Thursday, May 27, 2010

Project Update and Lentil-Quinoa Salad

"Could it be that it was all so simple then........Or has time re-written every line?" I look at the photo above and think - "both". It was much simpler then, in the sense that there were no cell phones, no computers, no internet, and I'm pretty sure that when this picture was taken back in 1938, there was no television either. I don't know when TV came into popular use, but I think it was after 1938. So life was simpler. It took a long time for news to reach us. In 1938 there was a war going on in Europe, and the images of that war reached us via newsreels, which were shown in movie theaters. Radio existed, of course, so people here heard the news, but it was all so far away. Until, of course, it reached us at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. But back in '38, it was still a distant war on another continent.

Life was simpler then because we didn't think it was necessary to stay in touch every day with everyone of our "friends" on facebook. We didn't need to answer the phone while we were driving. People wrote letters by hand and mailed them. There were times and places where we could be alone, or with our families, and if people wanted to talk with us, they'd have to drop by. My aunt used to drop by on her way somewhere, and leave a steaming hot apple pie in our kitchen, admonishing me to let it cool first before eating it. My uncle would stop by every Sunday to do the New York Times crossword puzzle with my mom. My grandparents, seated in the center of the photo above, would stop by on Sundays and take my older brother and sister out for a ride in their car. It was called a Sunday drive, and people used to do that for pleasure.

Or has time re-written every line? There's an uncle and an aunt in the photo above who later divorced. There's another uncle in that photo who caused a huge rift in our family, which has fortunately been healed by the cousins. The youngest blond girl, seated on her mom's lap above was the first to reach out to heal the rift. We never speak of what happened back then, because we have different understandings. But when we are children, we hear from our parents what has happened in our families, and so naturally she would have heard a different story from her parents than I heard from mine. And over the course of time, we have all come to the conclusion that we would rather have family than be right.

My current project is almost complete. I am waiting for a few more photos from a woman who knew my sister when she was in her 20s, and who had photographs of her from those days. (We didn't have cell phones with cameras back then, so photos were not taken as often.) Last nite I learned that I have a program on my computer that will take my slide show and convert it into a DVD which can be played on a DVD player. It wouldn't have occurred to me that this would be an issue until a colleague of mine mentioned it because she had made a slide show for her dad on his 80th birthday. That's when she discovered that there was more to it than making a digital slide show on a computer. There's the final step. She also told me that I should have the final product in more than one format, since it's possible that what works for me here might not work for me on my sister's equipment.

Delving into my family's past, going through all of the photos of us through the ages, has made me even more keenly aware of the beauty of simplicity. I don't want complicated or fussy. I've never been drawn to it, but I'm even less interested, if that's possible. I'm so grateful that I love to cook. I'm so grateful that I'm not a fast food person. It's a throwback to an era when food was made at home, and we brought it with us when we went anywhere - from school (lunch boxes), work (brown bags or lunch pails, depending on your job), or to the beach (soft coolers with ice). I consider it normal to eat fresh food, as do the readers of this blog and all of your readers as well. We have been the exception for a long time.

I made this lentil and quinoa salad to bring with me to work. It lasted for days, freeing me up to concentrate on making a slide show for my sister's upcoming birthday.
My husband used to say "start with what you've got in the fridge." As long as you've got a well stocked fridge, this works well. I learned back in those days to keep a pantry and fridge well stocked, so I had almost everything I used in this salad - quinoa, lentils, cherry tomatoes, garlic, vinegar and olive oil. I had a necessity for arugala that day. Don't know why, but sometimes these things just happen. Whole Foods is a short distance from my house and provides me with a small amount of exercise when I walk there. I have parsley and mint growing in my garden. So what I ended up with was a kind of variation of tabbouleh, but slightly more substantial with the addition of lentils. Since both lentils and quinoa cook quickly, this dish was a breeze to put together. A lot easier than a slide show, but satisfying, and simple. Because these are the good old days.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Revisiting Meema's Noodles and Cabbage

I think I mentioned that my sister is having one of those "big" birthdays, and that I'm making a slide show/video for her? When I wrote that, I thought of it as being a project which wasn't really going to be all that big. Not nearly as big as re-doing my website.


This project is enormous, thanks to the fact that it's the beginning of an even larger project - of course - which involves me digitizing basically my entire family history and making a movie of it. Why not, I say? I only have photos going back to some time in the 1800s, after all.....Nothing like having to scour the archives of the Mayflower for records. Sheesh! Piece of cake!

But in the meantime, I'm doing this "little" project, which has me staying up until insane hours of the night. But the upside of it is that I have been spending an enormous time with my family - if only virtually. I'm visiting relatives who have been gone for years. Each time my niece or brother sends me a box of old photos, I thrill to the sight of an uncle, wearing a crisp white shirt and pants, leaning casually against a railing, somewhere in Paris. Or my father and his best friend, pausing on the road in Cuba on their bicycle trip. My dad's best friend is wearing argyle socks, and they are both wearing leather shoes. Sneakers - let alone bicycle shoes - weren't invented yet.

These hours spent with my family made me remember my meema's noodles and cabbage. I posted about that dish here. The only difference in the way I make it these days as opposed to the way Meema did, is that I tend to use Smart Balance instead of butter for the most part. I'll add a little butter in at the end, because I want/need that flavor. Some recipes shouldn't be tinkered with, I know. But I want to live long enough to pass this on to my great nieces and nephews. And I want to pass along our family legacy to them as well. I want them to know where they came from. Who came before them. Whose laughter they will never hear, but whose genes they share.
The dish, of course, was my mother's. I know she's smiling at me whenever I eat her mom's "signature" dish.