Food, Family, and Memory

LBCSignIf a group of 10 people playing the word association game were given the word “summer”, chances are at least half would say picnic. Probably more. For me, the best summer picnic, the only summer picnic, is a beach picnic. My family wasn’t park picnickers or picnic in the woods people. We were Long Island beach lovers. And that’s where we did our picnicking.

Every summer from the time I remember, until I was 18, my family belonged to the Lawrence Beach Club on the south shore of Long Island, New York. When school let out in June until after Labor Day, my sisters and I were there, rain or shine. If it rained while we were in the pool, we just opened our mouths to catch the drops.

On hot days after school started back up in September, my mom would pick us up at 3, the station wagon idling at the curb, and take us to the beach until 5 well into October when it was starting to cool down and get dark early.

Memories of Lawrence Beach Club own prime real estate in my memory bank. Beach picnics on summer weekday nights with my family are among the most precious. So precious they are usually keep vaulted in the back of the bank and brought out to be viewed on rare occasions.

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egg-&-truffels.jpgI turned fifty-two last week.  While I’m told that fifty-two is the new thirty-eight, no one told my metabolism.  It seems to have slowed even more than I have.  Knowing this, and knowing that the only way to really celebrate a birthday is to eat and then eat some more, my wife, Peggy, and I had been dieting from the end of the holidays to the big day – ten whole days.  And when the big day came, we wasted no time in returning to our post-holiday fighting weight.  Here is how we did it.

Thursday, my actual birthday, was the big kick off.  We went to Patina for its annual truffle dinner.  Patina has been having these extravagant dinners in honor of the truffle – yes, it is celebrating a fungus, but what a fungus - for the past several years, and we always talked about going, and this year, the dinner fell on my birthday.  Given that Peggy and I have been together for almost 30 years, and she has simply run out of things to buy me as a birthday gift, especially just two weeks after Christmas, we decided that this would be it.  She couldn’t have done better.

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ImageBack in the days when evening television was interactive family entertainment, when Ed Sullivan and "College Bowl" were on, my family used to gather in the TV room. In our house, that was the bar. It had a Fleetwood television built into the wall, with the controls built in next to the silk-covered sofa on which my mother would always lie, on her back, her head propped up by four pillows.

Next to her, on the coffee table, was a Dewars-and-soda on ice and a pack of Kent filters. My sisters and I would lie on the floor, my father would sit in his teak rocking chair, and we would watch television and eat TV snacks—clam dip baked on toasted Pepperidge Farm white bread; Beluga caviar, whenever anyone sent it over; a really disgusting (but great) dip made out of cottage cheese, mayonnaise, chives, and Worcestershire sauce, with ruffled potato chips; and Mommy's favorite, blanched and toasted almonds.

"Oh, goody," she would say, " 'College Bowl' is on tonight. Let's make blanched almonds."

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hair-30s-brushcurl.jpgMy grandfather Mervin was an inventor. He invented hairclips. To make money as a lad, he got a job sweeping up hair in a beauty parlor. Soon he noticed a need for clips. Clips that held the hair in place while the barber cut, clips that put waves in the hair, and doohickeys that crimped and flattened. He had patents on all these. Some were profitable, like the Jiffy, the Teeny, and others weren’t. But I guess the successful ones more than made up for the duds because he did pretty well for himself.

In the 1940s, his factory was at 173-177 Lafayette Street in Manhattan. Later he moved it to Orlando, Florida, though, when the workers tried to organize. In my family, we never liked unions much.

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clean.jpgYesterday morning, I stood at the entranceway to our living room and surveyed the damage.  There were stacks of books and magazines on the coffee table, tumbles of blankets on the couch, a smattering of empty mugs with used tea bag strings dangling over their rims.  My abandoned crutches were leaning on the door, my physical therapy CPM machine on the floor. 

Two weeks after my hip surgery I can finally walk without assistance.

This, unfortunately, means I can clean as well.

It’s fine.  I like it actually.  It’s very cathartic after two weeks of being absolutely still.

Shannon, my insane boyfriend and exceptional caretaker, has taken the weekend off to run a marathon in Niagara.  He’s an ultra runner.

This marathon is 100 miles. ONE HUNDRED MILES. I know. I think the same thing.

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