18 February, 2007

Olimpia feeds the family

All we can say is OOF. What a meal!

It was a crystal clear day, as you can see, as we set off for Olimpia's house in Catskill, New York, which is actually a pseudonym for "Very Far From Anywhere." As in, their driveway alone is like the distance from Avery's school to Buckingham Palace. You have to cross the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to get there, and thence resist the temptation to stop at the Rip Van Winkle Diner, but file under your hat the vacancies at the Rip Van Winkle Motel. You will have gathered that this literary phenomenon is the focal point of the cultural life of Catskill, New York. Except that we turned a blind eye on all these attractions, knowing that if our old VW station wagon could make it up the drive, ambrosia lay at the end of our journey. We were not disappointed.

I will never forget the day that Olimpia and I cooked all day long (or rather she cooked and I salaamed "I'm not worthy" at her feet, for John's work Christmas party just before we moved last year. Meatballs to serve 60! Ribs that spent the entire day in her homemade tomato basil sauce. All the other "food" that I submitted for consideration was entirely eclipsed, and people stood around the empty platter where the meatballs had been, saying, "But I didn't get any!" So when we knew we were going to have a chance to see Olimpia and her husband Tony during our visit home, we jumped on it. And I had no hesitation in asking her to make my favorites.

Tony built this log cabin with his own hands! It reminds me of the incredible accomplishment of my dad (well, we helped a little) when he built the bedroom extension on their house: the sheer capability boggles the mind. And now Tony's building a kitchen extension for Olimpia and we were able to see the plans, plus the work in progress, plus examine tile samples, peek at lighting fixtures, cabinets in progress. Very exciting, and you can imagine the views. The Catskill mountains loomed in the distance and there were fully two feet of snow. Avery was in heaven sledding, with all of us in attendance to try to pack down the trail.

We sat down to lunch, and it exceeded all our expectations. It was like eating through the entire menu of a small Italian restaurant. We began with lasagne, in which there were tiny, tiny meatballs instead of the mince I use to make mine. Avery was in heaven. From there we progressed to large meatballs and the succulent ribs, which had simmered all day in sauce. Then, if you can imagine it, a dish of flank steak wrapped around parsley, pine nuts and raisins, PLUS an eggplant dish with olive oil, capers and black olives. Oh MY. Simply sublime. And through it all we gossiped about John's abandoned office, Tony's colorful history as Deputy Fire Marshal of the FDNY (excitingly on the arson squad). Did you know that every FDNY fire helmet (and every one in the world, for all I know) is made from a cast of the individual fireman's head? Unique, every one. And Avery did her posh accent, and her David Beckham accent, which I must say is spot on.

I will pass on any recipes I can manage to cajole from Olimpia, especially the eggplant dish which revived my interest in that deadly nightshade (well, not deadly, but you know what I mean). Thank you, Olimpia and Tony, for everything.

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