30 December 2007

Where I Come From

These are my people. This is where I come from. Sometimes it's good to remember where you come from, even if you never lived there, even if it's only where your mother grew up. Roots, deep, buried. So deep, sometimes we forget them. Even if you know you'll never live there, if you don't fit in there, if it's different than your memories have painted it. It's good to hear the accents, the drawl that can turn "bill" into a three-syllable word. Bi-iieee-uulll. The rocky landscape and the mountain springs, the smell of barbeque, the taste of country ham and biscuits, sorghum syrup, tomato aspic and green beans cooked all day long with a bit of fatback.

With all the wonderful gifts this year, the fancy phone, the camera lenses, backup hard drives, more books than I could dream of (yes, I was truly spoiled), it was a little teacup wrapped in tissue paper that brought tears to my eyes. The gift of my Grandmother's china set, bequethed from my aunt, the antique cream soup bowls with their delicate double handles that speak of responsibility and roots. I promise I'll give them the care they deserve.

We fed the horses and the burrow, played with the dogs and were entertained by a four-year-old on the trombone. We drove through towns with names like Lebanon, Smyrna, and Carthage, New World versions of Old World titles. I told my cousins about how I went to the original Smyrna, Ismir, in southern Turkey; they looked at me like I was crazy. We ate caramel cake and fought over the Sunday crossword puzzle while sitting by the fireplace. It's good for a city girl to get her boots muddy sometimes. I hope your holidays were as enriching, belly-filling, and relaxing as ours. We're looking forward to the new year!

Grapefruit, Avocado, Pomegranate Salad
Every year my uncle sends us a whole crate of Texas pink grapefruit and so begins our annual quest to use all 18 of them before they go bad. The one thing they are destined for is this salad with avocado and pomegranate seeds that my Grandmother always made around the holidays. In our family it's simply thought of as "the Christmas salad."

1 large pink grapefruit
1 large ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
mache or butter lettuce, about 6 cups
1 cup pomegranate seeds
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
pinch salt

1. Section the grapefruit: Cut off the peel from the top and bottom of the grapefruit. Working from top to bottom, remove the peel and pith in strips, so that the grapefruit flesh in completely exposed. Discard peel and any white pith. Working over a bowl, use your knife to cut between the white membrane so that the grapefruit flesh is released into the bowl in sections. Squeeze juice from remaining flesh and discard.
2. Get another large bowl and whisk together the vinegar, oil, and salt in the bottom. Toss the lettuces in the bowl to coat. Divide lettuces among four serving plates or leave in the bowl. Arrange grapefruit sections and avocado over lettuces. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over salad. Serve immediately.


charlotte s said...

beautiful post! its so interesting to see where one feels at "home".... my roots are also scattered in different continents, and it always surprises me to see what makes me feel at home in each- the language, the weather, where my parents live, where my grandparents and aunts live, where my name is affixed above potatoes, where the food is that of my earliest memories..... i wish you would do a post about your journeys. enjoy your holidays :)

Quinne said...

Hi Mercedes :) What a lovely post! I am quite familiar with the grounds you stomped over Christmas :) It's so beautiful and charming and not too far from where I am here. Thanks for sharing the pics and story - so glad that you had a nice holiday.
Thanks, too, for your grandmother's Christmas Salad recipe. I am adding it to my file for next year. It's so pretty on the plate! Love, Q

. said...

My mom grew up in Chattanooga and then spent the academic year of '66/'67 in Beirut. My family background is a mix of the South, New Jersey, California, New York City, Montreal, Munich, and Israel, with the Midwest, Norway, Sweden, France, the Czech Republic, and Poland receding into the past. Our recipes are picked up from everywhere, but the best are the ones connected to certain people and certain stories.

Anonymous said...

Such a nice story Mercedes! Happy holidays to you too. And that's the tiniest horse ever! Is it a mini?

Anonymous said...

Murfreesboro? When I'm in the States I drive through there at least eight times a year or so. Between GA and IN.

David T. Macknet said...

Hah! I was born in Murfreesboro! I've only the haziest memory of it - we left when I was two - but it's given me quite a chuckle to see it here, of all places!

And what's happened to your blog feed - I've got like 20 posts which all came in today! Hmm... at least they're here now!

Anonymous said...

i've been following your blog for a few years now. i found this post when i decided to search back in your archive, to found out just how long. so i was glad to find that you're from central TN, because i graduated high school in huntsville, alabama (100 miles away), back before you were born. sorta vaguely like neighbors.