By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Food Columnist
After reading “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter,” I was inspired to doing some serious cleaning and organizing as I didn’t want the duty to fall (unexpectedly) to my children. Author Margarete Magnusson instructed me to spend quality time with my clutter: reflect and then dispose. I awoke early last Saturday eager to get started. By evening, I’d barely made it through the napkin ring drawer. That’s right, folks, the napkin ring drawer. I emptied the entire contents on the dining room table and began spending quality time with the clutter.
Some of the sets came with matching salt and pepper shakers or place-card holders (the silver-plated peapod set includes both!). I have dozens of sets, collected for years, from every corner of my world. Most come in groups of eight, though I have a couple sets of twelve and many sets of two, purchased as samples for clients that now grace my tables-for-two.
I can remember (almost) the provenance of each set. My favorite set are antique silver rings I bought in Ireland to match the engraved starter pair given to me by my grandmother Irma, some forty-plus years ago. The original set are engraved with a fancy MM and were previously owned by Irma’s grandmother, Maggie McBride. I’ll never part with those.
One of the things I unburied last Saturday was a collection of my old writings, and they immediately called for my undivided attention. Armed with the wrinkled old folder and a steaming cup of coffee, I curled into my favorite leather chair and spent a couple hours reading the forgotten works of a young ranch wife. Ironically, one of the carefully-typed pages was about my kitchen and all the treasures it held. Though it was written more than 30 years ago, some things never change.
I wrote about my copper collection. It started as a few pieces on a wedding registry of a hopeful bride and has grown to a collection that spans 39 years and well over 39 pieces. I wrote of my then-new oak shelving that housed my cookbook collection (ever-growing, and still treasured to this day). I reread of my appreciation for Grandmother’s pewter collection — she gave it to me as a wedding gift. The more time I’ve spend with these pieces, the more I’ve grown to love them. I am here to report that, for me, it was a futile exercise. These beloved treasures aren’t going anywhere.
Since I am not parting with these things, I decided to leave notes for my children so they’ll know the value of “their” collections. Yes, children, you will need three paella pans. Besides the huge pan of Valencia Paella for your Spanish feast, you’ll need an extra pan to prepare some for the vegetarian guest(s), and you may need another to prepare the dish without shrimp, to accommodate a best friend with seafood allergies.
Stored in my kitchen and garage are more than three dozen assorted bread pans in every shape and size. Yes, children, you will need all of these, at least once a year, for holiday baking. Speaking of baking, man does not live by bread alone. Depending on the dough I am working with — rolls, cookies or pastries — I’ll always have a need for at least half of my dozen rolling pins. I’m not sure yet how to impress the importance of these in a note to the children…
I do know when I die there will be totes of linens (sorted by seasons, color and size) stored under my bed, along with runners, overlays and banquet-length tablecloths, all carefully folded, all ready for the next big soiree. Children, think twice before you get rid of these — before you know it, there will be graduations and weddings – or even a catering gig. These are very expensive to replace.
Upstairs at my house, you’ll find totes and drawers and closets filled with lovely wrappings, ribbons, fine paper and classy pen sets. Children, I found such joy in packaging the little surprises I baked or bought and sent to you. Oh, how I cherished the memories of your children, dragging out these supplies to carefully craft beautiful cards for me (or you)! Surely, you’ll want to save all this for your own grandchildren (remind them not to press so hard on the pen tips).
I’m sure Magnusson would be disappointed in my efforts, but it was a rewarding weekend for me. With a new appreciation, I’m embracing my clutter and all its sweet memories — forever. There was even a little reward in my labor-intensive weekend! On the table of clutter, I thought I was unwrapping even more of the peapod napkin rings only to discover a set of eight fish-shaped napkin rings, beautifully etched in pewter, provenance unknown. Though baffled by their origin, I was thrilled by the find and dashed off to the store to find a fish worthy of a table set with these little treasures. They shared the table alongside Grilled Salmon with Lime Butter Sauce (served on one of my four fish platters).
Salmon with Lime Butter Sauce Recipe
You can also cook the salmon on an outdoor grill, either way – don’t overcook! You’ll have leftover lime butter – store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Warm up to baste or, chilled as compote butter, for fish, chicken breasts, or vegetables.
• 2 – 7-8 oz salmon filets, center-cut
(about 1 inch thick, with skin)
• 1 1/2 tsp lime zest,
• 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
•2 garlic cloves, crushed and
•1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled
•1 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp cracked pepper
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 325
Prepare lime butter sauce
Purée garlic and ginger with lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth.
With motor running, add melted butter and blend until emulsified, about 30 seconds.
Makes 3/4 cup.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil, place fillets skin down on pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour 2-3 tsp of lime butter over each filet and pat to cover filet.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, pull pan from oven – turn oven to low broil, and while waiting spoon a little more lime butter over the filets – broil for just a minute or two – remove from oven, sprinkle with lime zest and serve.