Tag Archives: Detroit

A Sisterhood of Margaritas

At the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis about 10 years ago — pretty sure Diane was anticipating an icy cold margarita right at this moment.

It’s the Ides of March, the day when Julius Caesar was killed in 44 BC. This year it is also the fifth anniversary of the day my husband’s sister died, and so it tends to permeate the thoughts of all our family in myriad ways. Diane was just five weeks shy of her 49th birthday when she died after a 10-month battle with breast cancer. The last time I saw her, during the summer before her death, she had a colorful silk scarf wrapped around her head and we drank margaritas.

The anniversary of a death is like the elephant in the room — you know it’s there, you think you should acknowledge it, but you also think that maybe if you ignore it, it will just go away. Unfortunately, an elephant can’t fit that easily through the door, so what you end up doing is walking around it uncomfortably, trying not to get too close to it and wrinkling your nose at its strong odor. We tend to want to acknowledge Diane’s birthday, perhaps with a drink or flowers, but not her deathday. It somehow feels wrong to acknowledge it — but it is possibly the single most important day in our collective family, something that each of us has shared in and of which we all hold some memory, however painful.

For me, there is the knowledge that I did not know Diane that well. She lived in suburban Detroit with her wonderful husband and two beautiful daughters — all of whom I adore — but I did not feel that much of a connection to her. She was quiet, and nice, and maybe she represented for me the things that I feared — a suburban mom with a no-fuss haircut and sensible shoes. She also had that thing that I feared most, a 9-to-5 job with a retirement plan — although I have come to realize that maybe the thing I feared more was that if I ever had a job doing something that I loved, then I might end up not loving it any more. I honestly don’t know if she loved her job or not, or even if it mattered to her if she loved it, but her coworkers came out in droves to her funeral with beautiful and kind words about her impact on their daily lives.

Prior to her diagnosis, Diane and I were basically just connected to each other through her brother, my husband, occasionally chatting about our daughters and sometimes she would ask me for recipes, because she liked my cooking and was, she admitted, not a very creative cook herself. After her diagnosis, we talked to each other more often, because she wanted to learn more about organic foods and vegetarian dishes, crossing her fingers that a change of diet could slow the growth of cancer cells.  I did the only thing I really knew how to do, which was to type up a three-page list of ingredients and resources, explaining how to substitute soy and vegetables in her favorite recipes, and I packed it all up in a care package of beans and rice and whole-grain pastas and organic brownie mix.

It didn’t work. In the end, all that was left to do was for her friends — and she had a large group of loyal girlfriends, something I will always envy — to make her margaritas and play Tom Petty really loud on the CD player. Diane loved margaritas and was known to travel to Daytona Beach on vacation with her blender; in fact some of my fondest memories with her feature hanging out on the beach by Perry’s Ocean Edge Resort, drinking frosty margaritas and watching her husband bake in the sun.

Diane told me once that she was glad that she’d had two girls, because she always wished she’d had a sister (not that having my husband as her annoying little brother wasn’t a treat, of course) and she was glad they could have that special relationship with each other. The most unsettling thing about death is that it leaves the living filled with regrets — could I have been more than just a sister-in-law, if I had had more time and been less absorbed in my own little world? I’ll never know the answer. What I do know is that perhaps the best thing I can do today is to acknowledge Diane’s life — and death — with a cold margarita — no salt, please.

 

 

 

 

You gotta watch out with the margaritas when you’re hangin’ with the Weber clan, or you end up with the big sombrero.

 

Italian Margaritas

I’m thinking that there’s nothing like a little tequila and imaginary sunshine to chase away the blues on the Ides of March or a deathday. This tasty version of a margarita is a favorite in our family — I generally make ’em by the pitcher, but I will give you the single serving recipe and you can multiply it for the masses. Cheers!


One ounce good Tequila

One ounce Grand Marnier

Splash of Cointreau

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 TB sugar or light agave syrup (add more if you like your margaritas sweeter)

Shake the ingredients in a shaker with ice; pour into a glass (I like it with the ice cubes), mix in a splash of Sprite, and top with a 1/2-ounce of Amaretto. Garnish with a slice of fresh orange.  Yum.

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Time for the O Canada! Challenge

WalMart and social conservatism have still managed to creep across the border, despite Canada's best efforts at mounting a strong defense.

When you live in the United States, it is hard to realize that Canada is actually a different country. In fact, we Americans tend to see ourselves as the center of the universe,  forgetting that Canada is a completely separate society, and I don’t just mean because they have universal health care and affordable college tuition (that’s just crazy — what were they thinking?). My husband grew up in Detroit, just across the river from Windsor, Canada. From the Detroit side, Windsor looks pretty much like any slightly-worse-for-the-wear midwestern city, but, once you’re there, you begin to feel the subtle differences.

For me, it began with homemade ketchup. Yup, I said homemade ketchup. I mean, who makes that? Nobody. We stopped for lunch several years ago in Windsor before taking a drive through the Ontario countryside. The restaurant was close to the Ambassador Bridge and the oversized casinos, in a renovated warehouse. The place looked upscale but was really inexpensive, and, yes, when I dipped my french fries (or are those Canadian fries?) into the ketchup, it was deliciously and undeniably homemade. I will tell you now that there is nothing like homemade ketchup, and once you have made it yourself, you will never be able to really enjoy Heinz again.

I find the Winter Olympics in Vancouver to be a great inspiration for my cooking. For the opening ceremonies last week, I tried really hard to come up with something Vancouverian for dinner, but I drew a blank. Finally, I just decided to go with Canadian-themed food and ended up making Canadian cheddar cheese scones, split open and topped with fried Canadian bacon (a meatless one for us, of course) and a poached egg and then smothered with a Canadian cheese and broccoli sauce. Perfect for a cold winter night, and even better when followed by maple syrup ice cream sundaes.

Much to my husband’s chagrin, I am not doing Canadian-themed meals for each night of the Olympics, but I will do a few here and there. Today, however, I was looking morosely at the two feet of snow stubbornly covering my front and back gardens and began dreaming of spring. Distant memories of warm air and soft breezes reminded me of picnicking on a grassy hillside, the clover tickling my bare toes and fat flies hovering hopefully near the leftovers.

A perfect view for a picnic, along the Canadian shore of Lake Erie.

So, tomorrow night, we’re having a picnic. I decided to check around on the internet and see if I could find any Canadian picnic recipes, and I actually came across quite a few, in celebration of Canada Day, which is on July 1st. It may be February, but tomorrow I will be stretching a blanket on the carpet in front of the television set so that we can watch the ice dancing, women’s skeleton, and men’s super-G while munching on the Canadian pressed picnic sandwich — and maybe even a few deviled eggs, because I am, after all, American.

Go Canada! Here’s a link to a few recipes that might give you a little inspiration when you need it most — and let me know what you make!

http://www.razzledazzlerecipes.com/canada/index.htm

If you aren’t in a Canadian frame of mind, you might try making your own ketchup. I enjoy making it for my niece’s boyfriend, who insists on putting ketchup on everything — and I am actually not kidding about that. This particular recipe comes from epicurious.com; there are many others out there, although most recipes are pretty much the same. Personally, I also like to add just a bit of tabasco sauce to this — not enough to make it spicy, but just enough to give it just the teeniest kick as you swallow those fries.

Homemade Ketchup

  • 1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in purée
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Purée tomatoes (with purée from can) in a blender until smooth.

Cook onion in oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add puréed tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, and salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until very thick, about 1 hour (stir more frequently toward end of cooking to prevent scorching).

Purée ketchup in 2 batches in blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Chill, covered, at least 2 hours (for flavors to develop).

Update: February 20th

We had a lovely indoor picnic last night — I would highly recommend it as a great way to chase away those I-can’t-take-another-minute-of-winter blues! Here are a few pics:

Here's the Canadian Pressed Picnic Sandwich as I began to slice it. Very beautiful to look at, quite messy to eat. Rick finally resorted to a knife and fork, but I figured out the proper technique and managed to eat it without a bib! Our sandwich was made with a series of cold cuts, smoked provolone, roasted red peppers, olive salad, romaine lettuce, and horseradish sauce.

Rick settles in on the picnic blanket to watch the Friday night competitions in Vancouver.

Our picnic smorgasbord: vegetarian buffalo "wings" with homemade blue cheese dressing, lemon zest deviled eggs, the Canadian Pressed Picnic Sandwich, cole slaw, potato salad, and sparkling lemonade. We had blueberry tarts for dessert, with cinnamon whipped cream. Good thing we aren't actually competing!

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