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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Food in Life and in Death

In life we meet people, build relationships and some are easy to define: boss, co-worker or business acquaintance.  Sometimes, the lines blur and a woman who was my boss, has since transferred to another department and remains my friend cannot be categorized. The bottom line is, after years of battling to stay healthy, her husband died this past week and now, if she must be given a term to define her it is, "grieving spouse," for she does not appreciate the word, "widow."

To honor the life of her departed husband, a memorial service was organized and held at her niece's home.  I had never attended such an affair and was a bit apprehensive, though these situations are understandably nerve wracking regardless of location and agenda. Dying is only difficult for the living.

We have created such protocols and checklists for the end of a life.  Be sure to tell the family you are sorry for their loss.  Try to share a positive story or memory with the loved ones of the departed when possible. Offer comfort, a shoulder to cry on and time to listen. Perhaps send flowers and/or a sympathy or mass card.

However, we are among a generation that has written its own rules and traditions be damned.  The Baby Boomers will decide how they want to honor the lives of their cherished family and in doing so, anything can happen. This is not bad or a judgment in any way - merely an observation. Just as brides no longer have to wear white, be married in a church or place of worship or even toss a bouquet - survivors are not bound to adhere to society's definition of acknowledging loss or death.

Though the images of the gorgeous repast are decadent, they also symbolize the love a family has for the "grieving spouse."  

The fruit arrangement was thoughtfully sent by a caring person or family for the occasion and the cupcakes were freshly baked.  

Simple fruits, cheeses and nuts were carefully presented on tiered plates.  Finger foods designed to allow mourners not only refreshment, but food has a way of easing people into conversation.  "Don't these cherries look amazing?  How did you know so-and-so?"

Having food in more than one location also allows people to gather into smaller groups that may feel more intimate and comfortable during a difficult time.

Offering small bites also indicates you are welcome and we are thankful you came to support our family.  

When I prepared to leave and said my good-byes, condolences and thank you's, I was given a copy of "Footprints."

One night I dreamed a dream.  I was walking along the beach with my Lord.  Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.  For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.

When the last scene of my life shot before me I looked back at the footprints in the sand.  There was only one set of footprints.  I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest time of my life.  This always bothered me and I questioned the Lord about my dilemma.

'Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You, You would walk and talk with me all the way.  But I'm aware that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints.  I just don't understand why, when I need You most, You leave me.'

He whispered, 'My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever during your trials and testings.  When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."

My 20-something year old sons find it odd that I have expressed that when I die, I'd rather they not have multiple drawn out days of wakes and a funeral, but rather one combined service encouraging those who have a story to share to speak followed by a communal dinner of sorts reflecting on the good times.  And yes, I would like a particular song to be played and I have mentioned this detail to the Mr. and someday will share it with my sons.  

For now, enjoy each day when possible and every meal that is shared with the people you love.  I know that those are the moments that make me happiest and leave me feeling Fed Well.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Accidental Dinner at Brother's Trattoria in Beacon

A Thursday night before the long weekend for 4th of July and our older son cannot attend the Hudson Valley Renegade game he bought tickets for because he has to work.  We accepted the responsibility of attending the baseball game at Dutchess Stadium.  However, Mother Nature had no intention of stopping the 2 day torrential down pours, flash flooding and thunderstorming just so we could watch the game.  The protocol for cancelling a minor league baseball game seems to include a preliminary delay and so the Mr. searched through his phone for an Italian restaurant in Beacon and we were off.

How modern of us to be able to find a restaurant then program the address in the GPS after reading positive reviews including promises of generous portions and authentic Italian food?  We felt so modern.

Located right on Main Street, Brother's Trattoria was easy to find and we parked right across the street.

We were greeted as soon as we opened the second set of glass doors and seated in the first dining room (though we did not realize others existed until most of the way through our meal).

We are seated by a wall which makes me happy.  What is it about sitting either around the edge of the room or in a booth that makes me happy?  I just don't want a table in the middle. 

The menu.  The image certainly sets a tone and expectation that this will be traditional or old school.  No modern day, inside-out, deconstructed anything and yep, we bet the sauce will be amazing. Every once in awhile I wish I enjoyed a good glass of wine and this restaurant certainly invoked those feelings.  I go with my standard and order a Cosmopolitan for pre-dinner and a glass of water for with food.

We are brought garlic rolls that are dense and while coated in garlic, they are not overpowering.  I am somehow reminded of pretzels by the inner texture.

Our server tells us about the evening specials including appetizers and I get so excited upon hearing some of the options I am tempted to interrupt and say, "That is exactly what I want you don't have to speak another word," but instead I sit patiently and smile.  

We begin with the clams.  It sounds so simple, but really if the broth isn't quite right or the clams are overcooked, the dish is ruined.  We ask for plain bread for dipping and are brought a basket of toasted slices.  Perfect texture for soaking up the delicious liquids.

"This tastes a little bit different," the Mr. said and pointed to the dish.  "Is that rosemary?"

I almost wept with pride.  

"I am married to a foodie," he smiled.  

My eyes twinkled like the young ladies in cartoons when they meet their Prince Charming.  Ah, but you want to read about the food. Fine.

Salad course.  I have seen many disappointed faces when I ask for my salad to be served without dressing. I have recently learned that if I ask for a lemon wedge, the server will smile and nod as if we just exchanged an inner secret and that I am watching my weight. No, really, I just like the taste of the naked vegetables. This time, I use the lemon for a squirt and a drizzle. The Mr. was disappointed that our bread was cleared before the salad was served.  I'm sure if we would have asked she would have brought more, but we know we have a lot of eating ahead of us.

The Mr. is brought 2 plates; one for the large serving of chicken parmesan, coated with sauce just as he likes and the other a side dish of angel hair pasta.  I can almost see his taste buds smile.

My only complaint, if it can even be considered a complaint, is when a restaurant does not toss the pasta in the sauce before plating.  I think it is just my personal preference.  The Mr. was quite happy and yes, the delicate sweetness of the sauce is exactly what we hoped it would be.  

Ah, the joy of ordering and receiving one of the specials and it is exactly what I hoped.  Linguine with spinach, cherry tomatoes, and shrimp in a white wine sauce.  The shrimp are large and tender and the spinach is just wilted without being mush.  I ask for a spoon, "for twirling," I explain and again, our server smiles and says, "of course."  

The other diners range from couples also out for a date night to a table behind us that seems to be 3 generations of males and a table in the middle of teen girls accompanied by 2 sets of parents. Everyone seems happy and the smells of food as it passes is intoxicating.  I peek in one of the other dining rooms when I make a trip to the ladies room and it is also fairly busy.  

By the way, I often think I should share a basic review of ladies' rooms when I am out and this one was clean and had a lovely over-sized sink with painted flowers.  

We were stuffed.  But, I couldn't leave without at least trying a dessert, you know, for the blog.  This delicious pastry cream pie, topped with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and a generous dusting of confectionery sugar was light and not overly sweet.  Yes, it had a fantastic Italian name that I have since forgotten, but it may be referred to as the dream pie in this blog.

The Renegades game was eventually cancelled and the rain continued.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the discovery of Brother's Trattoria.  "We should bring my mom here," the Mr. said and that was an official thumbs up.  The Mr.'s mother is from an area near Lake Como in Italy (yes, where George Clooney has a house) and has particular opinions about gravy.  

We were Fed Well and will be happy to return to Beacon for a fabulous Italian meal.

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