Monday, April 5, 2010

family meal

Sometimes friends and family come to visit Dan and me, which provides a good excuse to do touristy things we would never bother to do on our own. My parents came for a long weekend last week so we dragged them around town (in the rain) all in the name of fun. We strolled around St. Patrick's Cathedral, stared at Marina Abramović at the Museum of Modern Art, combed the booths at the Brooklyn Flea, walked around Brooklyn Bridge Park and stopped for hot chocolate at Jacques Torres. And it was fun. But it was vacation fun, not everyday fun.

I spent part of Sunday afternoon making lazy margaritas for my mom and watching college basketball with Dan and my dad. It was wonderful because it was such a normal thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. But sometimes I'd like to hang out with my parents and not think, "Wow, they will be gone in a day and a half."

The visit got me thinking about living so far away from family, which always happens when I spend time with my parents. Most of the time, it's really nice to have family nearby. It's nice to have people who will pick you up at the airport, lend you things, call you up when they're going for a walk in the park to see if you want to come along too. Going to museums is great, but I like doing day-to-day stuff with my parents. There's nothing better than pushing a giant shopping cart around a big, suburban Target with Mom. Probably because we rarely spend time together that way.

I could have made an elaborate, multi-course dinner to celebrate their first night in town, but I decided against it. Not only are my parents unfussy eaters, I didn't want dinner to be an event like all of the other points of interest on their trip. So I scaled back and made something more simple: shrimp scampi with linguine, Caesar salad, and Key lime pie. Just a few dishes I'd make for them on any old Sunday night if we lived in the same city and were able to have dinner together often.

In my fantasy life, they would turn up around dinner time, and we'd drink wine on my imaginary porch until the sun set. Then we'd all have supper around my imaginary dinner table, passing dishes and talking about what happened that week. We wouldn't linger too long after the meal was over because we knew we'd all be doing it again the next week. No long embraces, no tears. Just see you again soon.

And as we ate our shrimp and pasta, that's exactly what I pretended.

Dinner with my parents
Caesar salad
Shrimp scampi with linguine
Key lime pie
Shrimp scampi with linguine
From Ina Garten, via the Food Network
(Serves 4 people)

Vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. salt plus 1 1/2 tsp.
3/4 pound linguine
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 1/2 Tbsp. good olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 lb. large shrimp (about 16 shrimp), peeled and de-veined
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 lemon, zest grated
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/8 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
Grated parmesan, optional

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch), heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine. When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve with parmesan, if desired.


Barbara said...

How incredibly sweet. I live overseas and the last time I went to the US to visit family, I imagined the exact same thing, that we were all just sitting eating dinner as we would on any other Saturday night, as if it were a common event, as if I were going to see them again next week and not next year. Thinking such things though just serves to remind me that it is indeed not a normal dinner and that we wouldn't be doing it again for a long time.

Margaret Pinard said...

Lovely! I'm living on the East Coast, with all the family living on the West (and Tokyo), so I know what that's like.
Your linguine looks gorgeously and robustly yellow- is that usual? Mine goes pretty pale.

Maggie said...

I hear you--exactly how I feel sometimes. Looks like a lovely meal, too.

Nathan Hall said...

Man, this post made ME feel homesick, and I never feel that way! Though I do have to say I've been trying for years to convince my parents to move down here.

Larry said...

I was thisclose to tears reading this. No kidding.

Unknown said...

I relate. I live in Italy and my family in the States. I miss my mom calling me up and asking her to meet for breakfast. Or my sister asking me to pick up one of her boys from school.

Hang in there and eat more good food.

Daniel said...

I'm sitting on our imaginary porch right now.

judy said...

It will happen someday, hopefully before dementia sets in.

Unknown said...

This made me cry. I know how you feel. Except it makes me think of the last meal I ate with you before leaving New York.

Unknown said...

We forget it's the common moments that are really the special moments.
So who wants to push a cart at Target for me, anyone?? Any takers? Larry? Judy? Nathan?

Lisa said...

First off, sorry to make people feel sad and homesick! I was very much feeling that way when I wrote this.

Barbara: Well put. It's not a "normal" dinner, even when you're forcing yourself to think that way!

Margaret: Tokyo...that's interesting. I didn't use a special pasta, just a regular dried linguine. I think it's lighting trickery. :)

Maggie: Thank you!

Nathan: I thought your Dad was moving down, no?

Larry: Aww...I feel very powerful now. Ha.

Nikkilooch: It's the little stuff, right? But I'm sure Italy is pretty great.

Daniel: I'd like to join you.

Judy: Ah, so pithy. This made me laugh out loud.

Megan: I feel this way about you too. I wish you were coming back. :(

Donna: Well put, Mom. We'll see if we can get you some shopping companions.

Unknown said...

How far away do the parents live? My wife and I are in the same boat living in Florida with both our families in central PA. Being in Florida you would think they would visit more often.

Lisa said...

Tender Branson: My parents (and Dan's) live in South Florida. We're in almost the same situation as you, but reverse!

Anne said...

Okay - I'm going to take my comment an entirely different way, Lisa, though your post was lovely (as usual!). But I love the photo because it is the vantage point from which you will be taking photos at our wedding this fall (weather permitting, of course)!

rosiiieee said...

Lisa, I'm really loving this - like so many, my family is on the west coast or overseas, and it's just so nice for people to come and visit, though having my family of 4 crammed in my studio apartment for a few days is enough to drive me insane. My mother is actually visiting next week, and I had a huge list of restaurants to take her out to, however, after reading this entry, I am deciding to scale back and have her make me a few homey, Chinese dishes. Nothing will beat mom's cooking! :)

Lisa said...

Rosie: Thank you! You are so lucky to have a mom who makes homemade Chinese food. Milk that while you've got it. :) Have fun!

Lisa said...

Anne: I was actually thinking of you guys when we were standing there. It's such a beautiful spot for a wedding!


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