Tag Archives: margaritas

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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Feeding a Broken Heart

The antidote to the break-up at our house was the anti-boyfriend meal, featuring all of his least favorite foods, and, of course, an assortment of classic love stories.

My daughter is nursing her first broken heart. It is a terrible thing to watch, since I am helpless to heal the pain of “Why?” and “What went wrong?” — that endless litany of unanswered questions that tend to fill an overanxious brain in the small hours of the night. The only tiny perk that comes of the whole sad situation is that I get a rare opportunity to comfort my increasingly independent girl; I always remember a friend saying years ago that she perversely enjoyed her daughter’s break-ups because it resulted in her daughter wanting to snuggle up with her mom for hours on end, strewing the bed with damp Kleenex and wailing over the cruelty of boys.

I had to pick Madison up from a class at 7 o’clock last night and I asked her beforehand if there was anything special she wanted me to get for dinner. Her answer: “Comfort food.” This seemed like a reasonable request, except that my child does not care for what I would consider traditional comfort food such as mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese, unless I mix in copious amounts of salsa, blue cheese, and wasabi. So, I stood in the middle of a crowded Whole Foods grocery store at 6:30 p.m., without even a clue of what to get. I finally ended up perusing the hot food and salad bars, hoping for inspiration, especially because the clock was ticking and I wasn’t sure I wanted to get home at 7:30 and still have to cook a complete meal. Suddenly, two things caught my eye and I knew what to get.

For the purposes of this next paragraph or two, we’ll call my daughter’s former love “Connor”.

I grabbed the eco-friendly food containers and loaded them up, before slipping into a line that ran halfway around the salad bar so that I could pay for my comfort food and speed down the street to my next destination. As soon as Madison jumped into the car, she said “So what did you find for dinner?” Clearly, comfort food was on her mind. I told her “Spicy Buffalo tofu, blue cheese dressing, and olives stuffed with feta cheese.” She looked at me archly before replying “That doesn’t exactly sound like comfort food” — and then the choice of foods suddenly dawned upon her. She smiled broadly — for the first time in 24 hours, actually — and said “It’s an anti-Connor meal!”

Let me say, I actually think Connor is a lovely young man, and I have often said that I wish he and Madison would meet up again in ten years, because they are perfectly suited to each other in many ways. But, my first priority is my daughter, and the goal last night was to get her to lighten up, if only for a few minutes. An anti-Connor meal was just the ticket. He gravitates towards burgers and pizza (in fact, I was specifically told not to get pizza because “that’s what HE likes”) and doesn’t like spicy food or olives — two things my daughter adores — and I just took a shot in the dark that he probably has no love for blue cheese either. It was a welcome respite in a difficult day, even if it didn’t last for long.

This whole experience got me thinking about breaking up and food. I don’t remember eating much after a break-up, as alcohol tended to take center stage (I will never forget weeping in a wine-induced haze, stretched out on the floor in front of the stereo listening to “Purple Rain” set on repeat. My roommates were extraordinarily tolerant.). I think that my break-up food was really hangover food — greasy fries, cheese omelettes, and big stacks of pancakes, generally eaten at the all-night diner at 4 a.m.

I asked a few of my readers to tell me if they had any break-up foods that they craved in the aftermath of a failed romance. Margaritas pretty much took top billing, but after that, the actual food centered on chili and cheese Tater Tots (love that one), Cadbury’s Caramello bars, and waffles. One friend mentioned “Folks intuitively head for carbs and they are right to do so. Low carb diets have been associated with low mood.” It’s true — several studies have shown that carbohydrate intake boosts serotonin production, which then acts as a natural tranquilizer on the nervous system.  I knew it was good to love pasta and bread!

Now I have decided that the next meal needs to center on keeping my child out of romance for a while, mostly because I can’t take the emotional upheaval anymore. I’m thinking garlic could do the trick.

Linguine with Brie and Garlic

This is actually a great break-up dish — perfect comfort food. It has the carbohydrates to boost your mood, some fat to coat your bruised soul, and plenty of garlic to keep would-be lotharios at bay until you are ready to get back into the game.

One pound linguine

One good-sized wedge of brie, cut into chunks

2 cups of grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

3 – 6 cloves of garlic, crushed (how many you use depends on how bad your break-up was)

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the linguine according to package directions. Reserve a cup of the hot pasta water, then drain and dump the pasta immediately back into the pot; drizzle with a little olive oil and toss quickly to coat. Then throw in the brie chunks and toss them with the pasta until they begin to melt and form a creamy coating on the pasta; add hot pasta water as needed to help aid the melting process if the pasta becomes too sticky. Add the tomatoes, garlic, basil, and salt and pepper, tossing together until all the ingredients are well-incorporated. Serve immediately.

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