Saturday, June 12, 2010

Paella brings a family closer...

Okay okay, so it wasn't the dish...but maybe it was. And like so many epiphanies and special moments I have at home with my parents...this was no different. This time, it just involved Paella, and a yummy local wine that paired beautifully.

The recipe is a bit time consuming (peeling and de-veining shrimp is tedious), but I got a head start with my prep work before my folks got home from work. The rest...was a really nice family event all centered around the grill. And what an event it was...

See, my parents and I have sort of grown up together as life long learners, and the God's honest truth is that they have always been willing to try new foods and life events, no matter what. And as I have grown, they have been there every step of the way trying new uncomfortable things with gusto.

This visit's new thing, was to give them Paella. Certainly not a new dish to the world, but a new experiment in the kitchen for Meghan and I. Equipped with Rick Moonen's "Fish" cookbook (he is the god of seafood), and having cooked it once in Annapolis a few weeks ago, I set out to give them a treat.

You see, my folks live in land-locked Mt. Airy, North Carolina. The seafood is tough to come by..often frozen, often fishy...making a seafood paella is really not tops on the list. So, I loaded my cooler in Annapolis with fresh grouper, head on shrimp, and clams. And gosh darnit everything made the field trip lickity split.

The cooking arena was out on my folks's patio, surrounded by a jungle of flowers, plants, cacti, hydrangeas, and whatever else can grow. My mom was stationed on the deck...kind of the bird's eye camera view. Dad was on the picnic table. And every time I opened the grill to add the essential ingredients (you have to add the seafood sort of in sequence...hence a lot of checking, adding, and re-checking) the aromas would waft towards their ever growing eyes, and rumbling stomachs. Dad would make a few suggestions, and mom would comment on how much she missed my wife and wished she could have made the trip down south.

Then the camera popped out, and mom started ordering dad to take pictures so we could sent them to my wife. "Take more pictures", she said, "Meghan needs to feel part of this event". And I guess that's the magic of what was happening. We were bonding. We shared stories, cried about recently losing my father-in-law Mike, cried about how mom and Meghan were able to settle their misunderstandings and how much my mom really loved my wife and was so glad we got married. And we laughed...and then we started breaking out in true Jacobs form via song (mom had the old Willy Wonka theme song in her head). By the time we got to dessert (grilled white peaches, fresh local honey, toasted pecans, and greek yoghurt), my dad had enough..."I'm going to bed". I actually laughed and said, "Dad, it's 9'o'clock" woke me up 5 minutes later on the was time for bed.

Nonetheless, we were family, we were trying something new, and we were enthused about it all. Although I have been separated from them by a few state lines since I was twenty-two, we have never drifted apart. Though I write that food is the leveler of socioeconomic plains, equalizer of humanity, and bonder of friends and family. You can't unequivically say with conviction that paella and events like this kept my family close through thick and thin. But you can't say it didn't help.


  1. Somehow this post...moved me to have tears in my eyes. I think the part of including Meghan when she couldn't be there and centering a memory around a warm dish that you already had a nice memory of sharing with your wife. I dont know, its a combination snd knowing that families come together over a dish of food.

  2. Mmmmmm paella , you'll have to give me the recipe! Enjoy your visit with your folks! Have a good time and safe travels back up north.

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  4. oh Matty, I haven't had pork in almost 12 years now! I stopped eating it in Highschool ( I think mostly to impress a boy) and just never got back into it. I have the occaisonally mistake when someone sneaks bacon or diced ham into a dish they serve me and I figure it out pretty quickly. I would have to take baby steps back into the culinary world of pork if I were to go back into it. Its hard when so many things that I could cook are restricted by excluding that one meat.