missed (food + friend) connections

I long for connectedness, wanting to hold on to the people of whom I’ve let go. In a move, in growing up, across the country, across time, I think that’s what we do when we cook. We don’t only connect with people across the table; we connect with people across our lives. Food is magical that way; it’s memory.

It’s true for music and movies, too. Books. I love the idea, for example, of snuggling into bed knowing that a loved one is snuggling into his bed, falling asleep to the same movie, the same talk radio station, the same anything. It’s a way to connect when we can’t. Cooking the same recipe on the same night, each in our own kitchen, is a way to touch. Drinking the same wine. There’s an intimacy there, a sleepy tangle of closeness when you can’t be.

It’s also a way to stir up the comfort of a past life. Your mother’s spanakopita, your grandmother’s latke recipe. It’s why for Thanksgiving I’m reaching out, asking friends and readers to share their favorite staple, can’t live without it, dish. A friend from Texas told me she couldn’t survive Thanksgiving without her mother’s Hot Fruit Casserole. “A staple!!!” I now need to know about it, something to do with a can of cherry pie filling? This both disgusts and fascinates me. I love this idea of bringing those for whom you’re most thankful right up to your Thanksgiving table, all without encroaching on your elbow room. True, it’s unrealistic to imagine loading up my table with a dish to represent each meaningful friendship, but I wouldn’t mind trying. Perhaps we play the same dinner playlist, make the same “tablescape,” set the kids table up with the same crafts. I’m sending this post to friends, asking for something. A dish, a song, a photo of a table setting–I’m not picky. I want more of you in my life.

It’s also fun to think, “What would my signature dish be?” The dish others would have on their tables to represent YOU. I need to post this signature dish this week.

Bushels of Love (and apples)

In the coming month, perhaps I’ll post each day the movie to which I’ll be falling asleep, so we can have a sleepover, experiencing a little of the same life, despite living different ones. Much love and toasty snuggly cheers, smooches and hugs from a lush who’s ready to plan her drink of choice in advance, just so we can share that, too.

Tonight’s cocktail: “Saucy Apple for a Tart”

1/4 gallon apple cider
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup cinnamon schnapps (or Starbucks “Cinnamon Dolce sugar-free” or regular to taste + 1/2 cup vodka)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cut into large chunks (using a Honeycrisp)
1/2 lemon, juiced (I don’t have one, so I’m using the lemon juice from the bottle because it’s just to keep the apples from browning)

Mix the cider, rum, and schnapps in a large pitcher. Add the apples to a small bowl and toss with lemon juice. Thread the diced apples onto skewers. Pour the spiked cider into glasses filled with ice, then garnish with an apple skewer and serve. That’s me tonight as I watch Homeland in my jammies.

11 Responses to “missed (food + friend) connections”

  1. Michele Says:

    My husband’s family likes your saucy cranberry compote and has requested it each year since the first time I made it for Thanksgiving. I usually make that and try a new dessert or vegetable dish.

    Reply

  2. Jen Irlbacher Says:

    To be honest, Stephanie, ever since Thanksgiving at your house in Austin, YOUR recipes have been my signature dishes that people keep asking me to bring! Stephanie’s Candied Sweet Potatoes have been a constant, and I remember telling me you added a swig or two of extra bourbon for the fun of it. You were so very pregnant that year, yet you still had a house full of people and warm food which meant everything to me.
    Last year, I made a feast for only my father and I, and it was Paleo. I didn’t tell my father, and yet he loved every morsel and the leftovers. I don’t expect you to do the same, but I will say that my stuffing was awesome: crumbles of sausage, walnuts soaked overnight to soften a bit, diced pears, currants, celery, leeks, herbs, and baked with an egg to help it “stick.” I stuffed a turkey breast with it, but baked the extra yum. Pumpkin custard cups with toasted coconut instead of the pie with crust. I also roasted the turkey breast with parsnips and pears (like your puree), cauliflower, onion, and white wine, and pureed it with all the juices after. Yum.

    For me, growing up I hated the food at Thanksgiving, except for the stuffing and pies. Apple pie was always a staple (along with pumpkin, of course) for my mom to make. Staymans with a simple, flaky crust.

    I’m having Thanksgiving at a friend’s here in Austin again, but will be wishing you and yours the best! I’m looking forward to your cocktails and movies! Visit again soon. :)

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      You are such a love. I am doing a modified Paleo, where I occasionally eat dairy and hit up cocktails and wine. Dairy just makes no difference to my body, nothing averse. I think Paleo only really works if you cut out sugar completely, which is so very hard for me. That all said, I’m avoiding all grains easily, trying to eat healthfully, but I’ve promised myself this. Thanksgiving is going to be a food orgy. I will be paleo even the very next day with regard to leftovers, but on the day of, anything goes.

      We’re a table of 13 adults, 3 kids right now. If my in-laws and Phil’s sister and niece come, that’s 16 adults, 4 kids. My sister might fly up to join, 17. I got mad counting skillz. I love having so many people, LOVE. But I do wish there was room for “readers without a place to eat,” as I did that day when you arrived at my home in Austin. I’m so thankful that you came and that you’re in my life, even from a distance. I plan to make your Paleo version of “dressing” for just me! For my days of leftovers! Soak the walnuts a day before?

      Reply

      • Jen Irlbacher Says:

        Yep, I may have even done them the night before. Rinse after the soak.
        I do Paleo the way you do, even though certain dairy foods bother me. Food orgies are well-deserved sometimes. Especially with blondies involved.

        Random note: in the middle of a goal/accountability month with a friend, which includes things as silly as asking a crush on a date to writing something. Enough talk, time to walk. Will share with you, as promised. Wish you taught distance writing classes!

        Reply

  3. n56 Says:

    Is Mr. Bikini still part of your family? We don’t hear anything about him anymore.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      As someone recently pointed out to me on Facebook, you’re right. I haven’t written about him, in over a year, since I lived in Austin. I feel like it’s a story I’ve been avoiding telling because it feels like there’s too much to say and explain. I will at some point, it just takes a lot out of me.

      Reply

  4. 3 teens' mom Says:

    My signature dish? Maybe years ago it was melt in your mouth white rolls served with fresh, creamy butter. I used to make the best lemon meringue pie. Peanut butter, honey and pringle sandwiches were my specialty. Got pretty good at making lots of things.

    And this year everything changed.

    Darlings moved out to college, mom tried ‘death by hip replacement’, dad and I were left on our own and eating became a tiresome chore – cooking was worse. So we ate a lot of spinach salad and Costco salmon as we leaned on each other, bracing for the next blow. We shared Subway clubs or cheese on crackers with our wine or martinis as we waited for the phone to ring with the next bad news. My parents’ home, with mom in the hospital and in multiple assisted living centers, was losing that magical mom smell.

    I didn’t realize it until my birthday a few weeks ago. Mom’s last surgery (7th in 7 months) actually turned out to be a success. Once she decided that death by hip replacement was not her cup of tea, bad shit quit happening. She started getting better. Slowly she regained her grip on health and self. The pic-line went away. Necrotic fat became a fabulous band name (punk rock band…Necrotic Phat!! – you heard it here first).instead of a dressing changing oozing horror. Her wound healed. Stuff that’s supposed to be inside stayed there. She got stronger. Happier. Though an impatient patient, went through all the rehab, wore the awful brace and soon dad started walking a little taller too.

    Fast forward to birthday. I had just returned from a business trip – the darlings came home from college for birthday dinner at my mom and dad’s house. As we all came trooping in the door – I stopped in my tracks. Instead of the smell of sick, of sad, of tired and wound dressings that had been with us since March – the smell of the most wonderful home-made angel food cake met us – front and center. Tears filled my eyes.

    Mom made my favorite birthday cake. She was well enough and there was no stopping her. Suddenly – it smelled like the home I’ve always known. It smelled like mom.

    She’s back and she’s ‘gramming all around’ – baking, crocheting, churching, watering the plants, ironing the shirts, holding hands with my dad…basically all the things she loves about life. And we’ll treasure every single minute we have left together.

    Angel food cake is what I wish for everyone – made by my mom. With courage AND strength.

    Reply

  5. erica Says:

    Love this post, Stephanie.
    My attempt at growing pumpkins failed again this summer, but you should see the absolutely enormous squash I have growing in my backyard : ) I’m currently working on the perfect squash recipe and will share when I have things just right.

    Last night I fell asleep to 500 Days of Summer. Love, love, love.
    I stay connected with my far away loved ones by sharing the moon. If we’re both outside and under the same moon, then we couldn’t be that far apart.

    Reply

  6. tcseattle Says:

    German heritage leads to sauerkraut with bacon to accompany the turkey. Brown slivered bacon until crispy, add a large bottle of sauerkraut with juice. Simmer for 1-6 hours! Sounds ridiculous, but the acidity of the sauerkraut with the turkey is amazing. My two kids are devastated when the leftovers are gone to pair with the turkey.

    Reply

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