*CUTTER’S CAPRESE SALAD

I can’t remember if Cutter and I met during a fire drill or through friends. Somehow we met. What I do remember is that he lived by Fenway Park and was an easy walk to/from campus and an even easier T-ride.

Copley Square

He had a video editing internship in Copley Square and invited me to meet him for lunch at his office when his hours were over. I was excited to actually know someone who worked in one of those fancy offices and proudly walked past the throngs of people going to the grocery store that was in the same building. Too timid to go into his office and not wanting to get him in trouble for having a visitor, I waited outside the office doors. When he he came out, he greeted me with an awkward “we just started dating” hug and kiss. Then we walked to his apartment, which was about fifteen minutes away.

He lived in a second story walk up and when we got back to his place, the mid-day spring sunlight was streaming in casting beautiful light along the exposed brick walls. He offered me a chair by the wet bar so we could easily talk while he made lunch.

Lunch was fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I found it to be incredibly elegant. I also later found out it was a simple caprese salad. It doesn’t matter it was “simple.” This is the first caprese salad anyone ever made me. And, he purchased all the ingredients from Boston’s historic Farmers’ Market. (*Bonus points.)

Finished

The same spring light that made the brick look so good made Cutter look even better. With his blond hair and butter yellow shirt, he was nearly glowing. I was enraptured. I was having a great conversation with a cute boy who was making me lunch. No one had ever done this. We were at peace and we were alone.

Then, a roommate walked in from a bedroom— It was one of my friends from the Broadcast Journalism School. I’m not sure who was more shocked. My friend and I typically talked TV production and the Red Sox. The most personal we ever got career goals. We were both caught off guard that he saw this other, more vulnerable, side of me. We made small talk and then he left. My friend and I never spoke about that day.

When we were finally alone, Cutter announced lunch was ready. He continued to amaze. He opened the living room window and we climbed onto the porch a previous tenant had constructed. We were going to have a spring picnic!

Wow.

It was a perfect lunch and a warm memory, but summer was around the corner. We saw each other a couple more times, our talks got further between, and then I graduated. Neither he nor I officially ended anything. We just kind of drifted apart. I never saw any of the stuff he edited. I don’t know if he has siblings. I’m not even sure where he’s from. It’s not that he wasn’t nice, we just came into each other’s lives when we were both under the crunch of finals and life transitions. People today would classify our few encounters as “hanging out.” Heck, even then, people probably called it hanging out. But, to me it was dating, even if it was casual.

It doesn’t matter how you want to label it, what Cutter showed was kindness. And, most importantly, yes, there are guys out there who like cooking.

Epilogue
Several weeks ago (ironically 13 years to month we drifted apart), I was at an alumni event in Los Angeles and saw Cutter. We were watching a live-stream event our alma mater was webcasting. While trying to watch the screen, we kept looking at each other out of the corner of our eyes. There was a shared sense of recognition and the desperate hope we could melt into the atmosphere, hoping we weren’t really seeing each other and ostensibly leave the event unscathed.

LA Webcast

INGREDIENTS:
Your favorite in-season tomato
Fresh basil
Fresh mozzarella from the deli. (I go to Monte Carlo in Burbank)
(If can’t get to store that has it, Bel Gioioso has packaged cheese that has a wonderful flavor and texture.)
Olive oil
Nice balsamic vinegar
Ingredients
STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS
Rather than topping your salad with oil and vinegar, Drizzle olive oil and balsamic on plate. It will give your presentation a cleaner look. (For a bigger presentation factor, I like breaking out a plate/bowl.)
 Base
Arrange with tomato, basil and mozzerella.
 Tomatoe and fresh ingredients
Top with more olive oil and cracked pepper. I provide my guests a small carafe of oil and vinegar so they can top how they like, but they got to see the nice presentation.

INSIDER’S TIP:
If tomatoes taste more like cardboard than tomatoes,  you can add a little salt to bring out the tomato flavor.

*LET ME HEAR YOUR BAR TALK

About an hour later, the gorgeous Multi-cam Maven came back. She had wavy brown hair and killer smile, and she was a magnet for unwanted come-ons. This time, she was having an issue with a lanky boy and asked me to intervene. It seemed logical to pick someone of comparable beauty to distract him. There were others in the group that were more beautiful and alluring, but she picked ME. I was flattered. This simple request was another instance among many that helped restore the confidence Comicbook Crook took.

_________________________________________________________________________

In the fall of our senior year, SuperFoods introduced me to her group. They adopted me and Mutli-cam Maven, who was also a friend of SuperFoods. In the spring, I lost SuperFoods to the West Coast, where she was doing her semester “abroad” in our school’s Los Angeles program. The group continued the bi-weekly excursions, while I stuck to one night of dancing.

Kells EXT

Senior Year. It was my Freedom Year. I was no longer tied to Comicbook Crook and I was enjoying the single life. In the fall, I was introduced to Sissy K’s. We never went to the bar; we were always on the second floor, dancing at the club. It wasn’t just a fallback club; it was the club of choice. Every now and then, members of our tiny group persuaded the rest of us to go to places like The Kells, an Irish bar out in Allston with two levels of dancing. (The Kells had more a frat-boy-jock culture with mediocre music. I was not a fan.) We also tried a mixed ages club in Faneuil Hall, but it felt like everyone was in their 30s-40s, married and trying to reclaim their youth. Given we were still in college, even someone 5 years older seemed old. I realize now how ridiculous this is, especially since when I’m out dancing, I don’t care what those college kids think.

The memory of SuperFoods having to rescue me from the gargantuan man was still at the forefront of my mind. The Kells and the mixed-ages bar were not my favorite places, but they helped scrub that memory. Despite the bad experience, my love for Sissy K’s was undying. It had the best Top 40 dance music and a fun crowd. Besides, I had started wearing a fake engagement ring; it felt like I had protective shield around me.  If somebody started getting handsey, I’d point to the ring, smile and say, “My fiancé is okay with me going out dancing with my friends, he just wants me to be respectful.” Looking back on it, I can’t believe this seemed acceptable. Would I be okay dating a man that prohibits me from doing certain things? Certainly not, but, this was reasonable to a 22 year old me, and it was less confrontational than, “Get away from me I don’t want to talk/dance/have a drink with you.” Since then, I’ve refined my avoidance tactics…

  1. If my group isn’t close, find a group of women and dance with them.
  2. Tell him, “I’m going to go dance over there. Don’t come with me.”
  3. And a favorite, “I’m waiting for my boyfriend; he’s in the bathroom.”Sissy K's Dancing

During one trip to Sissy K’s I was dancing with this mini dude. I was in heals (which maybe made me 5’1″) and I was as tall as him. He reminded me of this short guy from my freshman year Tae Kwon Do class, who thought it was okay to pick me up and carry me like a doll. (What is it with men needing to do this?) Needless to say between this memory and my recent experience, I was on edge. When Mini Dude got handsey, he received  my long-winded explanation about the fake engagement ring. He stopped trying to grope me. When the song was over, I didn’t even say bye; I just danced over to my friends.

I stayed with the core group; about an hour later, the gorgeous Multi-cam Maven came back. She had wavy brown hair and killer smile, and she was a magnet for unwanted come-ons. This time, she was having an issue with a lanky boy and asked me to intervene. It seemed logical to pick someone of comparable beauty to distract him. There were others in the group that were more beautiful and alluring, but she picked ME. I was flattered. This simple request was another instance among many that helped restore the confidence Comicbook Crook took. More than anything, I was happy to protect my friend. I danced and talked with the lanky boy; he never touched me. When the song was over I excused myself to return to my friends that were on the other side of the room. All of a sudden Mini Dude bounded in and was throwing punches. The crowd swarmed.

A taller person shoved me back, blocking me from my friends.

Where are the bouncers?

I was scared. I couldn’t see my friends and I was worried I was going to get trampled. When the bouncers finally got there and broke up the fight, my friends and I found each other. One was laughing. She turned to the group beaming, “See, I was right; it was Sarah.”

I was sheepish. “What are you talking about? Men don’t fight over a friend’s wing-woman. That’s all I am.” Nobody listened to my argument.

Mini-Dude and his alcohol-fueled small dog syndrome ruined the evening of dancing. We went home. On the way, we stopped at the Convenience store inside the dorm and picked up supplies for salsa con queso. We spent the rest of the night in, eating and watching a movie.

Even though salsa con queso was our food of choice, I do not have a bad association with it. In general, salsa con queso was a staple food among us. We’d eat it from a jar and when time allowed, we made it from scratch. We were aware of the calories, but didn’t particularly care. Besides, when you’re in your early twenties staying up late eating and waking up early to go work it off isn’t a big deal. More than anything, salsa con queso was a way for us to hang out. Unlike cake or donuts, you can’t take a plate of it back to your room and hide.

I’m judicious with how often I make this stuff now, but I stick to the dorm recipe.

Salsa con Queso

INGREDIENTS
1 12 oz. jar favorite chunky salsa. (We preferred Ortega medium.)
1 16 oz. pkg. Velveeta cheese cut in to cubes.
Tortilla chips

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS

Microwave-Queso-Dip

Microwave:
1. In 1 ½ quart microwavable bowl, heat salsa and cheese at medium for 7 to 9 minutes.

2. Stir every minute or so until cheese melts and is well blended.

3. Serve with chips.
I now, prefer stop top because I have greater control over the heat.

Stove Top:
In saucepan, over medium-low heat, heat salsa and cheese, stirring constantly until cheese melts and is well blended.

*BEDROOM EYES QUESADILLA

I never told Comicbook Crook I went dancing with Bedroom Eyes. Perhaps, I felt a little guilty, like I was cheating. My love of BRE and what we shared on the dance floor may have even prolonged the relationship with Comicbook Crook. BRE was certainly giving me some of the safe emotional and physical connection I needed… the kind would be standard in a relationship.
__________________________________________________________________

My college had a student body that was mostly women. The popular statistic was that women out-numbered men 3:1. With that ratio, dating was tough. But, to compound dating woes, allegedly, 65% of those men were gay. I’m not sure of the validity of the statement, but it seemed accurate.

The school paper even substantiated the statistics with a comic…
Frame One: Snaggle Tooth boy-troll wearing an I LOVE COMICS shirt.
Frame Two: Buxom hot girl.
Frame Three: Snaggle Tooth sees girl. Caption: How to pick up a girl at our college.
Frame Four: Snaggle Tooth, “I’m straight.”
Frame Five: Hot girl whisks Snaggle Tooth away.

I laughed. This wasn’t a little bemused laugh. It was a laugh that welled up from my belly and crossed my lips before I remembered who was sitting across from me.
Comicbook Crook was not amused.

He wasn’t bad looking, he just wasn’t going to win a beauty pageant. At any other college, he’d have a date or two… maybe. But, here, he was one of the few straight men. I was just one in a laundry list of women Comicbook Crook dated. I got to meet all his exes, even the one that broke up with him one month before he and I met. Part of me was happy to be part of the list. In some twisted way it validated my insecurity- I was somehow desirous. (Again, at this point, I didn’t realize that our first date started with date rape.)

Today I wouldn’t put up with his quirks, but part of being good at dating is ending something that doesn’t work. With my inexperience, I wasn’t good at dating…

…yet.

It’s not real life, but I was hoping that with love he would be the man I needed. I had invested considerable emotional energy, but the rose-colored glasses were slipping off. Me laughing at the comic was just a symptom of my growing discontent.

My three summers of working at camp helped me find my voice and undo the negativity that “friends” from junior high and high school heaped on. Camp had a compounding affect:  It taught me to confidently stand within myself and while doing so I gained more confidence. But, even with jokes, camaraderie and safe flirting, there were certain lines you didn’t cross… It was church camp after all.

3-7-14 Hubble Chapple Cross

I crossed those lines with Bedroom Eyes. There was no sex; he was one the 65%. We danced. We danced our asses off. (Yes, I know I’m quoting Footloose.) During my junior year, it became our Monday night tradition to go to Axis on Lansdowne Street. Monday night was “Gay Night.” Looking back on it now, it seems funny to have a bar with a theme of “Gay Night” where they proclaim they’re LBGTQ friendly. But this 2000/2001; Boston and America were still changing.

My first dance with BRE was awkward.

Dance - 1 Awkward

Awkward in the sense that he was a boy. Prior to him, the most I had done with a boy, dancing wise, was the HS shuffle with a friend. I had never danced a fast dance with a boy. He pulled me close. I moved with him as best I could. But, even with my years in Band and understanding the rhythm of music, I didn’t have experiencing moving my body to that rhythm. He pulled me closer. Hips gyrating. His hands on my ass.

I better do something.

Dance - 2 Gettin w it

The moment when you figure out how to dance at a club…

I put my hands on his bicep. I didn’t want to be in his personal space. Besides, even though I wasn’t a virgin, I was quite virginal in my mind and practical experiencing. Putting my hand on his bicep was non-threatening and the best I could do at the time.

I looked around and saw how other people were dancing and decided I better do something more… I put my hands on his chest. He didn’t recoil. We just got more in sync. It was completely fluid and absolutely freeing. I felt sexy. This was safe sexy dancing. Then, I learned a key component to BRE’s sexy dancing— It’s all in the eyes. His big, beautiful, deep and penetrating Bedroom Eyes. I felt one dancing with him. Forget Sabrina, I had the post Patrick Swayze Baby attitude. Nobody’s going to put me in a corner!

D Dancing - Baby Working It

I never told Comicbook Crook I went dancing with Bedroom Eyes. Perhaps, I felt a little guilty, like I was cheating. My love of BRE and what we shared on the dance floor may have even prolonged the relationship with Comicbook Crook. BRE was certainly giving me some of the safe emotional and physical connection I needed. Combined with the flirting and safe sexy dancing, my shaky confidence was becoming stable and even blossomed.

BRE and I didn’t even need alcohol to loosen us up to dance, it just happened once we walked through the doors. With the pulse of the music and everyone moving we fell into the momentum of dance.

In April the school had a big end of year dance where the leadership within the school clubs was handed down to the successor(s) for the next school year. It was a lot like prom. This time, I didn’t have to take a camp friend. I took Comicbook Crook and was excited to show off my moves. We both wore black and looked super slick. There was dinner, speeches and then it was time to dance! I’ve always loved dancing and now I had moves I could use. Comicbook Crook didn’t want to dance. I found Bedroom Eyes. I was a dancing machine, a monster. I owned myself. I loved dancing with BRE.

But, I didn’t go to the dance with him, I wanted to dance with my man.

Dancing Machine

It took some effort, but I was able to coax Comicbook Crook to the dance floor. He wasn’t thrilled, but slowly, he relaxed. Then there was a slow song. Easy stuff— Hold each other close and shuffle your feet. A fast song came back on. We stayed close.

Then I did what the music commanded me to do, which was walk backwards and beckon him to come get me. It was a cute move and I thought he’d walk forward to chase me. Instead, he had a bona fide temper tantrum. He needed a formula and pre-determined steps.

Why can’t he just go with the flow and dance with me?

Again, I had to console him. He was ruining my very first dance I had a boyfriend for.

I know I was stiff my first time, but at least I tried. I expected him to do the same. It was part of his job as my boyfriend to make me happy. I had reasons to stay with him, but coming up with new reasons to stay was becoming harder and harder to do. The big reason for not breaking up was boiling down to:

I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

But, the months of childish behavior, stealing, not eating crust and not letting me be me were adding up. This tantrum was put into my column of “reasons to break up.”

QUESADILLAS

Bedroom Eyes and I would often grab some food before a night of dancing… it was simply practical. On his side of campus they served diner-like food. Everything was loaded with starch, which would be good for sustained energy on the dance floor. Quesadillas have it all. While the traditional quesadilla is made with flour tortillas, really any kind of tortilla works.

INGREDIENTS
Guerrero Tortillas
Cheddar or Tex Mex Cheese
Pickled jalapeños

For the sides:
Sour Cream
Pace Salsa

 

Quesadilla Ingredients

Layer 1

Don’t be like some of the cooks at my school and scrimp on jalapeños like the one on the left.

STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS
Preheat toaster oven or oven to 375F.
On a tray lay out your tortilla and put the cheese and jalapeños.
Add more Cheese.
Cover with another tortilla.

Bake 10 minutes.
Quesadilla Baked - Done

Slice to desired size.
Serve with sour cream and salsa.
Quesadilla Presentation
TIP:
While putting the oven to toast for the last couple minutes is tempting, it will make your quesadilla to crispy and it will fall apart when you cut it.

*THE BIG SANDWICH – A CAMPING ADVENTURE

Cosby SweaterMost people would not continue to date this guy. But, our relationship was like eating bad chocolate. You eat it because it’s chocolate. You’re disappointed it’s not great. You hope the next bite will be better. So, you take another bite, certain it will be better than the last. And, when it’s not, you keep eating until that piece of chocolate is all gone and you have a bellyache.

———————————————————

I dove into the deep end dating Cosby Sweater and did the best I could with my limited dating experience. I wasn’t sure I was ready for all the “norms” of an adult relationship. But again, I had no hymen and harbored the desire to make sex with him special. Even though there was something “off” about my first sexual experience, my conscious mind did not make the connection that it was date rape.  I had planned I would give my virginity to my husband or the man that would be my husband, so I tried to rectify this sexual experience. And yes, I now realize this was insane, but mind you, I was thinking I was going to spend the rest of my life with this guy…

…or at least make it more special than a one night stand.

There was a month left of school before Cosby Sweater would graduate. One month to organize the chaos. One month to make something happen. In that month while dealing with all this new stuff, I gladly took on the caregiver role he was seeming to require. I was twenty and it seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

While we worked through early relationship kinks, we got to know each other in the traditional where are you from sense.

What was your childhood like?

“One time when my dad was beating up Mom, I had to call the police. The cops came and took him away. After he moved out, Mom divorced him. I saw him on weekends.”

Even prior to Cosby Sweater interceding on his mom’s behalf, it seemed he had always been a target of his father’s criticism. Calling the cops only further complicated their relationship. Anything in Cosby Sweater’s life was up for critique, including me.

Cosby Sweater was 5 feet 7 inches, 126 pounds; I was 4 feet 11 inches, 135 pounds. I was happy to still be shedding my freshman weight, but not happy to outweigh my boyfriend. Body image issues continued with his consistent reminders of his father’s potential criticisms, in addition to my writing major being a poor decision, my complexion was a favorite topic. Pointing out zits, Cosby Sweater gave them sound effects, like the sound of popcorn popping.

Seriously?

A boyfriend is supposed to give you complements, not point out shortcomings that are out of your control.

His observations (and sound effects) hurt my feelings. But, I rationalized and put it under “Idiosyncrasies I Need to Get Used To.”

Cosby Sweater

Most people would not continue to date this guy. But, our relationship was like eating bad chocolate. You eat it because it’s chocolate. You’re disappointed it’s not great. You hope the next bite will be better. So, you take another bite, certain it will be better than the last. And, when it’s not, you keep eating until that piece of chocolate is all gone and you have a bellyache.

I kept hoping moments with Cosby Sweater would get better. The twenty-year-old me was thinking he was preparing me for judgment of his father. I’ve since realized he learned how to judge and communicate the way his father did. I thought I could love him into the man I knew he could be. And while loving him into the man I knew he could be, the pride of having an honest-to-goodness boyfriend I could love outweighed any critique he could dish out. (Besides, I was still trying to make my first sexual experience mean something.) Cosby Sweater accepted my love and affection. He seemed to think he was justified in his actions. I was not perfect. My skin was not perfect. I was a poor example of quality girlfriend. Cosby Sweater seemed to worry that his father would think he wasn’t perfect either.

Sure enough, when I Mr. Cosby Sweater and step-mom during Graduation Weekend my “poor choice” of major and bad skin came up. On some level I respected Mr. Cosby Sweater wanted the best for his son, but was more hurt that he was as critical as predicted. I was still in college and needed time to prove I was good enough for the family. Cosby Sweater’s mom, however, did not criticize— She appreciated who I was, what I was doing with my life and where I wanted to go. She was also wowed by my kindness. At the family dinner, I met more relatives, including his cousin and her husband.

His cousin invited us on a couples-only camping trip. I felt so grownup.

It was just like the movies!

Camping

I was still nervous about sex and emotionally reeling from my first sexual experience. One night while laying in our zipped-together sleeping bags, Cosby Sweater leaned over and kissed me sweetly. He said, “two weeks after we met, I knew how I wanted to propose.”

Um. Gulp!

Counting my church camp boyfriend, PK, this was only my second relationship. I wasn’t quite ready for marriage, but the idea of a future proposal helped me reconcile the sex out of marriage; it made me feel like this relationship was heading somewhere… Even though I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to marry Cosby Sweater. In fact, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to marry him. Being very curious I asked him how he was going to propose. He said I would have to wait until it actually happened.

Damn!

I guess I better see if I can  actually be okay with this sex thing.

Marriage CartoonWhile erasing the bad from the my first sexual experience, this non-proposal piqued my need to understand Cosby Sweater more. It’s not real life, but I was hoping that with love he would be the man I needed. Some may consider our one month of dating would qualify him as a stranger, but I had a large emotional investment and had figured out ways to love him. Besides, a couples-only weekend was a way for us to get to know each other better. We talked to the cousin-couple about relationships, food and cooking. More importantly, I was introduced to Cosby Sweater’s Big Sandwich. Rather, the recipe was his cousin’s. As she explained her method of constructing this gargantuan sandwich, she winked and said, “it is a two hand job.”

Maybe, her husband was a two-hand job. Nothing about Cosby Sweater required two hands.  

The best thing I got from this relationship was the Big Sandwich. As with most recipes I learn, I typically find a way to make them better. I’ve tested different assembly orders of the contents, but the order below gives proper flavor balance. Some reasons are for practicality (you don’t want cheese next to tomatoes due to a chemical reaction that can happen), but the rest is for taste and presentation.

INGREDIENTS:
Round loaf of bread (about a pound; I prefer pumpernickel since it has more flavor oomph for this recipe)
Pesto
Black pitted Olives (sliced on horizontal bias)
Roasted Red Pepper
Tomato
Meat** (can replace with cucumber cut on vertical bias)
Cheese
Sweet Onion
Lettuce

ROASTED PEPPERS

Grateful I had a stash of roasted peppers!

THE REST:

1. Slice the top off the round loaf. (It’ll become a lid of sorts, so you don’t want to make it too thin/thick/uneven.)

SLICE TOP(Rather than slicing the top straight off, I turn the loaf, making a perforated cut around the circumferance of the top. By doing this, it helps to ensure that your top is even.)

2. Hollow out the bread, leaving some room for the walls.

IMG_3847(To help with hollowing out, take a cerated knife and cut along the edges. It is more efficient than grabbing fistfuls of bread innards.)

3. Layer your ingredients it the same order they’re listed above. (Don’t do more than one layer each, if you’re too generous with your ingredients, the sandwich will fall apart.)

4. Slice the sandwich like a pie. (You should be able to get 8 pie-shaped pieces.)

MIDDLE
5. Skewer each piece with a large toothpick.

IMG_3855

Featured Bread: Artisan Beer Boule

6. Keep the sandwich wedges in their circular shape; wrap the whole sandwich in aluminum foil.

7. Refrigerate. (Tastes should have time to commingle and get to know one another before having a party in your mouth- 24 hours is ideal.)

TIPS:

You can typically preorder your bread boule from your local bakery. When you do this, you can specify the size.  (You’ll want a loaf that is 1 pond or more.) Also, pumpernickel is often overlooked, and I’ve often had to special order this flavor.

Budget about 1.5 hours for prep, assembly and cleanup.

FALLING APART

While slicing, sometimes, one wedge falls apart. That’s when you eat the evidence.

*PARENTS MEET

The first year of dating is exciting. You’ve already established your commonalities, like breathing air… Now, everything you do together is noteworthy. Sonodoro and I were no different. He gave me a promise ring, he attended my baby sister’s wedding as my Plus One, we moved in together… you know, the usual. By anybody’s count, we were moving at lightning speed. But, that’s okay when you’re in love. Don’t question it. Just go with it and have faith that it will be wonderful.

And, it was.

Despite living (and sleeping) together, I still believed the right choice for me was no sex before marriage (as my fornicating college friend decreed was possible). We abstained as much as we could and when we couldn’t, Sonodoro always apologized.

What a caring guy.

Somewhere during this exciting first year of dating Sonodoro, my parents took a road trip to visit, stopping first in Salt Lake City to see my sister and her freshly-minted husband and then to see me and my wonderful new boyfriend.

It seemed as though Sonodoro and I were moving towards wedded bliss and there was a quorum that this would be the perfect opportunity for the families to meet.

The night of the family meeting, while Sonodro was out retrieving his mother, I stayed home to prepare a dinner that blended food traditions of both families.  I don’t remember what Mom&Dad and I talked about; I know I was just nervous as hell. Not only were we crossing the big step of having the families meet, I was cooking for his mom for the first time.

Would my cooking be good enough for Sonodoro’s Mom?

To cap it off, his mom spoke almost* no English and my dad had to repeat Spanish 3 times! (Mom took French, so what good does that do anyone?)

(*Almost meaning: “I love you” and a few choice swears.)

For the appetizer I made my mom’s famous (and fail-safe) “cream cheese mushroom things.”

Once Sonodoro came back with his mom, we introduced the parents. His mom exclaimed that my father is guapo (handsome) and threw a “que bonita” at my mom (how pretty). There was small talk. (Very small). Me mostly gorged on the appetizers.

Dinner conversation was difficult as Sonodoro had to translate between families.

Before dessert, Sonodoro and I turned on music, figuring it would bridge the language gap. His mom was quite eager and more than happy to teach my rhythmically challenged dad how to dance a cumbia. (I know the video is in Spanish, that is what the lesson was like, exempt without the fun graphics.)

This appetizer makes you look like a cooking genius. It is flavorful and satisfies the salty and savory camps. For a party, you never know what last minute hiccups may happen, so I prepare these in advance. I only bake them (in a pre-heated oven) as soon as a couple guests arrive.

INGREDIENTS:

4 tubes Pillsbury crescent rolls
1 60z jar Green Giant mushrooms
2 bricks Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 Egg & ¼ milk (for egg wash)

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350*
2. Soften cream cheese over night (or on a low temperature in a microwave safe bowl)
3. Stir cream cheese so it no longer looks like a brick. (If need be add a splash of milk to help)… This step is necessary to help mixing when you add mushrooms.
4. Drain liquid out of mushrooms.
5. Add mushrooms to cream cheese.
6. Mix well.

IMG_2323

7. On a cookie sheet roll out two sheets of crescent rolls. (The images below are a half-batch)
8. Pinch together the perforated edges and the two sheets, so now you have one big dough base.

IMG_2324 IMG_2326

 

 

 

 

9. Evenly spread cream cheese mixture. Bring it just shy of the edges.
10. Then unroll the other two tins of crescent rolls and put them on top of the cream cheese. Pinch the perforated edges together here too (along with where the two sheets meet).

11. Firmly press top and sheet and bottom sheet together. (You don’t want the cream cheese melting out….)

IMG_2329

A twist and roll method to secure top and bottom sheets.

12. IN A SMALL BOWL COMBINE:

Egg
Milk

12A. Whisk together so the eggs aren’t stringy and the wash is thoroughly mixed.
13. Lightly brush egg wash on top of pastry.
14. Place appetizer in pre-heated oven.
15. Bake at 350 for 10-17 minutes.
16. Remove when golden brown.
17. Let stand for 5 minutes.
18. Cut into squares
19. Put on warm (but not hot) plate. Serve immediately.

 

IMG_2331

Be prepared to put out reinforcements almost immediately.

 

TIPS:

1. When I first started making this recipe, I would roll out the top piece on a separate surface and assemble it into one sheet before I transferred it to my baking sheet.

2. There are several methods to secure your cream cheese pocket, I like the press, twist and roll method the best. It adds a little extra flair while ensuring cream cheese won’t melt out… Mom says this makes the edges too crusty. She prefers the press and seal, so the edge pieces have more cream cheese.