On Saturday night, we celebrated Dad’s 20th year in the ministry. Twenty years. That’s a long time to tend the flock. He’s led two incredible parishes, including one through an arsonist’s church fire eleven years ago. He’s married, buried, counseled and consoled, all with the kind of grace and humility that proves he was born to do this work. We had much to celebrate and we did just that in typical Anderson family style. With food and wine, and each other.
I have to give Mom credit for planning the menu. Sharon wasn’t home yet and I was in New York with friends until that afternoon. In fact, the accidental perfectness of her menu was lost on us until nearly half-way through the meal. As we celebrated two decades of greatness, the evening was in every way a throwback to the 1980s.
We started with Kir Royales (in Desert Rose champagne flutes, a wedding gift) and Mom’s famous Union Square Bar Nuts. We sipped, we lovingly reminisced, we crudely joked and we finished some last-minute dinner preparations around our kitchen island.
When we’d drained our glasses and migrated to the dining room we started the meal with shrimp-stuffed artichokes straight from Mrs. Child herself, an Anderson family classic popular in our house when Mom still had a perm, and stretch pants cum stirrups were cool (the first time). The occasion called for some special wine, and a 1990 bottle of Torremilanos saved for such an event was provided by Sharon’s beau from his days spent working in a wine shop.
Once we’d licked our gold-rimmed china plates clean, Mom and Dad fixed dinner plates in the kitchen: rack of lamb, slices of potato rosti, braised brussels sprouts with mustard butter, garlic-sauteed tomatoes and a sauce whose sweet/savoury balance was simply perfect for the palate. It was decadent and delicious, but not too rich or filling to stop us from moving on to the next course.
We had a small cheese board to accompany the main event, a twenty-year old bottle of Santenay Premier Cru Burgundy, a gift given to Mom and Dad four years before which had been decanting for several hours on the side table.
We were satiated, but not stuffed, leaving just enough room for molten chocolate cake with sugared raspberries to finish off the evening.
Gold-rimmed china, crystal, family silver, French cuisine, old family favorites, aged wine, it all felt so appropriate, such a great tribute to the era in which Dad started his ministry. And it was all so perfectly accidental.
You’re right, Maggy. I didn’t realize until we were almost through dinner how much this menu was inspired by Julia Child and More Company, one of the books I cut my culinary teeth on nearly 30 years ago.
The contrast between then and now is striking. Take the rack of lamb, for example. Back then you bought them untrimmed, complete with the chine bone (I haven’t said that word in ages!) which the butcher would kindly remove.
But there was more work to be done. If you smiled nicely, the butcher might remove the meat in between the bones, but if you wanted exquisite looking exposed ribs, it was your job to scrape them clean… and I always did.
That extra bit of meat and chine bone didn’t go to waste. You’d use the scraps to make stuffing for roasted tomatoes, and you’d simmer the chine bone to make a flavorful little sauce.
These days rack of lamb comes cryovac-packed with factory-Frenched bones. There is no chine bone for sauce making, no meat scraps for stuffing.
You could lament the past. Yes, the bones were nice, the scraps were great, and all that tedious preparation probably made me appreciate the experience more.
Now I sear the racks before roasting to produce enough drippings so that with a little chicken broth and balsamic vinegar, I’ve got a pretty flavorful sauce in just a few minutes. And compared with making a stuffing and seeding, salting, and draining tomato halves, my sauteed cherry tomatoes make a pretty tasty side dish.
Then? Now? I think I’m gonna go with now.
Congrats to David and Pam! This meal sounds so good I know I would have licked the gold-rimmed china plates too!
It was weird how old-school the meal was…by accident.
The way we eat, like everything about us, has changed over the years. It’s funny to think that we used to sit around and eat almost a whole baguette between the four of us–in addition to pasta and salad, and sometimes a bit of ice cream. We would never do that now…well, almost never. Maybe if we were on vacation.
Mom used to make chicken breasts with sides and pan sauces a lot, now whenever we eat that we can’t help but giggle at how mid-90’s that feels for us.
And back then, a dinner like the one we had the other night would have been the height of entertaining–shrimp-stuffed artichokes, gold china, kir royales. Nowadays it’s more like good wine, warm tapenade, and beef stew in rustic bowls or martinis, poor man’s sushi, and clam pasta.
Basically we’re waaaaay more fun and relaxed now…but it’s nice to throw it back sometimes. It’ll be interesting to read these posts in a few years and chuckle at ourselves then.
Anne Ritchings says
Sounds like a fabulous dinner. Congratulations on 20 years, David. I consider myself fortunate to have been your colleague for some of those years in Pennsylvania.