Monday, January 7, 2013

A Short History of Shared Meals

When I think about the day in 2003 on which I met my husband, I think guacamole.
There are many moments in our lives that I remember by the meals we shared.
The last meal he cooked for me before I drove to New York for my summer internship in 2006 was Veal Marsala. 
The meal that was waiting, sitting on the table, when I returned was a Spaghetti Squash picked up at the Farmer's market that morning.
Even rockiest days of our marriage (so far), I will always fondly remember with side by side concocted candied orange peals and chocolate fudge. 
The morning after Ivory was born, we pulled apart monkey bread while we stared across the tiny hospital room at that sleeping bundle. 
The day after we came home from the hospital with we walked all over Stillwater, Oklahoma in 90 degree weather.  When we walked out of the door that morning we were full of new parent adrenaline and the fact that I had had virtually no sleep the night before seemed to matter little.  We proudly walked through our respective graduate departments showing off our little red faced, dark haired, still wrinkled baby to anyone who cared to see her.  Hours later I suddenly realized I was really, and I mean REALLY, hungry.  I could sense the immanent crash and we were at least a mile away from home.  We wheeled the pram off campus and parked it in one of our favorite little restaurants: the Crepe Myrtle.  For years Adam and I had met here for lunch.  We shared beer battered catfish, fries, burgers, drunken bananas and my favorite (non-desert item) a butter head lettuce salad with candied pecans, mandarin oranges and a to-die-for dressing.  We ate a late lunch and started the trek home.  We didn't make it home.  The new parent adrenaline dwindled and my oh-so-very-tired reality sunk in.  I called my mom and Adam, Ivory and I sat on a curb in the shade and waited for my mom to come and give us a ride home.  
Since then we moved, and not to long after the restaurant closed.
Sylvan came into our lives (and you think I would have learned my lesson after my walk with Ivory - but no - we carried him through the neighborhood the morning he was born only hours old, tucked inside Adam's coat, to show to whoever wanted to (or not to) see him).
We hardly ever step foot into restaurants anymore.  Having a wiggly almost two year old makes the idea less than enjoyably and in reality it also isn't financially feasible.   Adam or I or both of us cook breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week, every week of the month and every month of the year.  I have a vague recollection of the dinner Adam and I shared on our first wedding anniversary (Ivory was just over a month old), but I have no idea what meal we shared for our second, or third, forth or fifth for that matter.  
Every now and then I pull out one of the few remaining ceramic dishes that I made for us when we got married - a big yellow and blue "pasta serving dish" and make the salad that has such fond memories for me.   I shred a whole head of butter lettuce, top it with thinly sliced onions, mozzarella cheese, caramelized walnuts, mandarin oranges drizzled with Annie's Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette (while Adam usually sears the venison steaks). 

No, the salad is not exactly like the one I savored years ago sitting in a booth at the Crepe Myrtle, but it is my best imitation, and it has become it's own wonderful thing.
While Adam and Ivory and Sylvan and I sit down together for dinner every night, there are some nights on which the meal is enjoyed (all be it momentarily) in complete silence.  The kind of silence in which contentment is almost tangible - a rare moment of complete peace around the dinner table.  Each time I eat this salad it is something more - a blond young man sitting across the restaurant table waiting for me, a wrinkled little baby, a four year old constant ballerina and an almost two year old who readily says: "Thank you", "Thankful", and "I love you."

In an effort to bring almost tangible contentment from my dinner table to yours here is my interpretation of the Crepe Myrtle Salad.

Butter Head Salad with Mandarin Oranges and Caramelized Walnuts

1 head of butter head lettuce washed and torn into bite sized pieces

topped with

1 can of mandarin oranges (drained)
1 hand full of thinly sliced onions (red preferably, but I use whatever I happen to have in the house)
1 hand full of mozzarella cheese cut into small cubes
1 cup of caramelized walnuts (okay, you could use less, but why?  They are delicious)

drizzle over it all

Annie's Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Enjoy!!!! (silence is optional)

How I caramelize my Walnuts:

I am sure that there probably is a correct way to caramelize walnuts, but this is what I do: I put a few tablespoons of butter in my 12" skillet, add an equal amount of honey (or sugar).  Once it is melted together I add a cup of walnuts and stir until the honey mixture is thick, brown and adhering to the nuts.  I often add a few more drops of honey at the very end..  for extra honey flavor.  Remove from heat and let cool before adding to the salad.


  1. How sweet! Yes, the Crepe Myrtle is is Cafe Bella, in a way....the owner set up a camper and sells from it in the Consumer's Parking lot.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  2. I enjoyed walking through your memories and meals with you. Your kids will always love fresh, healthy food. And I suspect they will both be excellent cooks by the time they are teenagers.

  3. Ah, Heidi! The salad you love from Crepe Myrtle was my favorite food there! I look forward to getting back a kitchen and making your version! Was the salad called something like San Francisco Fireman's Salad--or Slug Salad? I think the idea was from the "Firehouse Food: Cooking with San Francisco's Firefighters". (The SF firemen are purportedly among the "best cooks".)


  4. It was called the Slug Salad! I didn't know about the connection to the Firemen in San Francisco. I remember there being something about firemen in the salad description and it never made any sense to me. There is a letter in the mail to you btw. it was mailed Wednesday, and should get there any day. Love, Heidi