One of the things that I love about travelling and meeting new people is that within each new acquaintance, I strive to find something familiar as a jumpoff point to build or build upon a relationship. That concept is nothing new. First impressions give root to the blossoming idea that a minute coincidence could instantly form a positive bond between new faces. Something familiar only serves to comfort both parties, whether it be a warm reception or a token of welcome to this new experience. When I travel home, and I’m sure it’s the same with many if not all of us, I want to have something familiar. The best thing I can hope for is that I can go home, head to the kitchen, open the fridge, and find a sandwich with my mother’s bread. I know it’s there. All I have to do is dig around in the freezer if it isn’t there at first glance.There’s turkey, and cheese, and fresh lettuce, and tomatoes “from our garden”, she’d always say. I’d make that sandwich, and eat it. With great relish. (Seriously, there are piccalillies and sundry condiments of all kinds when and where I want them). That is the sentiment that I enjoy- being able to sit down and enjoy a slice of comfort.

When we got off the plane last August on our trip to Connecticut, and made our way through the winding maze of neverending, oxymoronic terminals at LaGuardia, I was to keep an eye out for the parental units as a secondary lookout. The lady was on her phone, and I was in a permanent state of eye-peeledness searching the baggage claim area for a somewhat familiar yet heretofore unrecognized face.

Eventually, the connection was made, hugs and introductions were exchanged, and we were soon on our way to the commuter lot for the drive back up to the Northwest corner of Connecticut. In the foremost sense, this was already a pleasant positive, as I genuinely appreciated the effort put forth to make the trek down to meet us at the gate. When we got back to the car, I was even more at ease, as from within a lunchbox, the mistress of the house produced sandwiches.

Sandwiches. Sandwiches and grapes. There was a cheese sandwich for their daughter, and a turkey sandwich for me. The house is mostly vegetarian, and as I found out when we made it all the way back up to the homestead, at least 15 to 20 minutes of a country drive from the nearest Grocery store. That’s why the turkey tasted extra fine.

And there were tomatoes. The sandwich was on a thick, crusty hoagie roll, and it was just right. After a solid day’s travel on the plane, it hit the spot.

Suspicious dog is Suspicious

Back at the homestead, I got the grand tour. A lovely country home on a lane tucked back from the world, a recently installed flagstone pond, and the familiar, well-manicured yet more natural than simply ornamental garden similar to one that I’d find in my own mother’s backyard. As we had escaped the oppressive heat of Seattle (103 degrees on the day of departure), the weather was fantastic. Not too hot, not too cool, and idyllically sunny. I took my shoes off and walked around the yard. There was a curious dog following us with a suspicious look on his face. He was pretty alright in the end.

We scoped out the flower patches, watching the bees in full swing, flitting from bloom to bloom. We ducked under the fruit trees and between the raised vegetable beds. There were red and green lettuces, upside down tomato plants, wily stems of two-foot tall garlic, broccoli, and a bit further down, running along the property line were bushes of raspberries.  It was far enough out of any town, without cellphone reception, I might add, to be considered a place where far away from the everyday summer affairs of the market, I could relax.

Where normally, I would have an avenue two patio bricks wide in front of my icy yet fragrant fish case to traipse back and forth on any given afternoon at the market, there was so much space. The air was clean, and there were no constant blasts from the ferry terminal to alert me to the time of day. It was just right.

That evening, all hands were in the kitchen. We were all busy chopping vegetables, fixing up the cheese, putting the chiffonade on the basil while our grillmaster, Lord of the manor, was outside firing up the grill. We brewed up a pitcher of iced tea with a quick trip to the garden for some fresh mint, made a lovely salad, and sat down on the deck to enjoy pizza on the grill.

Curry Favor and Flavor with a Favorite Curry!

Over the course of the next ten days, we had a few memorable food experiences in the kitchen. We prepared a birthday dinner for our Connecticut hostess with one of our own house standby dishes, curried shrimp with caramelized fennel and pears. With it, we had a lovely bottle of wine, and for those of us who liked potatoes, (and really. Who doesn’t?), we had a delicious dish of layered thinly sliced potatoes and shredded romano cheese, baked in the oven until crispy and golden brown. If you think it sounds delicious, you’re right. It was. It was so delicious that we ate it all.

When relatives came into town for a day or two, with the cheese curds I brought from the Market and fresh basil from just out the back door, we made fresh mozzarella and rotolo with a mother and aunt, which we took the next day to a family gathering on Long Island. There were three ladies and me. As with my own aunts and mother, there was much giggling, sisterly in-jokes, and singing of familiar girl group tunes late into the night.

We made our way down to Long Island the next day, where I met the rest of the aunts and uncles. Our host, Tommy, immediately cracked the cooler and tossed me a beer. Greg, brother number two, introduced himself at the window of the car, swooping in for the Italian Long Island hello, as he put it. Lisa was soon after to show, accompanied by three smiling kids, beachcombing gear, and soda.

We sat around on the porch as the rain rolled in, and retired to the living room as the uncles went out to get some more food. We sat and ate chips and listening to Billy Joel and Bon Jovi blast through the speakers, watching the Yankee game with newly minted AL East powerhouse and former Milwaukee Brewer C.C. Sabathia on the mound. Another something familiar and simultaneously new, the known face in a new uniform.  Ten minutes later, in came the uncles with armloads of food. Eggplant parmesan, grinders, pizzas, an ice cream cake, and meats. Cold cuts. Sandwich fixings.


Garlic Spears in the Garden

So the lady is out there right now, doing all of those wonderful things, I am sure. Hanging with the family, eating delicious food, enjoying the sunshine, and I have to wait just about a week to go out and meet her. I’m looking forward to the time off from work. This year, we visit two months earlier than last year. I have an entirely new crop of things to look forward to. To the right is a picture that was taken this morning from the garden. If I can make it happen, I’m going to cook with those fresh garlic spears. I don’t know what, just yet, but when I do, I’ll let you know.


And below is what I have to look forward to greeting me on the morning I arrive. Maybe she’ll bring sandwiches.