Sunday, December 24, 2006


A decade or so ago, my father was married to a crazy woman who left him for someone she met in a chat room. I think the chat room concerned lhasa apsos, but it could have been mastiffs. Anyway, she got a bunch of his dough and most of his retirement, and we lost a colorful, brilliant and somewhat diabolical relative.

As evil as she was, she was the best gift-giver ever. Her ability to crawl inside someone’s soul was part of how she undid people, but the talent, when she didn’t use it for treachery, supplied us with presents that still, ten, fifteen years later, hit the highest of marks for form and function, both.

Case in point, my Joy of Cooking, which I consult on every single holiday and dinner party I host. Tomorrow is Christmas, and that means page 55, via page 130—hollandaise sauce and eggs Benedict, respectively.

The eggs Benedict thing involves all sorts of filial connective tissue. The ritual began on the morning of August 1st, 1987, which was the last birthday of my first husband’s short life. He was 25, and my mother came to visit and prepared the dish, along with mimosas, and we indulged in our brunch while watching our little baby, Sam, crawl around the living room.

Over the years, the dish somehow jumped tracks and aligned with Christmas morning instead of birthdays, but I never could get that hollandaise to taste right without my mother’s help—that is until my dad’s crazy wife bestowed that cooking tome upon me.

The fabric of my family is somewhat tapestry-like (as opposed to, say, a sweater of Merino wool). Our rituals are abstract and accidental (like right now, my daughter has departed for a candlelight service with a friend, and my son and I have opted for the comforts of home, high-speed Internet and the fireplace), but tomorrow morning, by God, we’ll get out the blender, the butter, the eggs. A little lemon juice, pepper sauce, and a stained and dog-eared copy of Joy of Cooking, because some things you just can’t wing.

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