An everyday thanksgiving


Jeff and Trudy came into our lives as teachers for our two boys. They brought the love of lacrosse and the love math to our children. They also brought values of fellowship and discipline.

They breathed life into the example of “bringing up children.” You know, the metaphorical image of physically lifting dead weight. What it costs them is dear. To open their hearts wide and without self concern. So when the children graduate, there are tears. A strange mix of emptiness and fulfillment.

How might we celebrate their sacrifice? How might we thank them for being a significant part of “it takes a village?” Easy. We embrace them through a home cooked meal and wine from the cellar.

Pici with lemon sauce and garlic flashed tomatoes

Pici with lemon sauce and garlic flashed tomatoes

The people of Tuscany make a shape of pasta called pici (pee-shee).  Thick round noodles that roll around the mouth like the udon.  Distinct, muscly macaroni like one of those strong men from circuses long ago.  Barrel chested and standing tall.

We saved this package of dried pasta for seven years.  We were waiting for the right occasion.  Pici is not available in the U.S. De Cecco, like other commercial pasta makers, make buccatini.  Rope-thick pasta with a hairline, empty core.  It’s close, but not a substitute.

For the meal we dressed the pasta with a lemon sauce made from meyer lemons, sauvignon blanc and a healthy amount of butter. Probably the only thing you can ever say about butter that is healthy is the proportion size. Garlic flashed tomatoes top the swirled pasta.

Unfiltered Italian olive oil simmers on the stove.  Gourmet garlic sourced from Montana is minced then dives into the aromatic bath.  Thick chopped roma tomatoes follow.  A hiss of steam, a shower of basic chiffonade and a toss with a wooden spoon.  Ready to serve.

Ribeye steaks with lavender salt, orange oil and rosemary straight from the grill.

Ribeye steaks with lavender salt, orange oil and rosemary straight from the grill.

Steaks are served for the secondi piatti (second plate). We marinated these prime quality ribeyes with lavender salt, orange peel and fresh rosemary from the garden. A few minutes on each side over an open flame, sliced and served family style. Wilted spinach with drisled with olive oil and garnished with lemon wedges sat nearby.

The first course was matched with a 2010 Chardonnay from Arrowood Vineyards.  Buttery apple notes with just enough acidity to return the volley of that lemon butter.  The viscosity of the wine provided enough slip and slide to deepen the gustatory experience of slippery noodles.

The steak was paired with a 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon from boutique Napa producers known as Kelham Vineyards. We decanted the bottle 2.5 hours before serving. For big wines like this, it is recommended to tip a small amount into a wine stem immediately. Swirl and taste.  What you will find is that the wine will open and mature as the evening progresses.  Like an evening with Carl Jung and Einstein, the secrets of the universe unfold as their conversation progresses.  Such is the brilliance of wine.

This is how we love with food. Simple, Italian inspired cuisine with our most cherished bottles collected from travels.

Scientifically, we were showering affection with the liberal use of glutamates. To be clear, these are the naturally, savory elements found in meats, fish, dairy, and certain vegetables like mushrooms, eggplant and tomatoes. We know now that the people have glutamate sensors on the tongue.  The Japanese call this savory sensation umami.

Writer, Jonah Lehrer, reveals research which suggests that we have a deeper connection to glutamates than taste. The science indicates that animals that have their taste receptors clipped still gravitate to glutamate rich sources.  Our gut steers our desire, if you will.

And why not? Mother’s milk is ten times more rich in glutamate than cows milk. We are programmed to associate comfort with savory. It’s the holy grail that food processors chase with additives like MSG (monosodium glutamate). They want to earn loyalty through happy mouths and full stomachs.

However glutamates does not have to be vilified. Neither do carbohydrates. It’s literally a part of who we are. Biologically speaking. Taking a good thing too far is where we need to be vigilant.  Even drinking too much water can be dangerous.

Which is why Jeff and Trudy deserve our respect. They honor us with nurturing love. They honor us with actions that fill our cups. Jut to very the top. No more. No less.

So we hugged Jeff and Trudy at the door.  Beating hearts to beating hearts.  We hugged Jeff and Trudy from the dinner plate. And filled their glasses with wine.

No doubt that you have special people in your life like Jeff and Trudy.  If you’d loved them with food, let us know.  Share your story in the comment field.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Before anything else, we taste the name | ideas that taste good

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