Musical pairing – I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack (feat. Sons of the Desert)
‘If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants . . .’ ~ Sir Isaac Newton
I’ve sat down a bazillion times in the last month to write a post . . . and I’ve walked away from the computer a bazillion times because I didn’t want to write this post; I find myself looking for every distraction I can so that I don’t have to write this post . . . but here I am again, now crunch time, writing this post . . .
The impending 10-year anniversary of 9/11 also means the 10-year anniversary of my father’s passing; he died 4 days prior on September 7, 2001. We knew it was coming, we were somewhat prepared . . . if anyone is ever prepared watching someone die. Inoperable lung cancer from asbestos exposure took him and the day he passed away, everything, and I do mean everything, changed. We had the luxury of having 18 months to say what needed to be said, to laugh, to cry, to be angry, to remember, to share . . . to say goodbye. It was incredibly difficult to stand on the sidelines feeling helpless . . . he was 68 when he finally took his last breath and moved from this world into another.
I could write an entire post about that process, the sadness, the grief, what we lost as a family that day and I could write an entire post about the unfairness of it all . . . but I’m not going to do that . . . instead . . .
I choose joy. I choose to share my father’s joy . . . his laugh, the twinkle in his eyes when he was being ornery, the dream for his children to get an education and make a good life for themselves. I want to share my father’s desire that his children would grow into good citizens and contribute to society. I want to share what a good man he was, what a good person he was, how much he sacrificed for his family.
I want to share how, when his oldest daughter (that would be moi), came home in the 6th grade with Algebra books and didn’t have a clue, he took a crash course in Algebra at the local Community College that he might teach her . . . not understanding it himself at first – but my education was paramount. To this day, I don’t get Algebra nor do I remember a single Algebra formula. But what I do remember, is him coming home after working long shifts and sitting with me at that rectangular-shaped dining room table in the little house on Ankeny Street . . . explaining the same concepts over and over again . . .
I want to share that even though we had little money, when the school music director told my parents I had potential to be a great violinist someday but there was nothing more the teacher could teach, my parents found a way to pay for private lessons. And I want to share that whenever I played or sang in a concert, my parents were there with bravos, standing ovations and encouragement.
And I want to share about the 3-legged races run, fake wrestling matches he staged to lose, belly laughs shared, family reunions attended, the respect his work-crew gave him, the catch-and-release fisherman he was, how much he loved my brother, me, my sisters and my mother; camping in old-fashioned canvas tents filled with old-fashioned sleeping bags on the Tucannon (TOO-cannon) River, flies he tied for fly fishing, how much he loved to golf, a summer vacation to Yellowstone, a Christmas joke in which he was had (saving this for a Christmas post), his dream of taking a trip to New Zealand (which he never made) and what a good Papa he was to his grandchildren.
Joy. There is much joy to be celebrated this 10-year anniversary . . . a life cut short yes, but a life well lived . . . his children are grown and doing well. We are good citizens, we went to college, we understand what’s right and wrong, we understand how to treat others with kindness and respect . . . this is the legacy he leaves. Not in the earthly things he collected but in the values he gave his children and grandchildren . . .
I stand on the shoulders of giants.
I cannot think of anything more comforting than good old macaroni and cheese; and before you discount this recipe because the cheese sauce is made with tofu, I strongly encourage you to try it just once . . . you might become a convert . . . we didn’t expect to like it but it’s now the only way we make macaroni and cheese!
MACARONI & CHEESE WITH TOFU
Adapted from Moosewood New Classics
- 12 ounces pasta: elbows, small shells or other short chunky pasta
FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE:
- 12 ounces silken tofu
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup mascarpone cheese
- 1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese, packed
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard (plain ol’ hot dog mustard)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon tumeric
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
STIR IN AFTER BLENDING THE INGREDIENTS ABOVE
- ¼ cup grated onion (including any onion juice)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
FOR THE TOPPING:
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¾ cup toasted panko breadcrumbs
- 6 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter, cubed (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly brush a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon truffle oil; set aside
- Bring a large covered pot of salted water to a boil; stir in pasta, bring back to boil, reduce heat and cook according to package directions – usually 7 minutes or so – you’re looking for al dente pasta.
- Meanwhile, combine all of the cheese sauce ingredients in a blender and puree or pulse until smooth. Add salt to taste.
- Drain pasta and in a large bowl, mix together the pasta and cheese sauce; stir in onions, any onion juice and parsley. Pour pasta mixture into prepared baking dish and top with the cheese-breadcrumb mixture.
- OPTIONAL: Sprinkle with cubed butter pieces, which results in a nicely browned topping.
- Bake covered for about 35 minutes; uncover and bake for another 10 minutes.