Family, Mac & Cheese, Afghans, Poetry, and Air Trumpets

As I was growing up my family moved a lot because of my dad’s job. Even after I “grew up” and moved out of my parent’s home I have continued to move to strange new cities where I don’t know anyone. But no matter how far from home I am I have discovered that nothing makes you feel more comforted, less lonely, and more at home than comfort food. For me personally it is a mixture of food cooked by my Southern momma, the occasional summer lunch cooked by my papa, but mostly a combination of whatever happened to be in the pantry. I grew up on casseroles, boxed dinners, canned food, and generous amounts of love. My family always sat down at the properly set dinner table with the television off for every meal from the time I was born until I moved out of the house. No matter how hectic my life got through the troublesome teenage years I was always at home for dinner sitting around the table with my Dad, Mom, brother, and sister. While biologically my family only numbered five there were frequently more people at our table. My momma and papa never hesitated to extend an invitation to someone who needed a hot meal or even just needed company for the evening even if the meal we served was the last meal we had in the house. I can remember one winter we were snowed into our giant 1920’s drafty house in Kentucky with 13 inches of snow on the ground when one of my brother’s friends and his mother walked through the snow to get to the grocery store only to discover it was closed. As they walked back by our house they were invited in to warm themselves with blankets and board games and homemade, from scratch, hot cocoa made by my momma. Some meals were only boxed macaroni and cheese but to us it was a feast. We never knew we were “poor”. Every meal was served on a table with silverware (not real silverware, but we never knew), cloth napkins (hand stitched by my momma), we had to ask to pass everything instead of just reaching for it, and we frequently used our “good plates” (which looking back were probably $20 for a set at Wal-Mart). Yet sitting at that humble hand me down table we never knew. We were taught never to talk with our mouths full, always to use our napkins, never to use our fingers to scrape up food from our plate, and to never put our elbows on the table. To us we lived in a giant palace full of nooks and crannies and love. Above all it was full of love. To us the kitchen and dining room were the heart of our family. Not just holidays but everyday. One of us kids would set the table while another one poured the iced tea and one of us helped momma and papa finish getting dinner together and onto the table. To anyone else we lived in a broken down brick house that was drafty and empty, and completely out of date. To us it was paradise.
Dinner at the Lindsey household was never a short event. Even if there were no guests we would sit around and talk about how good dinner was, what had happened at school or work that day, what we were going to do the next day, or even talk about the MacGyver episode that had been on earlier that day.
After dinner may have been my favorite time. We would play board games, watch Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett, a family movie, play cards, do cross-stitch, or my favorite nights, reading poetry aloud from my mother’s worn copy of ‘One Hundred and One Famous Poems’. I can still remember sitting in the living room with everyone stitching, writing, and relaxing listening as we each took turns reading these poems. Even to this day I can recall the sheer emotion I felt and the tears I shed every time we read ‘The Highway Man’ by Alfred Noyes. The day my mom gave me my own copy of that book I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait for it to be well worn and read nightly to my future family.
While we never had a great amount of spending money we always made do. We had each other and that was what we needed to get through the day. Our clothes may have been second hand, we may have eaten boxes upon boxes of discounted macaroni and cheese, but we were happy and care free. And that is all anyone can ask for. To this day I have met very few if any people and families who are lucky enough to have the full and rich life I was fortunate to experience growing up. My only hope and wish is that someday I will have a family, biological or not, that I can share the richness, happiness, values, lessons that built character, and most of all boundless love with.
Thanks Momma, Papa, Josh, & Abby. I am who I am and a much better person because of everything you shared with me. The unspoken lessons I was taught by all of you have made me feel tough as nails, prepared for anything, happy, and most of all, loved. Loved unconditionally and completely. And in this world that sets me far above anyone else. Thank you. I love you guys. I can’t wait to see you in October. I am lucky, fortunate, and blessed to have been allowed to have the family I have. I love you. I honestly do.

It’s Really More of a Supper Club

Things I learned this week: Buffalo and Wild Boar are delicious, three desserts in one night are NOT too much, all martinis taste better with blue cheese stuffed olives, and I am too white trash to eat at five star restaurants. How did I learn these life changing tidbits? My Steve is home for Spring Break this week so we went out to a fancy dinner for my belated birthday since he wasn’t able to come home in February. We got dressed up and went to the Manhattan Steak & Seafood restaurant (it’s really more of a supper club) in Orange. Oh. My. God. Sometimes when I think about heaven it’s crystal chandeliers and leather upholstered booths. We of course made a great impression by changing our reservation time 3 times then arriving with our own bottle of wine. It was a good bottle of wine and there was no corkage fee but we still came in with it. We started with a split of champagne and an appetizer of scallops. The scallops arrived and it was two. Two scallops. They cost $9. I have to say though, they were worth every single penny. They were the best scallops I have ever had in my entire life. They were creamy and buttery and perfectly cooked. They practically melted in your mouth. Once we were finished with the appetizer we ordered our entrees and a drink each. Steve ordered the Wild Boar and a Manhattan while I ordered the Buffalo Filet and a 007 Martini. When the waiter asked how I wanted the filet cooked I said ‘medium well’ (as I always do) and the waiter said “the chef prefers to cook it medium rare. I suggest you try that.” Yeah it was that kind of place. (I hear Chef Francois’ voice in the back of my head: “In ordering something “special”, I only assume that a. you are profoundly ignorant and I pity you or b. you mock me…in which case I must fight you in a duel!”) The martini’s came out and the glasses were intricately carved crystal martini glasses whose stem had to be at least a foot tall and the glasses alone had to weigh 1lb each. And my martini had blue cheese stuffed olives in it. They were divine. SOOO good. When the entree arrived it was the most beautifully decorated plates I have ever seen. The buffalo was like an extra delicious filet mignon. It had a little game taste to it but was like butter. Smooth and flavorful. It was like eating the best steak you have ever had in your life and as a life long carnivore who LOVES steak that’s saying a lot. Even the mashed potatoes (which were served in little florets around the plate) were good and I HATE mashed potatoes. The meal was so good not only did I eat every bite but I, Beth, mixed my food. There was food everywhere and I did not care! Steve graciously let me try his herb encrusted wild boar. It was fantastic! The sage-y goodness was, as Steve described it, “like a pork chop on steroids”. And of course since it was my “birthday” we HAD to get dessert. Warm bread pudding and two glasses of port was ordered while I tried very hard to look sophisticated while licking my plate clean. You need to understand I am from the south and I LOVE bread pudding and this was AMAZING bread pudding that was devoured in approximately 3 seconds flat. Then the waiter came out and since it was my birthday they gave me a complimentary tiramisu with Happy Birthday written in chocolate and a little candle. So of course we ate that. We wouldn’t want to offend the chef…again. Then it was time for the check. Which came with two cinnamon sugar biscotti to soften the $200 blow but luckily the port had already done that. So we paid the bill, took our unopened bottle of wine, and walked merrily out convinced that we had fooled everyone into thinking we belonged there. Of course I’m pretty sure they just laughed at ‘those white trash people who ordered their steak medium well and wore clothes from Sears’.