The Salem News
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
So there we are, Chip Ford and I, hanging on the wall at the New Brothers Restaurant & Deli in Danvers Square.
Both dressed in blue, we could be a Gainsborough portrait except for the presence of Kary and Ted, in their white cooking shirts. All around us, other political and media folks also stand between the Brothers-in-law, but none of them look happier than I do.
You can have your National Gallery, your Louvre, your Prado. There's no place I would rather hang than in a Greek restaurant that serves my favorite foods -- moussaka, souflaki (that's shishkebab for American clients), and for dessert, baklava.
They serve Chip's favorite meals, too -- meatloaf, shepherd's pie, and lots of other beef things. You'd think he'd like moussaka, which Kary makes with beef instead of lamb, but the presence of eggplant between the meat and bechamel sauce topping makes Chip think it might be good for you, which, of course, makes it suspect. For heaven's sake, I tell him, it's the same as shepherd's pie except the vegetable isn't corn!
When I lived in Greece, I ordered moussaka almost every time we ate out, and became quite a connoisseur over two years. Every taverna made it slightly differently: Sometimes there was beef, sometimes lamb; sometimes the chef added tomato sauce, a pinch of cinnamon, bread crumbs, cheddar or Parmesan cheese. Once in Delphi I was shocked when I bit into my first forkful, expecting the taste of meat, and found fish instead!
Kary agreed with me that this would be unacceptable. Brothers' moussaka is exceptionally good, and I would say this even if I were not hanging on their wall.
I figure just in gratitude for being thus honored, we should eat there as often as possible, even though it requires driving 20 minutes to get to lunch or dinner.
When we went over to sign the photos, Chip ordered turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, just in case he might spend another Thanksgiving in a vegetarian household.
Chip's sister and her partner often invite us for holiday dinners, but Chip has been known to bring a ham and share it with other guests who don't enjoy tofu or other meat substitutes. I think this is a tad presumptuous, but I figure it's up to his family, not me, to scold him. I happily eat the meat AND the vegetable lasagna.
This year I'm having Thanksgiving dinner with my usually vegetarian son's family in Nevada, where they are planning a varied meal that will include a turkey roll. Chip, who spent his vacation money on his boat, got invited to his meat-eating brother's, and also plans to cook us a Christmas turkey stuffed with his mother's special liver and sausage dressing.
It does sound awful, doesn't it? And looks kind of gray. But I admit I've come to like it.
However, my favorite stuffing is made from Ritz crackers, a recipe I got from the wife of a U.S. Navy chef. You just add butter, poultry seasoning and grated onion, then moisten it with boiling water.
I fondly recall the cornbread stuffing at the old colonial tavern near Jefferson's Monticello, and the exquisite chestnut dressing served by my Austrian-American friends, Heinz and Brigitte. On the other, easier hand, my German-American mother liked boxed Stovetop Stuffing mixed with canned sauerkraut. I inherited my interest in cooking from her.
My family usually had holiday dinners at my Aunt Katy's, my father's Croatian-American sister. The best thing about her meals was the potica, homemade walnut bread from an old-world recipe. My mother tried to make it once, but when my dad broke his tooth on a walnut shell, he agreed with her that cracking and grinding all those walnuts was too much work -- a point I have always suspected she made on purpose.
Aunt Katy is gone now, but neither I nor my cousins want to take up the baking tradition. I buy a very similar potica -- made with honey instead of sugar -- from the Vermont Country Store. It's expensive, yet working for the money to buy it made is easier than grinding those walnuts myself.
But I digress. So there we are, hanging on the wall at Brothers Restaurant with Gov. Romney, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, 6th District congressmen past and present, Sheriff Frank Cousins, Sen. John Kerry and former Gov. Michael Dukakis. See, this is the political column you expected from me!
If Kerry and Dukakis ordered moussaka when they came to have their pictures taken, we have something in common after all.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.