I know I’m blessed that my father has reached this incredible age in reasonably good health and mind. But it still makes me sad that he has lost so much of his hearing, vision, and independence. He always has had an extraordinary ability to sleep and now he is sleeping 90% of the time. But when he’s not sleeping he’s always ready to eat and that is something I can do for him. So for 10 days I cooked and baked my heart out. This did not stop me from feeling guilty for becoming impatient with him when once again he misplaced his hearing aid and I had to shout for him to hear me. But it helped.Of course there had to be his favorite cherry pie. That was going to be his birthday “cake” until he put in a request for Black Forest Cake. At first I was annoyed because I didn’t have the right pan nor did I have access to the non-ultrapastuerized cream that makes such a difference and had he asked the week before when I asked him what he’d like I could have procured it. But then I decided to do what most of the rest of the world does: make do. I beat melted butter into the supermarket cream to increase the butterfat and stability (as I wrote about in The Cake Bible). I set the top cake layer on top of the cream filling before realizing I had forgotten to poke in the brandied cherries (which I found in back of the frig where I had stored them years ago). Upset at first, as I tried to lift off the top cake layer only to see it start to come apart, I decided to stick the cherries into the cream from the sides. So what if it didn’t look perfect—he couldn’t even see the difference. We enjoyed the cake over several days, complaining only once that the cream was lighter than he remembered it (well…yes!).
The day of his birthday we received an amazing surprise! My new book arrived weeks early at the publishers! Ava sent it overnight and my father went through every page. His pronouncement: “It has more pictures and better quality than your other books!” This week the VA is giving him an enlarger so when he gets his copy of the book he’ll be able to see it much better. You’ve seen the front of the book so here’s a photo of the back of the book, which, I think, is just gorgeous. If you click on it you’ll be able to see a quote from Lisa Yockelson’s beautiful foreword! Dad also hinted about corn bread so I made him my favorite corn fingers. He had them for dinner but they also made a great breakfast accompaniment to grilled corncob smoked bacon and Menegus free-range eggs. I called this the all yellow breakfast! At the beginning of the week I whipped up a beer sandwich loaf (beer bread recipe on the blog) really speedy in the Cuisinart processor, for lunch sandwiches. Dinners included wonderful hamburgers from CeCe’s (Maria Menegus’s sister) cow on my burger buns, grilled lamb chops with bulgur and garlic scapes, roast duck with wild rice and oven roasted caramel apples, and the big drama: prime ribs of beef with grilled onions and Yorkshire popovers. This is the one request my father is willing to make ahead and I almost destroyed it burning down the house in the bargain! This happened once before with a goose and I thought I had learned my lesson. This time, however, I really think I’ve learned not to put highly fatty foods directly on a 550˚F grill. I had flames leaping almost 5 feet high as idiotically I tried to rescue the roast whereas I should have given up and left the grill lid down to put the fire out sooner. I even more idiotically tried tossing water softener on the flames and when that only served to pop out and fizzle all over the place I tried the small fire extinguisher which no longer was capable of spraying emitting only a piddly stream. Elliott was miles away and my father was---asleep. As smoke filled the house I decided I should wake him up to keep him safe. Trembling I called Weber grill’s great hotline and they reassured me that the fire would be “contained in the sturdy grill box” but to keep it SHUT! Sadly I waited for the flames to go out and there was the $80 roast, bones burnt but to my amazement the inside was perfectly beautifully rare. This has to be the fastest way ever to cook prime ribs but not a method I would recommend! And it took 5 hours the next day to clean the grill. Actually, I replaced all the burners (I had been meaning to do this for over a year) plus the ignition switch and now when I turn on the grill it lights immediately. So all was for the best (more or less). Did I mention that we had wine with every meal (my Dad not much)? We did sort of enjoy two dinners out. One was at the local lobster once-a-week place called of all things Luigi’s Rancho; the other was a stunning drive through mountain ranges to the Walpack Inn which has a great salad bar, fantastic view, and mediocre over-cooked food. Each time we go there we say it will be the last. But we did get this great photo of my Dad and the bear. One of the sweetest things that happened during his stay was sent to me from my dear friend Diane Boate in S.F. It was a link to an article about my brother Michael who owns Pet Food Express and who ran a special promotion to raise money for bullet proof vests for police guard dogs in the Bay Area. He tells me they raised an amazing $70,000 in donations. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/07/16/BAEC18PHGG.DTL http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_12868994?IADID=Search-www.mercurynews.com-www.mercurynews.com&nclick_check=1 Speaking of pets, I asked my father’s part time caretaker how my Dad’s two beloved cats were doing with him away. Sweet Shelly told me that they always disappear when he leaves but this time she left a bundle of his dirty clothes in a corner and they snuggled into it and stayed put! Now they have him back home and I have all these precious memories.