Mothers Day

dad-and-his-momMother’s Day was always a meaningful day in my life, but not because of my own mother. Because of my father’s mother. She was born on a day in May that fell on or near Mother’s Day. Each year her family celebrated her birthday on Mother’s Day, no matter what the date of her actual birthday. Her large clan would all come to her little house, deep in the Valley, to honor her. Most of them lived nearby, but not us.

We would hop in the back of my dad’s convertible car and head over Coldwater Canyon. He drove with only one hand on the wheel. My dad was handicapped and needed his other hand for the controls that were attached to the steering wheel, both the gas and brake in one. It was very unsteady. Add to that the sharp curves going over the mountain, his cigar smoke filling my lungs, and his spit flying back into our faces that we tried dodging -- well, it was quite the E ticket ride. (For those born after they were discontinued in 1982, E tickets were for Disneyland’s most thrilling attractions.)

Finally, the road would straighten out at the bottom of the mountain for a long straight stretch till we hit Ventura Boulevard. By then, I was fully recovered, though still dodging spit and seeking a good air pocket to escape the smoke. No seat belts in those days either, and I weighed nothing, so I flew around a lot in the back of dad’s car.

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gigi2.jpg My mother’s name is Gladys, and the name just doesn’t fit her.

She’s felt that way all her life. So, years ago, she started coming up with new names and identities, as her inner spirit looked to break free from her outer Gladys.

The first time Gladys became someone else was at the start of her freshman year at the University of Illinois. She was among the ninety percent of the girls at school who were from Chicago, and Gladys wanted to establish herself as different and exotic. So she made up a story that her father worked for the diplomatic corps in India.

The response was phenomenal.

After passing herself off as an American living in Bombay, her phone was ringing off the hook. All the guys wanted to go out with her. Everyone wanted to get to know the girl from Bombay.

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asparagusgremolataA spring brunch just wouldn’t be complete without asparagus. Along with our grilled strawberry-brie sandwiches and brown sugar and pepper glazed bacon, we enjoyed a side of blanched asparagus spears with a garnish of gremolata at our Bass Lake Brunch.

Served at room temperature, the blanched asparagus was cooked just enough to retain some crunch. Plunging the cooked asparagus into a bowl of ice water gives it a shock that stops the cooking and helps retain the bright green color.

Traditionally, gremolata is a mixture of chopped parsley, lemon zest and garlic, sometimes held together with a bit of olive oil. In Mediterranean cooking, it is often served with veal or lamb. My Bass Lake cooking friend mixed it up with some chopped olives. It would also be wonderful as a garnish for asparagus with chopped, toasted hazelnuts or toasted pine nuts added to the base of lemon, parsley and garlic. Leftover gremolata can be tossed into pasta, spooned over a bowl of soup, whisked into an omelet or stirred into rice.

Our hostess, who always has the perfect serving plate for any kind of food, had an asparagus plate and even asparagus tongs for serving.

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food-safety-tips-5.jpgWhat makes a better Mother's Day than a picnic?

I contemplated this while driving down Sunset Blvd tonight, the big ol' moon silhouetted behind the palm trees, on one of those nights in LA when you feel true glee at being alive in the smoggiest city in the United States (it's true, it was listed today).

Think about this:
A roast chicken, some hummus (lovingly made, in our case, by the Maharishi, a true Lebanese purist when it comes to the blending of garbanzo beans, garlic, lemon juice, tahini and olive oil), some Arabic bread, some bright, sweet, red tomatoes, a punnet of sweet strawberries, a little Sancerre, a pretty tablecloth, the children (let's pretend for a moment that they're not too old and reluctant), a couple of dogs for good measure.

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My Mother Vina
My Mother Vina circa 1957

Instead of turkey, mashed potatoes, etc., stuffed grape leaves (along with shish-kabob and pilaf) is the traditional centerpiece of our Christmas dinner.

Disclaimer:  Every script I’ve ever written is overly descriptive and too long, so no doubt this recipe will be, too.  Apologies in advance. 

 

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