Cathy Cultice Lentes is a lovely person, a beautiful poet, and deft prose writer. We met during our MFA Program and became fast friends. Her poetry book Getting The Mail debuts this spring. I am thrilled to have her guest blog today. Enjoy!
Cathy’s Food For Thought:
Thanks, Heather, for inviting me to join you this Sunday. It is an honor to be your first guest blogger.
Sunday dinners for me these days are often eaten alone in front of the television or out at a restaurant with one of my daughters or my father. My children are grown, and busy with their own careers in other towns. My elderly father lives about two-and-a half hours away and I am often on the road to see to his care. But I love nothing more than those wonderful times when everyone comes home and I have time to sit with them and share a meal at the same table. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (see recipes below), but we cherish the time together.
When I was a child (an only child), Sunday meant church in the morning, then home, where often my mother had a roast nearly ready with vegetables fresh from my father’s garden. There was just time to change out of my slippery Sunday socks and shiny shoes, hang up my frilly dress, and run barefoot through the backyard grass before Mom called me in to wash up. After dinner, we packed ourselves into the car for the rounds of grandparents and cousins. Twelve miles away in the country, my mother’s parents, Pap and Grams, lived on a small farm in Selma, Ohio. There were chickens and barns, an old hound dog, and gardens galore. Just outside the kitchen door there was an old pump and a tin cup where with a few strong plunges of the handle you could hear the rush from the deep well and quench your thirst with the coldest water imagined. Cousins spilled in from their house and as the grownups chatted we swung high on the old wooden swing or darted under the ferns to play make believe games.
As the afternoon progressed, we would say our goodbyes and head back toward home with a stop on Jackson Road near Pitchin where my dad’s parents lived, and spend a little time with them often staying for supper. This little place had ponies out back, flower gardens with prize roses, and sometimes, when cousins from that side of the family were around, we raced through the yard on a motorized go-cart. Two different worlds, but both part of our Sunday routine.
My favorite days were the times when we all gathered for a meal, mostly for holidays or birthdays, or some other special celebration, like the relatives from Indiana coming to visit. These days after church, we headed to Selma for a spread like no other. The kitchen would be full of food, the dining room would be full of food, and often deserts spilled over onto a sideboard. The grownups sat at the big table, and we cousins either ate at the kids’ card table or in the kitchen. In the kitchen was the best, for it was less supervised, though we were still within hearing distance.
Depending on the season, and what was in season, determined what would be on the table. Pap and my uncle, Slim, were hunters and trappers, so often we had what I often thought of as mystery meat. I preferred the things I could easily identify as ham or turkey or chicken. I was less sure of squirrel or turtle or frog. After the big feast, the grownups would gather in the living room to talk, and frequently nap, while my cousins and I hid under the tablecloth gorging on the last green olives, becoming desperately thirsty in the process.
Probably my favorite times of all were in the summer when everyone from both sides of the family gathered at our house and dad fired up the grill. All the women brought in covered dishes—potato salad, Jell-O salad, macaroni and cheese, fresh-from-the-garden corn-on the-cob, snap beans, cucumber-onion-tomato salad drenched in oil and vinegar. As Dad cooked hamburgers and hot dogs, homemade ice cream churned in the electric ice cream maker and there were sure to be fresh strawberries to top it off. Everyone gathered at the picnic table or pulled up folding chairs to TV trays and card tables. We joked and laughed and discussed the chances of the Reds going all the way this year. The radio was never far away, and as the afternoon wore on the volume was turned up so that we could hear the play-by-play. The men talked baseball and napped while the women washed dishes. We children started our own games in the backyard.
I miss those days of larger family gatherings, but am still grateful today for the happy memories they bring, and look forward to the times, though few and far between, when my family is together once again. May your Sundays be blessed with happy memories and good food.
Cathy’s Thoughtful Food: Colorful Pasta Salad & Steakhouse Burgers
Cathy’s Colorful Pasta:
Prep time: 20 minutes
3 cups tri-color rotini
1/3cup olive oil
¼ cup red-wine vinegar
1 pkg. Italian salad dressing mix
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1 colorful vegetable of choice
(I used an orange bell pepper)
Sliced pepperoni or salami cut in strips
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
(sprinkle over salad before serving)
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water to cool quickly; drain well. In large bowl, stir together olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salad dressing mix. Stir in vegetables (and meat, if desired) to coat. When pasta is cooled and drained, add to veggie mix. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. When chilled, stir and sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese before serving.
Approximately 8-1 cup servings.
Refrigerate any leftovers; refresh before serving with bottled Italian dressing, if desired.
Cathy’s Steakhouse Burgers:
Approximately 2 lbs. lean ground beef
McCormick Grill Mates Steakhouse Onion Burger with Garlic seasoning
Vermont Sharp White Cheddar cheese slices
Your favorite deli buns
Organic baby spinach
Fresh sliced tomatoes
Sliced red onion
Mayo or your choice of mustard
Shape ground beef into approximately ¼ lb. patties; sprinkle both sides of each patty with Steakhouse Onion Burger seasoning to taste. Brown patties on both sides over medium-high heat to sear in flavoring then reduce heat to cook through to desired doneness. Place cheese slices on each burger; cover pan to melt cheese. Serve sizzling hot on your favorite deli buns topped with spinach, tomato, red onion, and I like mine with mayo, though my kids insist on mustard.
Add a cold dill pickle spear on the side for a delicious crunch!
Cathy’s Thought For The Week
(a poem from her forthcoming book Getting The Mail)
REMEMBERING SELMA, OHIO
Black coffee and ice-flecked milk,
wheat toast spooned with sweet jam,
fried eggs speckled with pepper and salt,
thick slices of sizzling ham,
Pap’s mince pie slathered
with breakfast gravy.
Mounds of potatoes, garden dug;
pungent, vinegary greens;
Grams’ macaroni and cheese
erupting chunks of un-melted cheddar;
Uncle Slim’s wild turkey, squirrel
meat, and oyster dressing.
Always the click of the mantel clock
and hourly chime, a different time
than twelve miles up the road
toward Springfield, toward home—
Pop-Tarts in the toaster;
Tang, like the astronauts;
Chef Boyardee in a box.
Thank you for supporting my talented friend.
Poetry makes us human. What’s you favorite poem? Share in the Comments.
I’ll be back next Sunday!