Last weekend was a big one for us—we celebrated the 30th birthday of our son-in-law, Mike. Let’s just say that from my vantage point, 30 seems like a very long time ago.
“Do you remember turning 30?” I recently asked my husband, Clif.
“Not really,” he answered.
“Neither do I. ”
Nevertheless, 30 is one of those milestone birthdays. Ordinarily, we are quite frugal when it comes to birthdays, and we have even been known to slip in a “gently-used” present or two into the mix of what we give. (The gently-used present is usually a book.) But on milestone birthdays we splurge, and for Mike’s 30th birthday, we all chipped in to buy him a Nikon camera. As his family also chipped in to buy the camera, we were able to get a nice one for Mike, who has a great eye and has been taking terrific shots with just his phone. I can’t wait to see what he does with an actual camera and a good one at that.
Our daughter Dee came from New York to join us, and what a great meal we had at our daughter Shannon and Mike’s home. The centerpiece for appetizers was homemade pretzels, baked fresh as we sat at the dining room table. As Shannon noted, it’s amazing how something so simple can taste so good. The pretzels are boiled first and then baked, like bagels, which means they are not just twisted bread. Soft, chewy, warm, salty and dipped in melted cheese—the jarred kind that I don’t usually like but somehow seemed perfect for those pretzels. I am embarrassed to admit how many I ate, so I’m not going to do so. Let’s just say that after those pretzels—along with fresh-baked tortilla chips from Whole Foods—I was so full that I wasn’t sure how I was going to eat any of the main meal, a tempura.
But, it’s amazing what a half-hour break can do to settle the stomach. Mike opened his presents and quite naturally took a long time examining his camera. We chatted about this and that, and there was a fair amount of camera and photography talk.
Then it was on to tempura, a fancy term for food dipped in a simple batter and, in this case, fried in a wok right at the table. There are usually dipping sauces, and Shannon provided two sweet sauces and one hot and spicy. We had mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, and chicken. The food, piping hot and crisp and bite-sized, is delicious, but more than that, the meal becomes a ritual as diners watch the tempura chef dip the vegetables in batter, fry the food, and then pass small portions on a plate for everyone to enjoy. Not every meal, of course, can be a ritual, but how nice it is to have one like this for special occasions.
Clif started out as the tempura chef, but because of his broken wrist, he was not as adept with the chopsticks as he usually is. Since I am pathetic with chopsticks, and Shannon is a wiz, she took over from him. (Unfortunately, I only thought to take a picture of Clif at the batter bowl.)
Again, I am embarrassed to admit how much tempura I ate. A real cheat day for me, and the ice cream cake we had for dessert was the perfect ending to an oh-so-good meal.
Happy 30th birthday, Mike. I can’t wait to see your pictures.