Wednesday, March 16, 2011

For Sudy

I certainly don't want to ignore the fact that our friends in Japan are suffering from a horrible environmental disaster and a looming nuclear emergency.  It's something that's very much on my mind as I know it is on yours.  I hope and pray for the earthquake / tsunami survivors and for those who have lost or are missing a loved one.

I want, however, to focus this post on a very personal tragedy in my own family.  While I don't often share personal facts on this blog, it seems somehow impossible to move forward without sharing, the form of a tribute, what happened in our family a few weeks ago.

On February 19th, my mother-in-law, Sudy Reinauer Zane, passed away suddenly.  She was a beautiful, loving, vivacious women full of spunk, spirit and adventure.  She was game for anything.  Death always comes as a shock, but this was beyond shocking.  It was without notice.  She was healthy and fit with no near-term health issues to worry about.  She had more energy than most people I know.  She looked and acted many years younger than her already young self.  We were not able to say goodbye.

She had so many friends and family who loved her dearly.  She was one of those people you could say anything to and you felt like you knew her right away.  She could put a roomful of people at ease.  She loved children and my son was her special first grand child by blood.

We feel her absence every hour.  I know at some point our feelings will turn from shock and grief to fond memories.  Right now, however, we are still going over the details in our heads and still in disbelief that we have lost her.  She was going to be a great presence in our son's life for sure, and we are equally sad for him that he will not have her with him as he grows up.
It had been an unusually long period of time since we'd seen her (several months). She had scheduled a trip to visit us that would have occurred about a week after she passed away.  The last time we saw her, it was for a long weekend in December.  In hindsight, it seems so sadly too short.

The last evening she was here, we cooked a big meal in.  Something we don't do that often but we somehow decided to.  Sudy's husband, Alan, offered to make his famous potato latkes.  I decided to make a rack of veal and vegetables to go with them.  I remember deciding last minute to run out to Eataly to pick up their wonderful organic, milk-fed, Amish veal.  It was a bit of an extravagance but it seemed like an apt occasion.  Sudy loved the veal so much she decided to make it for a New Year's dinner she would later host for friends.

Food was something we shared an interest in and talked about often.  She commented frequently on this blog and often used the recipes.  She's call from some far-off supermarket to get clarification on ingredients or approach.  I was always flattered that she liked my recipes and trusted my advice.  In turn, she taught me a lot about Southern cooking.  She was always interested when I expressed an interest in an authentic dish.  I would often get inspired to make a dish I learned about when visiting her and would need her to mail me a critical ingredient that could not be sourced up North.  She always obliged, sending me spices or Sorghum or whatever my whimsy required.  She also was an amazing salad-maker and spoiled us with her finely-chopped, chock-full salad creations which usually involved lots of craisins and some finely shaved cheese.  She always indulged our salad requests: she even once brought produce in her handbag on the plane.

Her New Year's dinner was a typical collaboration.  We talked about veal preparation, cooking time, and temperature readings.  I suggested she make a verjus-based sauce that I had photographed for the New York Times and she trusted my recommendation even though she had not had the sauce or even heard of verjus (nor had I prior to my shoot).  In typical fashion she enthusiastically ran around until she found a bottle of verjus in Houston.  She was so excited to make her meal, and I was proud that she took my recommendation.

On New Year's Eve I couldn't help but call to see how it went.  They just finished dinner and apparently everyone raved and she was thrilled.  Honestly, even if it had been a flop she probably would have reassured me that everything had gone as prescribed.

I cannot describe how much I am going to miss everything about her: from all of the little back and forths we had during a week, to the support and encouragement she gave me in my career and as a new mom, to all of the love I know she would have bestowed upon our son.  I hope she knows how much we love her and how much we wish she were still here.

Rack of veal

1 rack of veal or number of ribs desired (un-separated)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Very generously season veal with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.   Cook for approximately 3 hours (start checking a bit before) until the internal temperature reaches 155 and eventually rises to 160 out of the oven.

Verjus sauce

1 cup chicken stock
5 Tbs verjus (I like Roland)
2 Tbs fresh thyme
2 Tbs dijon mustard

Follow this recipe from the New York Times, starting when with the pan drippings from the veal when cooking is complete, adding the verjus, chicken stock, thyme and mustard as directed.  For more information on verjus, please see here.

Tomato couscous

2 cups tomato couscous
2 cups chicken stock plus a little extra
3/4 cup craisins
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Combine tomato couscous, chicken stock 1/4 tsp salt, craisins and almonds in the bowl of a rice cooker.  Swirl to combine.  Add a splash of olive oil.  Cook on the regular cycle until done.  Fluff with a fork and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes on the keep warm cycle.  Adjust seasonings to taste.


Unknown said...

My sincere condolences to you and your family, and what a beautiful tribute to her. Grief can be a roller coaster. Just let your feelings be your guide. Hugs!

Danielle said...

I'm sorry to read about your mother-in-law's sudden passing. This is such a heartfelt tribute I'm pretty sure she's assured of how much her family love her and miss her.

I'm glad I found your site through The Kitchn. Count me as a new fan of your work.

Stay strong.

Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

A wonderful tribute to a lovely lady...

Cool Chic Style Fashion said...

Deliziosa ricetta ♥ ciao

Loving Husband Alan said...

Another beautiful tribute to a most extraordinary woman,wife,mother,and grandmother.Her love for life,family,food,travel,and adventure is well known.Thanks for this posting.

southern daze said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mother-in-law. This post brought tears to my eyes & my heart breaks for you & your family. I hope soon you're able to embrace the memories without falling apart with tears. Trust the grieving process, it will take time but the good memories will come.

Maki said...

My thoughts go out to you and your family.

Unknown said...

Memorable meals and family go hand in hand. Know Sudy was impressed by your passion and talent. A lovely tribute.

Thanks for sharing this special meal with us and your stunning photos as well. Will have to order some veal to try this and have picked up verjus when I was last in Houston so am all set.

Unknown said...

Memorable meals and family are so intwined in our lives.... Thanks for sharing this with us. Stunning photos and inspiring menus.

Thinking of you all.

Anonymous said...

This is a uniquely loving and personal tribute to Sudy. It is so fortunate that your last meal together was one you all prepared together in your home and enjoyed at your table. Perhaps you were not as aware then that you were in a state of grace... sharing loving family and food in the intimate warmth of home. All of this, of course, is what your blog is about....sharing the best things in life with us.
Love, nancy

Chez Us said...

A warm and heartfelt story about a lovely woman. So sorry for your lose. Time will heal but memories will live on forever.

mana said...

what a nice tribute, your love for her exceeds the screen.

Simones Kitchen said...

Beautiful post. I am sorry to hear about your loss and wishing you and your family strength in coping with it. From your story she seems like a wonderful woman!

Kim said...

I am so sorry to hear about this. I hope everyone in your family and circle of friends find the strength to cope with what is obviously a terrible loss.

Jenny @ Musings and Morsels said...

I'm terribly sorry to hear such news. Many blessings to you and the family. In some ways, your cooking of her recipes or her memory will live on in her spirit.

Rosita Vargas said...

Muy buena receta abundante y elegante,me encantó,lo de Japón ha sido una desgracia que nos sobrepasó,pero ya saldrán adelante con la ayuda de Dios,los seres humanos mueren sufrimos y más adelante los recordamos con cariño,la vida,así es,con penas y alegrías,lo importante es confiar en Jesús cuando nos vienen las desgracias,te mando muchos cariños,una Chilena que encontró muy maravilloso tu blog,abrazos.

@West5thStreet said...

Glad I stumbled upon your blog. Your recipes look great and your photos are just beautiful!

Sprinzette @ Ginger and Almonds said...

What stunning photos; it's can be hard to make raw meat, or chunks of meat, looks appealing - this post looks gorgeous.

kimberly said...

What a blessed relationship you shared - I am sure she felt so loved by you. What a gift she was, and while she may no longer be with you in person, she clearly shared herself with you, which you both can in turn share with her precious grandchild. I know your hearts must feel battered but I hope with time, you will hurt less and instead smile when thinking of how wonderful she was. Wishing you grace in this difficult time~

Melina said...

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. What a tragedy. My heart goes out to you and Randy, and to your little son who knows not, in all of this. I hope you can soften the pain moment-to-moment, and after a while not grieve so sharply.

Swati Sapna said...

Hey there... its a really moving tribute to ur mum-in-law. I'm so sorry for your loss. I know what you mean by the shock of her unexpected demise. My best friends parents passed away a coupla months ago in a tragic car accident and all we could think of was if only we had some inkling, a fair warning.... :( but life goes on, and all we can do is cherish the lovely memories we have had.

Heather Feemster said...

I've been there, the first year is the hardest but then it gets easier, as you know her spirit is always with you. Gorgeous photos.

Andrea Libertella said...

It's a really lovely tribute!
Andrea, Italy

Mehjabeen Arif said...

I am so sorry dear ! This is a beautiful post

New to ur space and Happy to follow u !

Do visit me as time permits !

Unknown said...

I don't know how I landed on this site. I do know the photos captured my attention and admiration instantly. I then started to read your very sad loss. I am so sorry. I do, however, believe the importance of sending out this piece of writing will do wonders to help people like me to enjoy our loved ones in the moment...because sadly they won't always be there. I wipe away a tear for you and hope that today your heart is lifted a little more.

wishful nals said...

your photos are so pretty!

artbyrae said...

Your photographs will inspire me to take pictures this Christmas of the food as well as family! Great photos.

inpdap prestiti said...

I love it I love it. Thanks for a meat dish. Itseems easy and healthy.
Sara prestiti inpdap

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