Thursday, April 3, 2008

Eight Decades, One Meal

Last weekend, 29 people came from Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Jose, Palo Alto, Vancouver, Boise, Denver, Dallas (Pennsylvania), St. Paul, and Brooklyn to Sarasota, Florida, with one purpose: to celebrate.

And there was a lot to celebrate: the 80th birthday of my grandma Sulochana (Sue or Sulo for short), the 75th birthday of my great-uncle Mert, the 70th birthday of my great-aunt Mira, and Mert and Mira's 40th wedding anniversary.

There was sun to bathe in and ocean to splash in, there were sand castles to make and spectacular sunsets to admire. There were even a couple of sharks to be scrupulously avoided. But most importantly, to me (and, dear reader, to you), there was food.

One evening, my uncle Roger and cousin Anthony prepared a smorgasbord of curried chicken and saag and cauliflower and naan, a delicious expression of Sulochana's dual heritage: Indian and Swedish. Twelve-year-old Elia ended the meal on a sweet note with perfectly fried Gulab Jamun in rosewater syrup, inspired in part by this post.

On another night, when we were all too tired from the grand birthdays/anniversary celebration to do any real cooking, my dad made quesadillas with the party platter cheese leftovers. The requests for one more quesadilla kept coming, and he was reduced to using the dubious remains of a nut-covered cheese ball. (Not recommended.)

And then there was the grand finale: a meal that celebrated every decade of Sue, Mert, and Mira's lives, from 1928 to 2008.

The menu (in chronological order):
  • 1920s: Uncle Mark's Piña Colada
  • 1930s: Key Lime Pie, a more or less joint effort by my dad, Mark, and Aunt Cathy*
  • 1940s: Great-Grandma Olga's Meatloaf (made by Great-Aunt Mira)*
  • 1950s: Green Bean Casserole by Aunt Tami, and Elia and I made a Pineapple Pie from American Food Writing.
  • 1960s: Grandma Sulo's Sour Cream Coffeecake (made by Aunt Diane) -- published on a new food site where I am now a contributor!
  • 1970s: Grandma Izzy's Sweet Potato, Marshmallow, and Pineapple Casserole (by my cousin, Anthony)* and BBQ chicken with Stubbs sauce, grilled by my dad
  • 1980s: Great-aunt Patricia's Spicy Wraps, Three-ways
  • 1990s: Uncle Mark's Marinated and Grilled Veggies
  • 2000s: My mom, Shelley, made a salad loosely based on Heidi's Citrus Parmesan Farro Salad (with couscous instead of farro).
* Recipes to come soon!

It was quite a spread. I was not completely happy with my contribution -- Pineapple Pie from Fruits of Hawaii (1955) -- but I'm pretty confident of how it could be improved.

We did a few things right: we added a bit of minced, fresh ginger. A lovely touch. We also reduced the sugar and replaced half of it with with brown sugar for a greater depth of flavor. Two cups of finely chopped fresh pineapple was too little, and too mushy. My dad mused that pineapples may have been less juicy 50 years ago. Whatever was going on there, I would cut the pineapples into just-smaller-than-bite-size chunks, and go all out with about 3 cups total.

Pineapple-Ginger Pie

1 9-inch unbaked pie crust, with top
1/3 - 1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 cups chopped fresh pineapple (sliced just smaller than you would for a fruit salad)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, both sugars, and salt. Beat eggs slightly and add to the flour mixture. Stir in the lemon juice, pineapple, and ginger. Pour into the pie shell, dot with butter, and moisten edge with water. Cover with the top crust. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees F; reduce heat to 350 F and bake 35 minutes longer.


Dave, 'LunaPierCook' said...

What an amazing idea! My mom will be 80 in 2010 ... maybe I can convince folks to build a similar kind of meal. All the food sounds fantastic, and yes I'm saying that about your pineapple-ginger pie as well.

danny said...

That looked like an amazing family union. I've never seen a pineapple pie before, so that's a first! Know anywhere to buy such a thing around here?