By Marcia Pilgeram
What a difference a day makes. Exactly 14 days past my second Moderna vaccine, I headed into Eichardt’s and saddled up to the bar, where Doug (by memory) drew my favorite brew while I waited for an order of their crispy fish and chips. A week later, I have eaten in more restaurants than I had in the previous year. It feels strange but good to be seated in an indoor setting, scanning an authentic menu, in hopes that my favorite food item outlived the pandemic
But what I missed even more than going out to eat was cooking for others — especially Sunday dinners. I’ve now hosted a couple of them, and I can tell you that these small get-togethers have renewed my spirit. It feels so good to surround myself with friends, gathered in my kitchen, sipping a little wine, while I cook my heart out for them.
It was one thing for me to lack guests at my dining room table and something entirely different for a restaurant, which depends on guests at their tables every day to support an entire staff of food service workers. Our restaurants have struggled mightily, and I’m really impressed (and happy) that they all held on with warrior-like perseverance to survive the past year. I’m hopeful the worst is behind them.
Segments of the food industry other than restaurants have also suffered severe impacts. I was sad to learn that Liberty Orchards, the maker of Aplets and Cotlets, is closing its doors after more than 100 years operating this three-generation business. Locally, Yokes carried the most extensive selection, and for the past 20 years, it was my go-to-stop for these fruit-and-nut confections. I packed several gift boxes as host gifts on nearly every trip that I took. The company’s factory and retail shop in Cashmere, Wash. (located halfway between Wenatchee and Leavenworth) was always well worth a stop, too. I can’t imagine a trip to Ireland without including this traditional gift that delighted my hosts.
I’m finally allowing myself to think about Ireland again. My travel phone is beginning to ring; this past week, several people signed up to join my groups headed to Ireland and Tahiti in 2022. Even with a stress fracture in my foot, I haven’t had this much pep in my step since I discovered a block of well-aged Wexford Cheddar (just in time for St. Paddy’s Day) buried in the depths of my refrigerator.
It feels good to, well, feel good. Just in time, too, for the rebirth of springtime, my favorite holiday (Easter), and my birthday. When I was 6 years old, my birthday fell on Easter, and I thought that the festivities were just for me. Turns out I was wrong (after many years of Catholic school), and by the time my next birthday fell on this vital holiday (I was 17), I’d figured it out. In between those two birthdays, the nuns introduced me to the perpetual Catholic (Gregorian) calendar, and I memorized all my Easter birthdays. I’ll be waiting a while for the next two birthdays (when I’m 97 and 101, respectively) that I hope to celebrate.
Meanwhile, I’ve got many eggs in my basket: teaching Zoom cooking classes, sharing some fun radio time with the dynamic Witte father/daughter duo of Bob and Ricci. I’ve also been planning a couple cooking classes to be auctioned for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. The online auction will take place between April 15 and April 29, and I hope you’ll place a bid or two.
I’m also busy getting ready for the arrival of my grandbabies, who are showing up for the Easter holiday. In anticipation, my living room is decorated, and the transformation would even make Beatrix Potter envious.
Sensible daughter Ryanne has long accused me of going overboard for the holidays. It’s true, I do tend to go big, but we’ve learned to reach a compromise. While I promised not to carve the Stations of the Cross out of butter, I have prepared bunny-shaped pats of butter for each guest’s place setting.
My seedlings have sprouted, and while I won’t have homegrown tomatoes for a few months, I was gifted with a box of tomatoes, shipped to me from Phoenix, my dear friend, and former resident, Jenni (who tended a vast garden, known as the Yarden, on Ontario Street). It might be the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received. It’s certainly the first time I ever cried over a ripe tomato. Also, she sent me beautiful lemons and oranges ripe from her garden. And when life (or a friend) hands you oranges, you make your favorite Orange Chiffon Cake, just in time for Easter.
This cake is a wonderful springtime dessert. Like an angel food cake, it needs to be baked in an ungreased and non-Teflon pan. You can glaze with orange juice and confectioner’s sugar, or simply dust with Confectioners’ sugar and a little sprinkle of orange zest. Best enjoyed within a day or two of baking.
• 6 egg whites
• 1 ½ cups granulated sugar (½ cup for whites, 1 cup for yolks)
• 6 egg yolks
• 1 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp salt
• 6 tbsp fresh orange juice
• 2 tbsp grated orange zest
• Confectioners’ sugar (for garnish)
Separate eggs, and In large mixing bowl, let egg whites warm to room temperature-for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift flour with salt; set aside.
At medium speed, beat egg whites until foamy. Slowly beat in ½ cup granulated sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised (spoon egg whites into another bowl and use mixer bowl to beat egg yolks and sugar — no need to wash).
Beat egg yolks on medium speed until very thick and lemon-colored — about 3 minutes. Do not underbeat. Gradually beat in remaining 1 cup granulated sugar; continue beating until mixture is smooth.
At low speed, blend in flour mixture alternately with orange juice, begin and end with flour mixture. Add orange zest.
With spatula, carefully fold into whites just to blend. Pour batter into an ungreased 9 ½-to-10-inch kugelhopf pan or 10-inch tube pan.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until cake springs back when gently pressed with fingertip. Invert pan over neck of bottle; cool completely — 1 hour. Loosen from pan. Using an up-and-down motion, run spatula around edge of cake and tube. Invert onto a serving plate. Sift confectioners’ sugar over top of cake. To cut cake: Use bread knife, with a serrated edge. Cut gently, going back and forth with sawing motion.
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