There is a house on Cape Cod that my husband and I visit every year. It is quite large; it has a tennis court, a pool and a magnificent vista overlooking the calm waters of Buzzards Bay. The bright orange sunsets signal the end of wonderfully relaxing days and the chirping birds lull us to sleep at night with the comforting feeling that all is right with the world. I am sure you are thinking - this is no ordinary house! True, but that’s only half the story. This house is an extraordinary home. It is owned by friends of mine who have six children and 11 grandchildren. I like to say that I married into my friends when I had the good fortune of entering into the blessed union with my husband almost ten years ago.
When you first walk into Diane and Chester’s house, you feel as if you have come home. The physical surroundings convey a warm, comforting and supportive feeling and within a few short minutes, we always find ourselves in the kitchen, catching up on the goings-on in our lives. Our visit last month was no exception. We arrived on a Friday just in time for me to help with the preparation of Shabbat dinner. The smell of freshly baked Challah was unmistakable and our first task was to take it out of the oven. This Challah was a beauty!
Delightfully plump, golden brown and raisins slightly protruding out of the rounded humps. Without asking, I knew at once that Diane’s family tradition was different than mine. I only make a Challah with raisins for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) as the raisins symbolize the hope and optimism that the future will be sweet. It is only fitting that Diane makes the raisin Challah for her family all year round.
We proceeded to make the rest of the dinner for the evening-nothing complicated but certainly fresh and delicious. Diane reminded me that the meals in her family were designed with simplicity-certainly out of necessity while raising 6 kids, but truth be told, because it was the conversations that took place in the kitchen and then around the table that were most important. One of the many conversations that Diane and I had that serene Friday afternoon centered on the flowers we brought them for Shabbat-a beautiful arrangement of purple and yellow flowers with Gerber Daisies being most prominent.
Diane excitedly shared that the Gerber Daisy (named after the German naturalist, Traugott Gerber) was the “family flower”. Just as a state has a representative flower, so does the Black family. Next time you purchase a Gerber Daisy you will for sure notice the short plastic sleeve around the stem which is required for the flower to stand up straight. As Diane gently reminded me, everyone needs a little help and support now and then to manage the complexities of their lives.
Diane, many thanks for the conversations; the insights; the sharing of your family traditions and the support you have given us over the last ten years. To quote your words from a passage that you sent me with some great family recipes, “the smells wafting into the pores of our home said there’s always room at the table!” There certainly has been for us and I sincerely hope you know, there is a permanent place for you and Chester at ours.