got it into my head that I really wanted to bake cookies and other treats for all of my friends rather than just buy a piece of jewelry and be another shopper falling for the commercialism of Christmas.  I went to the Container Store and bought all manner of well, containers, and ribbons and anything else that screamed homemade! And love! And the spirit of the season! I decided on caramel covered pretzels and chocolate covered Oreos and some other type of cookie madness.  It was seriously one of the worst ideas ever.  Not only did it cost a small fortune (likely the price of a nice piece of jewelry) to get all of the containers and then mail them, but all of the baking and wrapping and standing in line at the post office was just shy of torture.  I’m not exactly sure where things went wrong—somewhere between melting the caramel and filling the sugar cookies with lemon curd that wouldn’t set no matter how much I begged—but in the end, I was miserable and I’m sure the recipients took one look at their not-even-close-to-Martha Stewart-Christmas basket and wished I’d made a donation (of cash) to a local food bank in their name and saved them having to lie to me about how much they loved it.

I haven’t made holiday cookies since (except for the chocolate covered Oreos—recipe to follow!), but I guess that I’ve recovered from the trauma of Christmas’ past, because I’ve had visions of gingerbread stars and sugary snowmen dancing in my head for weeks.  Luckily, I have a few friends who wanted to learn to bake and I figured that I could test out some recipes on them and if things went awry, the fact that we’d be drinking mimosas while we baked would make up for it. 

And, it must of have been an early Christmas miracle, because everything turned out much better than expected (and infinitely better than the crazy that came out of my kitchen a few years ago).  We rolled the dough for the sugar cookies out a little thicker than recommended so the cookies were more cake like and decorated them with this very happy premade icing. 

For the gingerbread, we filled them with a super easy and ridiculously delicious vanilla cream that tastes like Oreo filling and really could be eaten with a spoon on any given Wednesday. 

I can’t say that someone would prefer to get these cookies rather than a nice bracelet from Cartier, but you’ll definitely earn some points with Santa if these are left out…

Sugar Cookies, Gingerbread Cookies and Vanilla Cream Filling…

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Cornbread Stuffing


When I was a kid I had an irrational fear of three things: being kidnapped, quicksand and being poisoned.  The first two I blame on Scooby Doo and Bugs Bunny cartoons (no, seriously.  Those dang kids in the Mystery Machine were always getting themselves in trouble and would wind up in some haunted mansion tied up and left to fend for themselves and some Warner Bros. character was always either setting a trap over quicksand or falling into a pit of it.  Where I thought I’d find a pit of quicksand in downtown Chicago was beside the point.  As is this lenghty parenthetical, I realize). 

The poisoning was a little more rational, or at least a little more understandable.  My family, coming from an island, always worried about food spoiling if left out too long.  They would also get packages of canned food items from Jamaica like ackee–which were hard to find in New York–and talk of botchulism swirled around my grandmother’s kitchen (unripened ackee can also kill you, so there was that added delight).  I barely understood what they were talking about, but I knew enough to be afraid that one bite of the wrong thing could spell the end of me (dramatic? Me? Never…).

Anytime a turkey was involved the question of whether to put the stuffing inside or bake it separately came up, because stuffing left in the cavity of the bird could spoil, and you guessed it, kill us all.   It was a great debate each year, because the stuffing was more moist if baked inside the turkey, and that, for some reason, seemed worth the risk.  I wasn’t taking any chances, though, so I never ate stuffing unless it was of the Stovetop variety.  I refused to taste it, and truth be told, the texture and mushy look of it (plus the addition of things like giblets) let me know I wasn’t missing anything.

I’m not sure when my boycott against stuffing ended, but a few years ago I found a recipe (in a magazine ad for chicken stock) that sounded too good to pass up.  And it is so delicious that I make extra and freeze it so I can have some on a random Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  The recipe is also super easy, especially if you cheat and use Jiffy cornbread mix instead of making your own.  It’s moist and not the least bit mushy (thanks to the bits of french bread) and since you bake it separately from the turkey, there is no risk of poisoning yourself or your family, which is always a good thing….  Happiest of Thanksgivings to you!

Cornbread Stuffing

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Corn Goodness


So Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that there’s no pressure, no presents to buy, no songs to get sick of; it’s just about good food and family and friends and if you’re lucky lots of leftovers. I also love that you can make an entire meal out of the side dishes. Turkey and ham are lovely, but really, they just take up room on the plate when sweet potatoes and stuffing and rice and peas and roasted vegetables are available. For the next couple of days, I’ll be posting my favorite sides that I wish I could eat all the time, but only get made during the holidays (for no other reason than I totally OD on them for a month and then can’t really think about them again for awhile).

A friend of mine used to host a holiday girls’ night where she’d pull out her good plates and glasses, decorate her apartment and have about 10 us over for dinner. Some years it was just before she left to go home to Texas for Thanksgiving; other years it would be around Christmas and we’d do a present exchange.  We were all asked to bring something, and one year another Heather brought this corn dish that I took one bite of and promptly pulled the rest of closer to my plate and guarded it like a prisoner getting extra bread and water (or whatever prisoners eat). It was kind of like a soufflé, but a little denser and grainy, like polenta. I admit that I stalked Heather for the rest of the party until she finally wrote down the recipe for me and when I tell you it is the simplest—and likely one of the best—things I’ll ever post, I’m not exaggerating (like I’d ever do that). She didn’t have a name for it, so I instantly named it Corn Goodness, because that’s exactly what it tasted like—all the sweetness and goodness of corn, baked into this better than cornbread, almost like stuffing, happiness.

It’s insanely easy, but no one has ever tasted it and not asked me for the recipe immediately. It goes with just about everything, so memorize it and keep the ingredients handy, so you can whip it up on a cold day when you need a little goodness in your world…

Corn Goodness

  • 1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1 egg 
  • 1 cup sour cream 
  • 1 can sweet fresh corn 
  • 1 can creamed corn 
  • Dash of salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all of the ingredients in bowl.  Stir well until the mix is fully incorporated.  Pour into pie dish (or individual ramekins) and bake for 30 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. Cool slightly and then cut into triangles.  Serve warm.

Anniversary Potato Salad


A number of years ago today—I’d have to go into witness protection if I gave the actual number—my mother and aunt arrived in New York City from Jamaica.  They were 11 and 9 years old and had been separated from their parents and brother for four years.  My grandparents left one island where the sun actually provided warmth for another one where the few rays of sun were deceptive.  My grandmother left first, going to Canada and then coming into the United States where she found work in the Garment District and set up a small approximation of the life they’d had in pre-independence Kingston.  My grandfather and uncle followed, and I imagine that the rationale for leaving my mother and aunt behind was that it was easier to start a life in a new place with only one child instead of three.  I have been told this story for as long as I can remember. 

Every year on this day, either my mother or aunt would call the other and wish each other happy anniversary.  Then they would reminisce about how it was so cold, a sensation they couldn’t possibly have ever imagined, and how a few days later it snowed, just little flakes, but enough to make them stop whatever they were doing to watch this magic falling from the sky.  They’d talk about how the American accents sounded so odd to their ears—so flat—but how they were the ones who got teased for their lilting British voices.  The phone call always ended with memories of their first Thanksgiving, just a week after they arrived, with friends who lived in the same building.  First they were served Velveeta and Ritz crackers (imagine never having had American cheese and your first introduction being Velveeta!) and then the turkey and stuffing and ham and the thing my mother remembers most, potato salad with mayonnaise.  As she tells it, the white potatoes (which they’d also never had) were completely overwhelmed by heavy mayonnaise and it was cold and unfamiliar and just so not good.  The texture and the temperature and the very idea of mayonnaise were more than she could handle, and to this day she will make a face when she thinks of it.  Again, I’ve been told these stories for as long as I can remember. 

This is the first year that my aunt will not be here so that my mother can wish her a happy anniversary.  It is the second that my uncle is not here to chime in with what little he may have remembered about his two older sisters on this day.  It has been more than a decade since my grandparents told their version of the story.  Even though they were separated for years, the five of them stayed a family and were finally brought together many years ago today and remained together from that moment on.  There was so much between then and now, more than I’ll ever know, about struggles and fear and being strangers in a strange place where everything was new and sometimes not so shiny.  But I know that they were happy to be together, that they were happy to be here in this country where they made the best of every day, that they loved to dance and laugh and taste new foods (even things like mayonnaise), and that their story—which has become mine—is one of the best stories I’ve ever been told…

 Mustard Potato Salad With Capers (Happy Anniversary, Mom!)

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