Musings from a Seattle personal chef
Archive for August, 2007
I fully intended to write this post while berry season was still in full swing, but life got in the way. I made this pie as dessert for our marathon training celebratory lunch but obviously only had the stamina to write about the lobster rolls. Besides, I’ve been a bit scatterbrained. Not only have I been consumed with our training, I headed to Philadelphia for five days for the national conference of the U.S. Personal Chef Association (for which I also had to conduct a presentation on “A Day in the Life” of a personal chef). I returned to a full week of client cook dates, then had to prepare for the Danskin Triathlon. Another full week of cook dates followed, as well as a rehearsal dinner for 25 and a sit-down dinner for 11. Oh, and did I mention we’re going to France? Holy FREAKIN’ Moley! I have six days to pack, pay bills, clean the house for the house-sitter, finish my costume, figure out how to auto-respond to my email (hopefully without also sending emails to all the spammers), make a list of restaurants/food shops to visit in Paris, write a blog post on my costume on Eat Drink Run Woman, record outgoing messages on my business line saying I’m out of town, craft a proposal for a 60th birthday buffet, come up with dinners for the week that use up the food in our fridge, stop the newspaper, make copies of our house keys for our house-sitter and our neighbors and learn French. Oh, AND I have clients every day THIS week. I mean, really, who has time for all this…
Oh wait, where was I? PIE! That’s right, PIE!
I recently listened to a culinary podcast where they posted the question, “Pie or cake?” Both have their merits, but I’m definitely more partial to pie, especially berry pies. I’m not huge on sweets, and therefore prefer the tartness a berry pie provides.
I’ve been a berry girl ever since I was young. Raspberries are my all-time favorite, and I’ve been known to steal a taste whenever I can. The pea patch at the end of our street posts warning signs that the produce is only intended for those who have contributed to the upkeep of said patch, but the raspberry bush beckons me as I return from my runs around Greenlake. I rationalize my larceny by telling myself the berries would just rot on the bush if not picked. And doesn’t picking the berries assure they’ll come back even stronger the next year?
But given I was preparing the quintessential Maine lunch, blueberry pie was in order. Of course, the blueberries we get here on the West coast aren’t quite the same as the smaller, more flavorful berries of Maine, but they’d make do. (Hush up — I know what you’re thinking: FIRST I’m not satisfied with the hot dog rolls available out here; only the New England-style ones will do. NOW I’m not happy with the berries. I suppose next I’ll be saying that the fall foliage is WAY better in New England — more colors and brilliance. Well, if you’re so much happier with New England, why don’t you move there, Betsy? Or marry it? Huh? Huh?)
Ummm, where was I? (See — I TOLD you I was scatterbrained).
A reporter for a local newspaper was conducting a reader poll recently and posed the following question: “What is your favorite comfort food and what memories does it evoke?” As a chef and food lover, it was tough to nail down an answer. But I eventually decided upon lobster. Now, lest you think me Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat lobster!”), I chose it specifically for the fond childhood memories.
Every summer our family would load up the station wagon and head to our cottage in Trenton, Maine. Our luggage would be strapped to the top; mom and dad in the front seat, my sisters and brothers squeezed in the back seat. As the youngest, I’d get to sprawl out in the rear with a blanket and pillow (this was before seat belts were mandatory). The trip from our home in Connecticut took about 7-8 hours, but our whining would begin about halfway into the trip. “How many more minutes? How many more miles?” (My dad had the patience of Job).
Our excitement grew as we crossed over the Piscataqua River and saw the “Welcome to Maine” sign. We’d overnight at my paternal grandmother’s house in Waterville, then continue on to Trenton where my maternal grandparents would be waiting at the door to the cottage. It was one of several summer places along a 2-mile stretch of the Bayside Road called “Shady Nook” where generations of families would come to relax and play. My maternal grandmother — we called her Aga — summered there as a young girl, and she continued the tradition with her kids (my mom and her brother). They bought the current place in the 1950s, eventually giving it to my mom (my uncle bought a place less than a mile down the road).
Our first stop in Trenton would always be the Seavey General Store for penny candy. The Seaveys were quintessential Mainers: simple, down-to-earth folks with Down East accents as thick as molasses. We’d arrive in Shady Nook just as the nightly softball game in the Haines’ field was getting underway. We’d hug and kiss Aga and Grandpa, then rush down to the field for the game. Everyone was welcome, no matter what the age or athletic ability (I personally enjoyed hanging out in far right field eating green apples more than actually playing).
Shady Nook was kid heaven, offering numerous opportunities to explore — from the barnacled rocks and seaweed in the bay out front, to the ancient cemetery next to the ball field, to the woods where we’d go snipe-hunting (our youngest cousin always fell for it!). We’d tire ourselves out swimming in the bay and running along the beach; come suppertime we’d drag our salty, sandy bodies to the table, ravenous.
And oh, the food!