Down to the Studs

escargot-with-butter.jpgMy mother had a lot of china that I don’t have – ceramic oven proof shells for devilled crab, individual servers for escargot and 8 accompanying silver snail scoopers (I’m sure there’s a name for that tool, but I don’t know what it is), a bowl for dip that was set and centered into a plate for chips, an electric carving knife (which I always thought was silly and held great possibilities as the basis for a comedic horror film or a cartoon with an accompanying caption.)

I do have champagne glasses (although not as many as I’d like because our cabinet space is limited to say the least); a monogrammed caviar dish (yeah, it was a gift) that we don’t use nearly as much as I wish we did; a Jack La Lanne juice and vegetable squeezer that seemed like such a good idea at the time and that is, now, either in the pantry or the garage – and I’m not sure I could find all the parts to it if my life depended on it. Maybe then.

We do have a cuisinart electric citrus squeezer which is pretty great (even though I do think it’s a little larger than it needs to be for what it does) and a tomato knife which I think is my favorite utensil.

nutcracker.jpgWe have one nutcracker which is sort of silly since one of our favorite things to do if there are “four of us” for dinner is serve cracked crab and whereas we think it’s sort of amusing and family-style to pass the one nutcracker around, I’m not sure our guests always agree. I could fix this. It’s on my list of things to fix.

Along with the dryer (that only works some of the time) and the outside refrigerator which actually did break a month ago but since according to someone on “twitter” it’s “mercury retrograde”, I’m not sure you’re supposed to buy a new appliance. I will have to fix this before Christmas, (even though supposedly mercury doesn’t go direct until December 30th) or buy a very large ice bucket (which we, also, don’t have on purpose, because we have very limited cabinet space).

I wish I had the microplane herb grater that was suggested by T Magazine for grating fresh herbs. I do have an herb garden. And many deer, but they’re invited guests and live in a protected space. We are certified as a Wild Life Refuge which is sort of a real thing, although it sort of works on an honor system.

This was written almost a year ago. Since then, we’ve had a house fire, at first it didn’t seem like such a big deal, but then it turned out we practically had to tear the house down. There’s a term for this: down to the studs.

We lived at the Shangri-La Hotel for five months. We had Christmas there. We served appetizers in the living room and then did a set “redress” and moved my desk (an improvised banquet table) into the living room and served dinner for fourteen. The kids had the same fight they always do, but we took one of them down to the bar (yes, they’re legal age), but it was sort of like a time-out.

newflute1.jpgAnd now we’ve rented a house until our house is completed. It’s a pretty house, built in 1929. The woman who owned it died a few years ago and her children maintain it as a rental. It’s almost turn-key. I bought some linens and moved our computers in. She had some of the same quirks that I do. There’s one nutcracker. She has a few champagne glasses, not as many as I’d like. There isn’t a cuisinart but I suppose I could fix that.

Alan has planted vegetables in the courtyard in redwood pots (something that we couldn’t do at home, those pesky deer). The yellow tomatoes look beautiful, the jalapenos are strangely large. There are a lot of old roses on the property, none of which were blooming, (but cut above a five leaf cluster), I’ve managed to revive them all.

The dining room table has leaves and will work for Christmas (as you can see, I’m not too optimistic about our construction schedule but I feel good about the fact that we’re poviding jobs). Last year we made a pork roast in the tiny hotel kitchen and the hotel made the turkey and all the fixings. This year, we’ll make our own. This house has two ovens so maybe we’ll make a goose, as well. Unless the house sells before then (it is also ‘for sale’), in which case I suppose we’ll move. Stay tuned….

That was written four months ago – since then we’ve had Christmas.  We ordered a BBQ brisket and heated it up and asked our friends to bring the sides, it’s not that we couldn’t have cooked, but there were so many of us and we’d had a slight disaster at Thanksgiving, one of those OMG the glass dish broke as it was being taken out of the oven and one of us (not me) had to be almost taken to the emergency room. 

It was a little bit dramatic, and since we can be dysfunctional as a family as best, we toned it down.  The brisket was delicious.  (Horseradish, properly decanted as was the BBQ sauce in gravy boats and bowls.)  The mashed yams a friend brought were heavenly, as were the green beans with almonds, a squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper, and lots of butter  At the last minute, I made an apple pie that was also delicious (yes, Alan, I can make a pie crust).  And I fixed the Cuisinart thing - we have one, now. 

The tomatoes are gone and the lettuce went to seed.  But we’ve planted a winter garden in the redwood pots on the brick patio, fennel, heirloom beets, kale, a little bit of lettuce, scallions, and snap peas whose delicate green leaves are beautiful and make me understand how a snap pea is in fact a relative of a swee-pea (although I doubt they’ll flower). 

We have a building permit for our house, although we haven’t broken ground. We’re onto our second contractor.  The house we rented still hasn’t sold so we’re staying put for awhile, but that could change. 

But it’s Chinese New Year and it’s the year of the Dragon, so I’m thinking that we’re going to be just fine.  (And just in case my mother’s listening – I promise any Chinese food we order this coming year will be put in proper bowls before it’s served.)

Wishing everyone a Happy Chinese New Year!!!!


Amy Ephron's latest book is "Loose Diamonds...and other things I've lost (and found) along the way."