Monday, March 14, 2011

Not From These Parts and It Shows

You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl. I forget that until I'm reminded of it, which I inevitably am when I visit my parents on the Northern Neck.

And the reason for my visit? Filial piety aside, I am here to provide able-bodied assistance to my mother, who as an O'Donnell, feels obligated to make soda bread and potato soup for her entire Women's Club every year for their annual St. Patrick's Day luncheon (which inconveniently falls this year on her birthday, the 16th).

That's right, soup and bread for 75 women. I expect to be peeling potatoes until my hands are wrinkled like they once got when we stayed in the bathtub too long as children.

And because you begin by sauteing onion and celery before making a white sauce and only so much can fit in a saucepan at once, we have to make it in batches. Endless batches.

So that's tomorrow: baking bread and making soup. I insisted we make one loaf tonight just to give ourselves a little head start and now the house smells of caraway seeds and raisins. It's a small but aromatic consolation for the work that lies ahead.

Another consolation was our trip to the Lancaster Tavern for dinner. I've eaten there with them on two prior occasions and the combination of 18th century charm and well-made food never disappoints.

As we were being seated tonight, our server handed me a menu and leaned down in my face. "You've been here before," she said. "I remember you! You're not from around here, are you?" My parents aren't from around here, either, but apparently they've been down here long enough not to arouse suspicion, unlike me.

Is it flattering to be remembered or just clear that I stick out like a sore thumb in these parts? Looking at the other diners, it could just be the way I'm dressed; the tights alone probably peg me as a come-here.

Dinner by the fireplace delivers a satisfying meal; for me it's a grilled bone-in pork chop with apple butter and grilled zucchini and for my Dad the rockfish with crab Hollandaise and herbed tomato. We eye each other's plates and covet what we didn't order. Our compromise is a modified surf and turf as we share half our entrees with the other.

My Irish-rooted mother orders an interesting take on chicken pot pie; it's chicken and carrots in gravy over mashed potatoes with a puff pastry crust. She's not an adventurous eater in the least and this is not a traditional pot pie but she allows as how the crust is very flaky and delicate.

But her lack of excitement over the potpie is forgotten when we get home and, once the soda bread is in the oven, I bring out the coconut cake I have made for her birthday.

I am the only one of her six daughters who likes coconut cake, a favorite of both her and my father. I don't just like it; it can actually make me blind to chocolate, which is saying a lot. So I cut three generous slices and we sat down to have dessert and for tonight, to talk about a long-ago vacation on Cape Cod.

And tomorrow we'll celebrate our heritage with the womenfolk peeling potatoes and making bread while the menfolk keep out from underfoot.

And then get me back to the city where I belong.


  1. Glad you can still fit into a normal life. [CW}

  2. A normal life is baking cakes and peeling potatoes?

  3. "a normal life is baking cakes and peeling potatoes"? You're right...however neither is a daily regiment of bands, plays, lectures and openings. No ..whatever the norm or median is...that's not it. You are fortunate..however far from whatever the norm is...which is not to say the norm or whatever is the ideal. As a timely point of Picasso seemed to live by his rules and rhythm..definitely not the norm. Lucky for us...his gifts. which brings us back to the beginning..."baking cakes and peeling potatoes." Feeding... [people and each other] is one of the fundamental activities of any society. A necessity and an act of love..(it can be). Not sure whether the merits of socialization can be quantified [they are important]..however no one can dispute..we all must be fed.. and someone's got to do it. To your credit, you've enlightened this reader to several nooks and crannies of dining enjoyment...and I'm not talking Thomas's here...fair thee well K...[cw]

  4. Eating is indeed fundamental but I prefer to leave that to those more talented in that field.

    I shall take a page from Picasso's book and follow my own rhythms.