My love affair with restaurants started as a small child. We were always briefed by my mom on the etiquette and criteria for food ordering. Whether it was a fast food joint or a fancier dinning establishment, we were instructed to order wisely. Don’t just glance at the menu, read the clues, put the pieces together and find the hidden treasure. There is more to ordering than just what looks good or sounds good. It is a skill you must hone. It takes practice, guts, and even a bit of luck if you ask me.
In other words, ordering was a mission, and I wasn’t always up for the challenge. We had to be considerate of my dad. Mom always reminded us that he worked very hard so that we could have a good life. Whatever we ordered had to be given respect. This was no free meal; this was the sweat and struggle of an illegal immigrant who was trying to give his daughters a taste of the “American Dream.” We were by no means rich, but we never felt limited. I grew up never understanding that other kids didn’t have these luxuries. Where I came from, who I was supposed to be, and what I was given, did not match the life I felt I had.
We were wined and dined as kids. I didn’t merely settle for milk or juice. I demanded a Shirley Temple. Not that I had the slightest idea why IHOP couldn’t just whip me up a Shirley Temple, I was just used to it. My mother scuffed at the fact that we would make such a demand, but I learned my lesson; Shirley Temples are only to be ordered at dinner. “A lady must make do with what is available.” My grandmother gladly informed me. My mother’s blood must have been boiling at the thought of these poisonous teachings entering our minds. The two were hardly on the same team and even less on the same page.
My grandmother was a debutant in her head. She lived for amenities, glamour, and abundance. She was the life of the party and seemed so knowledgeable about the world. With her whimsical personality and fancy jewelry, she’d sit at her vanity carefully assembling “the look” of the evening. Hair, makeup, shoes, it was all so theatrical. Mi abuelita was limitless. Nothing was too much. She was the provider of liquid gold with our lobsters. She took us to the fanciest shopping places. The trips arranged by her were of massive proportion. My mom was wrong; Grandma could do no wrong. She’d say, “Never deprive yourselves of joy, girls.” I had no idea what it all meant, but later in life I would come to realize things weren’t as they seemed.
My mom is the driving force of my life today. She is the reason I strive to be a better person. She is the guilt I feel when I do something unworthy or diva-ish. Pretty much my mom is my hero. Her job came with a lot of responsibility. It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized just how calculated and tedious her job was. My father was never strict. We could do no wrong in his eyes. He was proud of us and felt it. Always the “cool” parent; my dad was undoubtedly the good cop. Everything that had rules and was strict, my mother was responsible for. She taught us formalities, thoughtfulness, and the true reasons behind why we must always be grateful. For most of my childhood I didn’t appreciate my mother. She was always the Deb (short for Debbie Downer) of the group. She had hundreds of rules and reasons for everything.
Having fun was what was important to me. Why was my mom the one who didn’t get it? Here I am with the coolest dad and grandparents, and my mom is just so uptight. Why? How come she was so boring? Why is she so proper? Ignorance was total bliss for me. My childhood was amazing, but sooner or later you must take off those rose colored glasses and see the world for what it really is, harsh. I learned that in 1993. That’s the year my grandmother died.
There are moments in life when we realize the way we remember things isn’t always the way they occurred. The heroes of my life, my role models, were alcoholics. I was always aware of alcohol being around. I had many sips of beer at a very young age. The occasional thirst quenching mishaps while dashing to my grandmother’s bathroom were common. She was forgetful and always let the Sunny D go bad.
I played outside with my friends and waited till the last moment to rush upstairs just as my bladder was exploding. Here I was drenched in sweat, on a mission to use the ladies room, and refuel with Sunny Delight in under five minutes. Little did I know the cup sitting on my grandmother’s vanity was a screwdriver and it did not quench my thirst in the least bit. She explained it though, Sunny Delight goes bad if you leave it out too long. We are never to drink out of those cups it could make us sick. If we get thirsty all we needed to do was inform her and she’d gladly pour us a nice tall glass from the fridge. It was no hassle, it was in fact, an honor, and she was very sorry for her forgetfulness. She always let the Sunny D go bad.
The sad reality of it all was that my gammy, my hero, was a chronic alcoholic. She was drunk everyday, and I couldn’t help her. Her life had been falling apart all these years and no one did ANYTHING! Why didn’t they stop her? Why was it tolerated? If someone had done something she might still be alive today. Maybe it’s best I had no clue. She was probably the reason why we stopped sleeping over on weekends. Still I hold my grandparents very close to my heart. They were amazing. They gave us so much love.
The truth is the only stable person in my family is my mother. We were number one in her life and always will be. The strength and discipline she has is beyond anything I can master. She was kind enough to allow us a joyful upbringing. Never keeping us from our grandparents even though it scared her and went against every fiber in her body. She refrained from robbing us of great memories.
- 2 slices lime
- 2 maraschino cherries
- 1 tablespoon grenadine syrup
- 8 ounces ginger ale
Muddle two slices fresh lime and one maraschino cherry in a glass. Add ice, one tablespoon grenadine syrup and eight ounces ginger ale. Garnish with a second maraschino cherry.
Lobster With Butter
- 4 (each 1/2 to 3/4-pound) lobster tails, thawed if frozen
- 1/4 cup Clarified Lemon Butter, plus 1 cup, recipe follows
- Special Equipment: 4 metal skewers or 4 wooden skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes
Light the coals in a fire pit 1 hour before cooking or preheat a gas or charcoal grill.
Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut through the top shell lengthwise. Cut a slit through the meat lengthwise taking care not to cut through the bottom shell. Gently pull the shells apart. Thread a skewer, starting at the underside base of the tail, along the inside of the bottom shell. Brush the meat with 1/4 cup of the clarified butter. Wrap the lobster tails in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the lobster meat is opaque.
Place the remaining clarified butter in a butter warmer or dipping bowl. Remove the meat from the lobster shells and dip in the Clarified Butter.
Clarified Lemon Butter:
- 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 lemons, zested
In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Pour the mixture into a 2-cup glass measuring jug. Let the melted butter stand for 5 minutes. Using a spoon, remove the foam from the top of the butter. Place the lemon zest in small bowl. Pour the clarified butter over the lemon zest and discard the milk solids left in the bottom of the jug.
Yield: 1 1/4 cups