Yesterday, I shared one of the many reasons that Dan and I love spending summers in Michigan. Besides our chance to have a garden, though, we both appreciate that the little house in which we live is only a short stroll from his parents’ home – on the shores of Big Bear Lake.
For several years, while Dan and I were living on the road and, then later, in Los Angeles, we didn’t see much of either of our families – and the separation, mostly due to financial reasons, was hard on all of us. But now that we spend the bulk of our year in Louisiana (where my folks live year-round) and Michigan (where his parents spend their summers), one huge benefit of our nomadic lifestyle is that we’re able to spend a lot more quality time with our families.
When we’re down in New Orleans, for instance, we enjoy fishing with my dad and going to the movies with my mom. And when we’re in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, as we are right now, we try to schedule a weekly dinner with Dan’s parents – a terrific opportunity for us to spend time with Dee and Jim (my in-laws) and a chance for Dan, the family cook, to experiment on such willing guinea pigs.
This past Saturday, the four of us convened in the “big house” for our weekly family dinner. With a picturesque view of rain-soaked Big Bear Lake, we sat at the Martones’ round dining table and savored Dan’s latest three-course creation: garlic-lemon peapods, scallops and baby portabella mushrooms in an orange-pepper sauce, and, my favorite, a puff pastry filled with goat cheese and fresh basil, capped with a tomato slice.
All I can say is... who needs a fancy and/or trendy restaurant when Dan’s around? For a decade now, I’ve been told repeatedly by close girlfriends and recent female acquaintances alike just how lucky I am to have a man who not only can cook, but who also likes to cook. And I couldn’t agree with them more.
Although Dan is often his harshest food critic (just as I am often my harshest literary critic), I almost always love his dishes – and appreciate his flair for improvisation and experimentation. While I tend to follow recipes to the letter (as with the blueberry scones I mentioned last Monday), Dan has a gift for veering from recipes and making dishes his own – a precious talent that every memorable cook or chef must possess.
Many times, Dan’s mother and I have tried to convince him to consider a culinary career. But Dan’s heart is set on being a filmmaker – and I wouldn’t want to taint his passion for cooking by thrusting career concerns upon him. After all, as I’m sure many of us can attest, turning a passion (such as writing) into a career is a tricky thing – often causing one’s creative energy to be usurped (or at least influenced) by more practical issues, such as finances.
For now, I’m pleased that Dan has an avocation that delights him so. With all the stresses that he faces in running two film festivals, he deserves to find some joy in cooking for others. And I, quite frankly, deserve to savor his cuisine. So, bring on the puff pastries – I’ll taste-test them gladly.
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