It's been a while. Last time I wrote, I had just moved into this apartment, and my mom had just been diagnosed with cancer. A lot's happened since then, some of it good, some of it decidedly bad. The haze of the past couple of years culminated in my mom passing away in April. For a while, I stopped cooking. I even quit the coop (aka the hippie store). We ate lots of Trader Joe's frozen food, risotto (turns out the only takeout food worth eating in this neighborhood is risotto), and Fresh Direct. We went back to our old neighborhood for Thai.
Since then it's been a slow journey back to myself. A little heavy for a cooking blog, but what the hell. It's been two years and it's my damn blog. For a while after my mom passed away, one of my coworkers, who happened to lose her sister a week or two after my mom, would randomly turn to me at work and ask 'do you still miss your mom sometimes?' So yeah, all day, every day, with every fiber of my being. Indulge me in a little reminiscing.
My mom was hysterically funny, and really had a handle on her particular brand of humor. She would send me cards with whatever money she had in her pocket (one time $2.37) and instructions to buy myself a cup of tea, or as I got older a beer, with the money. She would have one sided conversations with herself in said cards. 'How are you? I am fine. Your father and I are watching TV. I don't have anything else to say.' She would answer my calls when shopping, and then promptly announce that she couldn't multitask and hang up. She loved to tell the story about seeing a horse with a large erection while we were driving cross country. Suddenly full of understanding, she turned to me and started excitedly squealing 'hung like a horse! hung like a horse!' over and over again. Spending time on Cape Cod, she would always get into the ocean first, and we would act out the old cartoon Cecil and Beanie. She'd call, "Help, Cecil, help!" in a high voice, to which I would respond 'I'm coming Beanie,' and join her in the water, just past our heads, where we would tread water and talk about how many calories we were burning (usually 5,000/minute). She would get so excited about gift giving. She'd buy something, and then want to give it to the recipient immediately. Instead of doing that, though, she'd run through some version of 'no matter how hard you try you are not going to get it out of me...don't even try...ok, I got you a puzzle. I can't believe you made me tell you!'
Yeah, I still miss her. She was a great entertainer. She loved to cook a huge spread and have people over--the more the merrier. For her 50th birthday, we wanted to cater a party, or take her out to a restaurant, or rent out a hall. She refused, and would only let us heat up food that she had pre-made for her guests. One of my regrets is never learning her style of cooking. My sister is better at it--I am a strict recipe follower, but my mom could throw together seemingly random ingredients and make it taste good. Her version of writing down a recipe was 'croutons, sausage, celery, cream of chicken soup.' Full stop. My goal, in that and many things, is to be more like her.
One of the new recipes I tried this summer is perfect for entertaining. I saw it on a couple of different blogs, and then researched different versions of it. It is ideal for a lazy summer dinner party. It comes together quickly, and can be made while your guests nibble on starters. I like to dunk my bites in a pile of extra Old Bay. I made it for friends visiting from out of town, and again for family when I went to Cape Cod for the annual Carnival parade in Provincetown. I wish I could have made it for my mom-she would have liked it (and probably would have uttered many effusive 'mmm's and 'this is the best meal of my life' type statements. I'm not bragging, she just really enjoyed each meal and lived life like it would just keep getting better).
Low Country Boil
adapted from multiple sources, including katheats.com
serves a lot
4 ears corn, halved
1.5-2 lbs shrimp (deveined but not peeled--my fish market did it for me)
1-1.5 lbs smoked sausage (such as kielbasa)
6 red potatoes, quartered
1-2 lbs quahogs (optional, in this version my father had gone clamming, so we had quahogs to spare)
4 lemons, halved
1. Fill a large pot with water, add lemons and old bay to taste (I just dumped it in until the water tasted spicy), bring to a boil.
2. Add potatoes and kielbasa, cook 20 minutes.
3. Add corn and quahogs, cook 10 minutes.
4. Add shrimp, cook 3-5 minutes, until pink.
Drain and serve with extra old bay and a nice, crusty bread.