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Archive for the ‘sunday lunch’ Category

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2014 has opened with a bang and the Sunday Lunch series is back on with a vengeance.  The latest one was a perennial favorite – Cassoulet Sunday!  Nothing gives a bigger middle finger to polar vortexes, dibs on shoveled parking spaces and wearing thermal underwear to the office than a steaming clay pot of beans, tasty duck parts and equally tasty pig parts.  It’s a helluva dish and if you’re not making it, then I feel sorry for you.

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I assessed the damage from the previous days Sunday Lunch.  7 people. 7 bottles of wine. 2 half finished bottles of homemade infused vodka.  13 wineglasses, 7 cognac glasses and countless dirty dishes, bowls and spoons.  Not too bad.  There have been worse.  A good hour and some hot soapy water and all traces of spilled wine, stray pickled bits and crusty noodles would be gone.  It was a good one, a most enjoyable afternoon filled with stories, laughter, general catching up and good-natured ribbing.  Two years ago I vowed to have regular monthly Sunday lunches with a particular group of friends and had fallen behind this year.  I missed my friends and was catching up.  This was a good one.

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I’ll admit it.  I have no problem doing so.  When I’m wrong, I’m wrong.  You see, I had some pretty heavy preconceived notions about this Southern thing called “pimento cheese”.  Generally not a fan of mayonnaise in great quantities, the thought of mixing shredded cheese and mayo together did not sound tasty.  Or delicious.  Or possibly good in any way.  Friends with Southern backgrounds would swoon at the mere mention but I lumped it into the category of Southern things I don’t really understand, right next to sweet tea and soupy double crust cobblers that are not pie.

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There were two holidays in my house growing up where we went full on Polish – Christmas and Easter, the later much more so than the former.  Easter was when we had a table groaning under the weight of food – several kinds of pierogies, sausage, sauerkraut, a butter lamb, potato casseroles, and always kolacky and a lamb cake for dessert.  Sour cream usually featured heavily in there too.  A Chicago-Polish friend once told me that it wasn’t a proper meal at her house unless someone was passing the tub of sour cream.  For my clan, it wasn’t a proper Easter without three things:  pierogies, garlicky sausage and kolacky. Wait.  Four things.  Pierogies, garlicky sausage, kolacky AND polka music.  The night just cannot end without a rousing rendition or six of “Who Stole the Kiska”.  You should try it.

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Sunday was a strange day, weather wise, in Chicago.  While the day prior was relatively mild for late January, Sunday started out meek but ended with a roar as a fierce torrent of freezing rain and thundersnow quickly descended.  It was cold, wet, icy and altogether unpleasant and this mess started at the exact moment the first batch of friends arrived for Sunday Lunch.  If there was ever a time to serve warm, filling comfort food, this was it.  Cassoulet Sunday had met its match.

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This time of year, New Years resolutions or not, I yearn for things that are warm, cozy and comforting.  Big fuzzy blankets.  Fleece jackets.  Warming cups of tea and spicy hot chocolate.  Meals that feed your soul like pot pies, hearty soups and long simmered things in heavy pots pushed to a back burner that make the house smell divine.  A few months back, I invited some friends over for lunch, just as the weather was starting turn and made such a thing.  It was wonderful.

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‘Tis the season for all things delicious and a fine time for wonderful classics like gingerbread, though I’m on heavy-duty gingerbread overload right now.  I’ve made more than a dozen gingerbread houses for both professional and personal projects, a few types of cookies for gifts and taught a fancy decorated ornament class.  The house smells permanently of molasses and spice.  It’s rather festive and beats a Yankee Candle any day.

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