The Deliciousness of Life

Monday Morning Musings:

“Sitting down to dinner, at any age, should be an invitation to the fabulous banquet that is life. The most important lesson we learn at the table is that great awards await those who take chances. Do we really want to be telling our children ‘Just eat your nice chicken nuggets?’ It make so much more sense to say, ‘Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.’”

–Ruth Reichl, “Teach Your Children Well,” Gourmet Magazine, March 2007

The sunrise was spectacular this morning. I looked up from my seat at the kitchen table, coffee and newspaper in front of me, cat purring on my lap, and took in its beauty. Even if I had the photographic skills to capture it, it would have been difficult to do so—in seconds the sky went from shades of violet to deep flamingo pink to orange and then to apricot. If I could taste this sunrise, it would have been a rainbow sorbet, a swirl of sweetness melting on my tongue and then gone.

“When I come in here, it’s like I’m surrounded in sweetness. Sweetness and love,” my niece said to me on Saturday night. It was the night of our family holiday dinner (the weekend in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, close enough). Her words filled me with sweetness, too.

My summer was busy—much of it wonderfully so—after all, our younger daughter was married and we gained a fantastic son-in-law—but still, it was busy. I had a very large test-writing assignment to complete, which I finally did this past Wednesday. My husband and I went to the movies to celebrate and saw Learning to Drive, a sweet and sometimes funny movie that gently reminds its viewers of some important life lessons, such as always wearing seat belts, checking your road rage, and being aware of what’s going on around you, both on the road and in your life. Now it seems the summer is over. As summer turns to fall, and the summer sky grows lighter a bit later each day, I have some time to reflect. And cook, of course.

Those who say “food is just fuel” are missing something. Food is not simply fuel, and sitting around a table with family and friends is one of the great joys in life. On Friday, a dear friend, who I have not seen all summer, came by, bearing sushi—actually complete lunches for both of us of miso soup, salad, and sushi (shrimp tempura and sweet potato rolls). I was preparing for the next night’s dinner, but took a nice, long lunch break. We sat at my kitchen table and caught up. How lovely to have friends like that!

Our Saturday night dinner was relaxed. I had done most of the cooking before that day—so much so that I said to my husband early Saturday afternoon that I felt like I had forgotten to do something. After slicing the meat in the morning, I went to the gym, and then after lunch I even had time for a brief rest. He told me that it was just that I had done it so many times, that I had it all under control. He had done much of the cleaning, however, which always helps.

So after our guests arrived, we toasted the new year, 5776, and dipped apples in honey and ate challah. (I baked 8 over the course of the week because, oh my God, what if there isn’t enough? Do you remember that time we bought a new freezer simply because I needed it to freeze Rosh Hashanah challahs?) It is traditional to eat lots of sweet foods for Rosh Hashanah. We had yellow split pea-pumpkin soup; it is slightly sweet and spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and pepper. Life needs a bit of spice, too, right? The gold color symbolizes wealth and prosperity.

Yellow Split Pea-Pumpkin Soup

Yellow Split Pea-Pumpkin Soup

Our younger daughter brought this delicious salad with a maple balsamic dressing.

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We had noodle kugel. That’s kugel, not Kegel.

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For the meat-eaters, there was brisket

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And turkey. Because (see above) we might not have enough.

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My husband is eating lots of leftovers this week.

We drank wine. We talked, and then it was time for coffee and dessert.

Apple Cake (It is much better than it looks in photo!)

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Baklava

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And brownies. . .because. . .well, you know, chocolate, and with a hint of sea salt because. . .well, you know, chocolate and salt.

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The next day, my husband and I, along with our younger daughter and son-in-law went to the Heritage Wine Festival, a two-day event in Mullica Hill, NJ. My son-in-law has earned huge points for offering to be our designated driver. We were pleased to see some wineries there that we never visited before. My husband and I ended up buying a bottle of Rossa della Valle from Hopewell Valley Vineyards, a Chambourcin-Cabarnet blend. Our daughter bought the same, plus a bottle of their chocolate port. We also bought a port, Vat 19 Port from Unionville Vineyards. We’re thinking we’ll open that at Thanksgiving, when our older daughter and her wife will also be here.

We brought food—challah, anyone? I have a couple in my freezer. We tasted, we sat, ate, walked around and enjoyed the beautiful weather. It was a beautiful September day. We shed the sweatshirts we wore earlier and basked in the sun. Daughter and I were thrilled to find a farm stand amidst the vendor booths. We split a basket of peppers and each of us bought lovely, ripe Jersey peaches. It was a perfect sweet ending for a weekend of sweetness and love, a weekend of celebrating family and friends, and the joy of conversation around food and wine. Wishing all of you joy, peace, and many opportunities to taste the deliciousness of life.

Heritage Wine Festival, Sunday, September 20, 2015

Heritage Wine Festival,
Sunday, September 20, 2015

“So sweet it seems with thee to walk,

And once again to woo thee mine—

It seems in after-dinner talk

Across the walnuts and the wine.”

–Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

“The Miller’ Daughter”

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19 thoughts on “The Deliciousness of Life

  1. I loved reading about your festivities and seeing pics of the tasty dishes. How nice to tuck all this celebration between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Your cooking sprees remind me of those of prolific author Louise deSalvo who maintains that cooking enables her to write.

    By the way, cheers to your sweet, “sober” son-in-law!

    • Thanks so much, Marian. I was taking photos of all the dishes and telling my husband, “But all my blogger friends want to see them.” 🙂 Our son-in-law was very kind to be our driver. I will pass on your “cheers!”

  2. O my golly goodness Merril I am positively salivating! What a wonderful weekend of deliciousness on all fronts, not just the food … I laughed out loud re the extra freezer required for the challah! Did you make the baklava? Now I’ve heard everything! Such sweetness to you and family all year long …

  3. Merril … You had me at pumpkin soup. That is one of my weaknesses. 😉 Your niece is right. Your home does sound like a sweet place to be. I’ve always loved it when family and/or friends gather around the table, eat, drink, and talk. It is the loveliest time.

    The baklava is another favorite of mine. Lucky you to have a designated driver on your wine tour. If we’d had one when we visited the wineries in the Watkins Glenn area, we would have indulged in more tastings. 😉

    • Thanks, Judy! The soup is delicious–one of my favorites, as well.
      It was actually a wine festival at one location, and several wineries had stands set up. It was very nice though of my son-in-law. My husband got to do extra tastings–and he also bought a craft beer to taste since he wasn’t driving! 😉

  4. The food looks wonderful and has made me very hungry which is okay because it’s almost time to prepare dinner. Your weekend sounds like it was brimming with joy and family and all the sweet (and good) things in life. I enjoyed the Ruth Reichl quote. I’ve read a couple of her books, and like the way she describes food and the rituals surrounding it.

  5. When I read your posts, I think of my favorite movie of all time, Babette’s Feast.
    Food and drink and long conversation is sweet indeed in the presence of loved ones. And the ones present become loved even if they weren’t before. Such is the power of spiritual and emotional food.

    Thanks for the wonderful Tennyson quote. It will come in handy as a toast when our own family gathers next.

    • Thanks so much, Shirley. Babette’s Feast is a wonderful movie–I’m glad my post made you think of it. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the Tennyson quote, too, and I hope your next family gathering is filled with much joy!

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