Last year at this time I was writing to my nephew. He was an exchange student living in New York. Now he’s in another state, in his first year of College, the youngest, tallest, thinnest and most likely the most baby-face of the freshman class. Today I wrote him a letter. When I considered making an edible and sending off the letter inside a care package, with my home-made apple butter, the thought took me back to when I visited him at his school, in his first year. In those days I got to drop him off and pick him up, and prepare a snack for him when he got home after school.
One reason I remember those days so well is that I had made him dinner the night before. While we were dining he turned to me and said, “Tante do you think you can make this dish again and bring it to my school tomorrow?”
He never did take to junk food and ate like a Prince at a very young age. The next day I woke up early and began my preparations for Turkey Ossobuco—that he liked so much.
As I approached Lycée Français de San Francisco, I saw a blackboard out in front of the school with a menu posted. Flabbergasted, I couldn’t understand how my cooking could compare to their elaborate full-course menu. I read the listing on the board—a main entrée, vegetable, salad, bread and cheese and dessert. To my chagrin I thought of the paper plates and paper napkins I had packed thinking it was practical and made for a lighter load. If the children were using cutlery, I would have to look the other way. Then I realized that my meal however short on courses was made from an essential simple and powerful ingredient and that was love. I had anticipated his birth and he was (and still is) very special to me. So I proudly walked in with my picnic basket of turkey ossobuco, a green salad and French bread. I looked around the room. The school had a structured program when it came to meals and allowed plenty of time for consumption. It had all the little personal touches, the way the children waited in line, how they got everyone to quiet down before the meal and I felt comfort in the structure. I can only imagine what I must have looked like among all those 5 year-olds. But if my nephew didn’t mind, then why should I?
I took out the entrée and bread, and all the other kids were in awe. Naturally being in San Francisco fruits and vegetables were organic and their plates had no signs of peanut butter or any of the fare I grew up with.
Afterwards, on the playground, it was cold. I did the unexpected and stayed to play a while, my baby nephew in tow. The children tugging on my arms and pulling me in different directions and I kept hearing, “Can I play too?” “Will you be my Tante?” They were all wonderful and it was a great afternoon of fun.