Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Meal Made With Love

This time last week, it was Valentine's Day and I was on a jet plane to sunny Orlando, Florida. Sounds crazy, huh? As Valentine's Day approached, Steve and I just couldn't wrap our heads around what that looked like now, here in the house, just the two of us, when our traditions had run so deeply wrapped around celebrating with the boys, and creating a large, multi-course home cooked meal...for four. We limped through 2014 with Andrew here, and Philip's first year away, eager to provide him with one last year of our tradition, all the while the three of us noticing the empty chair at the table. 

I think in our hearts, Steve and I knew that we needed to do something different this year, more than any other, just to break the expectational mold of, and definition for, what Valentine's looked like for us. When we found out that Valentine's weekend coincided with President's Day on Monday, a three day weekend suddenly held lots of possibilities. And of course, our hearts leaned to one of our favorite places on earth, determined to make the most of our annual passes. 

We planned the trip just two weeks before taking it, and and in Disney trip planning time, that is sort of stunning. We pulled it off, and had a magical weekend. But even while I was in the throes of the Magic Kingdom, and surrounded by balloons, parades, and smiles, it was a bittersweet weekend. Little toddling boys reminded us of our own. We stumbled on things that we knew would make the boys smile. We rode their favorite rides, and walked the seven magical lands with joy in our hearts, but with memories of other trips, and the boys' presence etched on our minds.

While this year we had Valentine's Day dinner at the Grand Floridian cafe, and had the most amazing Shrimp and Grits meal, I did miss my big Italian meal. And it goes without saying that I missed sitting at my dining room table with my boys. Dinner amore'. Dinner made with love. I don't know if I could pinpoint the exact year we started this tradition, but I know it began back in San Antonio, so that could be as many as 18 years ago. I know that preschool years there acclimated them to Valentine's Day, and that set off the shift, the tectonic shift, of our celebration on February 14 every year.

I remember so many years where I would spend the day in the kitchen, preparing the various components of the meals. The Italian entrees changed over time, as the boys matured and their tastes changed. I used to make stuffed shells every year, a batch of meat stuffed shells, and a batch of cheese stuffed shells, using the recipe from Steve's family. 

I would also make, in the early years, the cheesecake recipe I garnered from a college spring break trip to Philadelphia, home of the famous cream cheese. I believe fettucine alfredo was an early addition to the menu, and it has survived across the years, and is one thing the four of us really love, while the cheesecake gave way to Creme Brûlée.

Chocolate dipped strawberries made their debut early in the menu, too, and are one of the family faves, as well. They are set out on the counter early, and greet everyone as they come in from their day, and are just gobbled up in no time. I remember little boy dimpled hands helping me dip them in chocolate across the years. I remember the really large strawberries we could get in the valley, where all the produce was so fresh. 

When we moved to Dallas, and found and fell in love with Maggiano's, Steve decided to try to replicate their fried zucchini into our annual Valentine's menu. It quickly became another family fave, and it's the only time a year that he makes it. The stuffed shells gave way to lasagna, when the boys finally decided they no longer loved the little shells full of goodness. {I secretly love the shells and really miss them.} Another Dallas change was the infusion of Carrabba's into our menu. Chicken Bryan, of all things. Steve's and Philip's favorite.

Across time, over the miles, in three different homes, we have celebrated Valentine's with a meal. Red checkered tablecloth. Candlelight. A table full of tasty meals, prepared by either me, or by Steve, or by both of us, or with the boys helping us. Dinner made with love. Dinner made for love. Dinner amore'. I am not sure when, if ever, the four of us will be together again on Valentine's Day. The boys will go their own ways after college, more than likely. But, I will always have my memories, and wherever any of us are, it is my wish that on Valentine's we can sit around a table, with people we cherish  and soak in the moment, and have our own version of our dinner amore', a meal made with love. 

Dinner Amore' ~ Valentine's Day ~ February 2010

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Crate Paper
Title Font: 2 P's Mister Giggles

1 comment:

  1. Very sweet, Penny! This paper works so well with these photos. And how fortuitous to have so many photos of your favourite dishes.