Ah, young love: a wonder to see, even when it’s broke, hungry, and gnawing on its own foot.
Kerri and Joe came to visit on the Saturday after New Year’s Day. They were headed to Cincinnati to visit friends, and they figured out a clever plan to avoid hotel fees. They’d leave in the middle of the night, get to our house in time for breakfast, and then nap for four hours. Then, fed and refreshed, they’d make the last lap of the journey.
They were coming from Loolie’s house in western New York, and so there was some subtle pressure on Lools to call us and smooth the way.
“Do you mind?” she asked me. “Kerri will call herself and set things up, but she wanted me to kind of see what you thought and whether you were busy.”
We had no plans that weekend; of course we were delighted to have them. And we were delighted to have the opportunity to meet Joe, of whom Loolie has come to approve. His obvious respect and devotion for Kerri have overcome any misgivings.
“He’s kind of a knucklehead,” Loolie told me. “He doesn’t have a real filter; what’s in his head comes out his mouth. But it’s usually pretty intelligent and engaging stuff. And he thinks Kerri hung the moon, so I know he has good taste.”
They arrived at 8 AM Saturday morning, pulling up in Kerri’s van. Before we could even get the back door open, she was off the lift and wheeling her chair through the carport. Joe (tall, bespectacled, with a round and pleasant face) boosted her over the two steps to the door and then they were in the house, hugging and exclaiming and introducing. Mark poured coffee and discovered that Joe, too, prefers a nice strong cup of morning tea–they eyed each other approvingly.
I had a little gift for the two of them–a coloring book created from photos of Kerri throughout her life*, ending with a picture of her and Joe on Hallowe’en 2015, in their costumes as a Roman centurion (Kerri) and the horse that pulled her chariot (Joe: back end). They loved it, and they attacked it with the new crayons I gave them as I put the finishing touches on breakfast.
They asked about the process of converting photos to line drawings, and I told them a computer science student at the College had worked that magic for me via Photoshop. There were websites that would also provide that service, I said, but Joe, a bit of a techno-geek, was pretty sure he could figure out the process. They started planning coloring books Joe could use in teaching and Kerri could make for part of her graduate coursework in education.
Then the eggs were scrambled, the steaming coffeecake inverted onto a serving plate, the sausages sizzling and hot. Jim appeared with an owl-y muddled morning veneer; Mark poured juice. Kerri and Joe passed plates and silverware and we all tucked in.
There was silence for a moment, that gratified and gratifying silence that betokens enthusiastic young people enjoying their food. Then, when Joe’s first plateful was empty, and as he reached comfortably around the table, refilling, he began to ruminate out loud.
“You can get to know people from the food they cook, don’t you think?” he asked the room in general. We all looked at him, interested, waiting to hear more. “For instance,” he said, “I was a nervous wreck when I met Loolie. But when I saw the food that she’d prepared, I knew she’d gone out of her way to provide something nice for someone Kerri cares about. I knew that we’d be okay after that–it told me she was open.”
He went on, talking about some of the wonderful dishes Loolie had served him. He talked about how Kerri’s adventures in cooking–she is experimenting with several different ethnic cooking styles and methods–says a lot about her personality–show she is warm and welcoming, non-judgmental, adventurous.
“Even the NAMES of foods people choose to cook,” Joe expounded, “tell you something about the person, don’t you think? Like Loolie cooking Hoppin’ John on New Year’s–isn’t that perfect? The name Hoppin’ John just reflects Loolie–all that energy and movement! And how about this coffee cake you made?” he asked me. “I am guessing this is reflective of your personality! What do you call this?”
There was a tiny silence, during which Kerri turned away and covered her grin with her napkin.
“Well, gee, Joe,” I said. “We call this Pig-Pickin’ cake.”
Joe’s mouth dropped open.
“Joe,” said Mark, pleasantly, conversationally, “did you just call my wife a PIG?”
“Ack,” said Joe in a tiny little voice. The table exploded in laughter, during which Jim took the opportunity to make sure he got a portion of the Pig-Pickin’ cake that was left. And that did it: Joe was part of the family.
We ate all the breakfast, and then we shuffled Joe and Kerri off to beds–they ostentatiously insisted on separate bedrooms–so they could sleep until 2:00 PM. We woke them up and fed them again, sandwiches, chips, and cookies this time, and then we sent them off on the last leg of their journey–the three hour trip to Cincinnati. Kerri texted on Monday to say they’d had a wonderful time with their friends,and Joe respectfully wondered if I’d be willing to share the recipe for Pig-Pickin’ Cake with him–a recipe, he said, which reflected the warmth and sweetness of my hospitality.
I told her I’d be happy to email it to her. Since it’s written down anyway, I thought you might like to see it, too.
Two tubes of refrigerated biscuits
Cinnamon sugar (one quarter cup or so)
One stick butter or margarine
One cup brown sugar
Cut each biscuit into quarters; put the quarters in a plastic bag with the cinnamon sugar. Shake until each biscuit morsel is coated. Arrange in the Bundt pan.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; add the sugar and stir until mixture starts to bubble. Pour over the biscuits in the pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes; the top will look dry and browned. Invert onto a LARGE serving plate; the syrup will run, and it’s HOT and sticky, so be sure the plate is big enough, and has a lip to catch all the drips and NOT drip syrup on your hands. Serve while warm; let people pull their portions off with forks.
And…here’s a link to the Hoppin’ John recipe Loolie uses–from the Lee Brothers’ cookbook…
‘Pig-pickin’cake’ (monkey bread) image from Pinterest.com
*Idea from Jodi at http://lifeinbetween.me/