By Marcia Pilgeram
This week’s column was supposed to be about food trucks. I love food trucks. I seek them out everywhere I go and couldn’t wait to tell you about some of my favorites. But, alas, this week my heart isn’t into these mobile eateries.
Instead, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about Laura. Our sweet Laura passed away nearly two weeks ago from childbirth complications. She left a grieving family — her fiancé Bryce, two precious little girls (newborn Hadley and toddler Mabel), parents Mary and Bob, and a heartbroken community.
Laura was a rare combination of quiet yet fierce determination with a profoundly loving and warm heart who passed away during the happiest period of her life. A young life that should have been filled with years of promise.
Laura was my daughter Casey’s classmate and, early in their middle school friendship, I forged a relationship with Laura’s mom, Mary. We’ve been the best of friends ever since. Back then, I was a single, workaholic mother and, if it wasn’t for Mary, our third partner-in-crime Darcy, and other assorted, caring parents, Casey (and I) would have never made it through middle school — nor built the bonds that still connect us like kin.
Since we had no family nearby, we made our own. For the past 20-plus years, we’ve shared countless Sunday dinners and celebrated holidays with Christmas buffets, Thanksgiving dinners and Easter brunches. In addition, we hosted engagement parties, wedding and baby showers, and myriad birthday celebrations for one another’s family members. When they were younger, Casey made countless road trips with Laura’s family, including to far-away family weddings.
Laura, Casey and I traveled to many places, too. I took them to see A Christmas Carol in San Francisco, where I had to convince ever-so-practical Laura to splurge at the concession stand (never a problem for Casey).
Once Laura and I went to Ireland — just the two of us — when a friend couldn’t join her at the last minute and Laura was still aching to go. We climbed to the top of Blarney Castle and crawled into the burial chambers at Newgrange. On one chilly evening in Watergrasshill, we shared a bed and our host provided us with a hot water bottle to warm the covers. We placed it between us and whispered into the night about the black-and-white pudding (blood sausage) that Laura had politely consumed that morning. It was her introduction to a full Irish breakfast.
I’ve been pouring through all sorts of ephemera — pictures, clippings, old emails and text messages — searching out favorite memories of my Laura. She had many great women in her life, but Laura and I had a special bond, and I’ll forever cherish my collection of emails and notes that start, “Dear Mama Marcia.” Laura loved to cook and often reached out for a recipe or cooking advice.
Most of my holiday photos include at least a couple pictures of Laura helping out in my kitchen or donning a chef’s hat in hers, to teach my young grandchildren how to make her Aunt Doreen’s pizza. Laura had many jobs in the food industry, and it never took her long to receive a promotion. She knew her way around a kitchen and worked circles around the rest of the crew.
The week before she passed, Laura was putting the final touches on her dream kitchen. So it’s bittersweet that Laura, Bryce and their girls spent but one short week in their newly completed home in the mountains near Rathdrum.
I can only imagine how special the first family holiday meal she hosted would have been. No doubt it would have been Thanksgiving. One of my fondest Laura memories occurred before a Thanksgiving dinner I hosted years ago. She called to make sure I would be serving her family’s favorite holiday vegetable.
Sweet Laura, there will always be a place at my table for your family. We’ll share stories of the enduring friendships and family bonds you forged and the love you found with Bryce that only strengthened and grew with motherhood. And I promise to always serve Brussels sprouts at my holiday table.
Brussels sprouts with pistachios and Parmesan • serves 6
These are a great addition to any dinner. For a vegetarian option, skip the bacon and use half butter/half olive oil (1 tbs each) to sauté the onions and garlic.
• 1 ½ pounds of Brussels sprouts
• ½ yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
• 4 strips of partially frozen bacon, sliced into thin strips
• ¼ cup shelled pistachio nuts coarsely chopped
• ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
• Salt and pepper
Wash the Brussels sprouts, removing any loose or brown leaves. If brown, trim the stems. Set aside.
In a sauté pan (with a tight-fitting lid), cook the bacon on medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, drain on a paper towel and set aside. Turn down heat and add onions to bacon grease, stirring until browned and beginning to caramelize, add the garlic and cook until soft. Add the Brussels sprouts and cover. Continue to cook about 10 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan.
While the sprouts are cooking, toss together the bacon, nuts and cheese. Remove lid from pan, stir and scrape up any bits in bottom of pan, and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and transfer to serving dish. Sprinkle bacon/nut/cheese mixture on top and serve.
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