Monday, January 30, 2012

Dinner with old and New Friends

I can’t recall January ever being this cold in Sonoma County, or perhaps it is me getting older and I can’t tolerate the cold as much.

Last Wednesday I had a small dinner party with four of my most favored people here from Healdsburg and Sebastopol. We had a wonderful evening.  The food was good but I only give it a 3.5 out of 5. Needles to say, I was not impressed with my cooking.  I have made this entree many times before; the recipe is from “Giada De Laurentes” TV show on the Food Network, Salmon baked in foil.

Before, I always left the skin on one side of the Salmon Filets. This time I decided to bake it skinless in the foil. The fish stays firmer with the skin on and the cooking time needs to be 5 minutes less when skinless: It is a wonderful dish for entertaining but timing is everything.

            Salmon Baked in Foil

4 (5 ounces each) salmon fillets
2 teaspoon olive oil plus to teaspoons
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tomatoes, chopped, or 1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained
2 shallots or ½ medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about ½ lemon)
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or ¾ dried
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or ¾ dried

Foil paper, 12 by 12 inches

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a medium bowl, stir in the tomatoes, shallots, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper to taste.

Place a salmon fillet, oiled side down, atop a sheet of foil. Fold the edges up. Spoon the tomato mixture over the salmon. Fold the sides of the foil over the fish and tomato mixture, covering completely;  repeat with the rest of the salmon fillets seal the packets closed.

Place the foil packet on a large baking sheet. Repeat until all of the salmon have been individually wrapped in foil and placed on the baking sheet.

Bake until salmon is just cooked through about 25 minutes.

Open packets and transfer to plates and serve. (Very hot)


You can use the tomato mixture and put on top of pork shops, cooking time increases to 45 to 50 minutes, depending on the thickness of the shops.

Makes 4 servings

Back to 1976

January 1976 was also very cold in Connecticut. Marc was back at work and we were happy that he was in remission. I took on projects in New York City when time permitted. My home and working at Annie’s Firehouse Soup Kitchen did not leave much time for catering projects in the city or Connecticut.

I really did mess up with House & Garden Magazine though. I was asked to put a special menu together centered around “Meal in the Pot” for publication.  I missed the deadline by two days and of course it never got published.  The Editor at the time was not happy with me.  Annie’s Firehouse stayed busy and very popular.  I trained a cook (actually two).  A former Marine who cooked while in the service gave me so much grief and did not want to stick to my recipes or know how.  You guessed it, I had to dismiss him.  The other was a young woman, Olivia, from New Orleans who was a student at Yale and loved to cook.  Olivia got the hang of it and I felt comfortable leaving the kitchen in her hands.  Olivia also did catering with me.  When she graduated from Yale she went back to New Orleans and opened her own catering company.  A few weeks after she left New Haven I received a beautiful note from her thanking me for all I taught her.  What a motivation to keep going.  Anyone who knows about cooking and putting an event or wedding together knows it is a labor of love.

In the beginning of March, Marc and I drove to Vermont to spend a few days for R&R with our friends Ingrid and Nick at their Vermont home. It was so beautiful, surrounded by the snowcapped mountains. We did spend the second day at a ski lodge.  Marc was sitting by the Fireplace watching the skiers. Ingrid and Nick were on the slopes and I was debating if I should go up and ski down; I am more comfortable skiing cross-country.  I decided not to and went back into the lodge.  Marc seemed to enjoy the bustle around him.  I noticed his face was very flushed.  At first I thought the fireplace produced that flush, after awhile I touched his forehead, he was burning up.  Oh boy, what a scare.  Ingrid and Nick were going to join Marc and I for lunch and it was almost lunch.  As soon as they walked into the lodge, I told them we needed to get back to their home and I needed to pack Marc up and drive back to Connecticut.  I did make a call to his Oncologist to see if it was safe to drive him back to Connecticut.  He instructed me to give Marc two aspirin and to make sure he is warm.  I drove like a mad woman back to Connecticut.  All I could think of was “Make it to Yale New Haven Hospital in one piece.”  I was speeding and of course was stopped somewhere in Massachusetts by the highway patrol.  I told him what was going on and he then drove in front of me with his lights flashing until I entered Connecticut.  I am not sure, but I believe he alerted the Connecticut troopers to watch out for me and help me to get to New Haven Yale University hospital.  I never encountered a trooper in Connecticut and we made it safe to the hospital.

The diagnosis was pneumonia.  Marc was put on antibiotics but he did not get better.  Tests revealed that the cancer was back.  He had to stay in the hospital, and chemo was the norm again.  When he came home he was weak but put up a good front.  After one week another round of chemo started.  It was heartbreaking.  The cancer had spread and Marc decided no more chemo.

That summer my Father came from Germany to be with us along with Marc’s youngest brother Clyde.   I quit work at Annie’s Firehouse to be with Marc and my family.  At that point Dr. Bertino told me that Marc had maybe three weeks left.  I prayed every day for Marc to not suffer and linger in pain.  My prayers were answered.  About a week before Marc passed on he could not make it up the stairs to our bedroom.  I put a mattress on the floor in front of our German stereo cabinet.  I wanted Marc to sleep on the couch which made into a single bed; he would not hear of it, he wanted to sleep on the mattress.  I in turn slept on the couch.  How ironic if I think about it now.  Of course real sleep eluded me.  In the middle of the night Marc sat up and said he wanted to scream and hit something.  I sat down besides him and moved the wooden door in front of the glass door on our stereo which also had a glass display.  I held him and told him he could hit all he wanted but could not scream or he’d scare the kids.  I held him for a very long time until he fell back asleep.

The next day the hospital bed I had ordered arrived.  He also requested a separate phone line besides his bed.  It was ordered but the phone company was too late putting the line in.  That phone line then became my own.  No children were to use that phone, and with seven children you know the phone is always busy.

Our oldest son, Walter, was hiking through Oregon and the State of Washington to Alaska during this time.  Marc was in and out of consciousness by now, but he worried about Walter since we had not heard from him in a while.  I was ready to call the police in both States but was spared that.  Walter called that afternoon and I told him, “Dad is hanging on to know that you are safe.”  Walter said, “Do not let him know I called.  I am on my way back.”  I told him that I couldn’t do that. “I need to let your father know that you are safe and on your way back home.” Walter had help from the State of Washington.  He did not get home until the day of the funeral, which was three days after we spoke.  Marc died the day after Walter called.

As for what happened with me, I was offered a partnership in a new Restaurant in New Haven.  I was to go to the meeting in Hartford, Connecticut to find out all the details.  Marc was lucid and I did not want to leave him.  He got agitated and said, “Schatzi you have to go, the children’s and your future hang in the balance.”  I wrestled with myself.  I called my closest friend, Ann, who is a nurse to ask her if she would come and stay with Marc while I would be at this meeting.  Ann came to stay and I drove to Hartford. T he meeting was August 23, 1976. On my way home I stopped for some Milk and Bread. It was about 7:35 pm when I arrived home.  I was met by my brother-in-law and I wondered why he was meeting me out there.  He told me then that Marc passed way peacefully.

 I do not remember but, according to my family and neighbors, I was screaming.  Marc passed on while I was in the Grocery store at 7:21 pm.  I have to interject something that most people think is weird or even a heavenly intervention.  Marc gave me a golden Swiss watch our first Christmas as a married couple.  The watch stopped exactly at 7:21 pm.  I could not get it to work; I took it to a jewelry store and they said it could not be fixed.  I still have the watch.  Also, two weeks before Marc died our house plants started to die, you see Marc always took care of them.  Today I know the plants dying was a sign that Marc would follow soon.

None of our children were home.  Neal, Paul, Rodmond and Steven were at a concert; Heidi and Kurt were still in New Jersey; and Walter was on his way back home from his wandering.

I went inside and Ann’s husband, Norton, who is a Dr. was there.  I was in a daze; I had to call Dr. Bertino at Yale University Hospital and the State Troopers who came with the paramedics to take Marc’s body for autopsy to Yale.  I did not want to have the body removed and two people had to hold me back.

Later that evening Ann told me Marc’s last words were, “Tell Sigrid I love her.”  Ann also told me when she sponged Marc down to cool his body, that he said, “Don’t be so gentle, Sigrid never is that gentle.” – I had to laugh.  It is so like Marc to say that and it was true.

The boys came home and I had to tell them the sad news.  The ones I thought would accept it did not, and the ones I thought would not did, at least on the surface.  Rodmond climbed on the roof of our house and it took a long time for him to come down.  Neal, Paul and Steven retreated into their rooms.  I can’t really remember.  My Father seemed nowhere in sight but I know he was there.  That whole evening is a blur.  Walter still had not arrived.

The funeral was three days later with the wake the day before.  The wake was for my in-laws and our sons who wanted to take a last look at their father.  I had an open casket for them.  Friends came and went throughout the day.  The funeral was late morning the next day I believe.  Our Minister and a friend of ours, especially of Marc, came from Pennsylvania to do the service.  Dr. Niebruegge was our Minister in Ottumwa, Iowa.  I was so happy that he came to do the service for Marc and my family.

Our friends Margot and Jim brought the two youngest, Kurt and Heidi, home the day of the funeral.  I did not let them see the body in the open casket.  Perhaps that was a mistake; I know Heidi struggled with that for many years.  Kurt never said anything.  My reasoning was that I wanted them to remember their Father alive, not as a dead body.  Walter arrived on the day of the funeral and we went straight to the cemetery.  After coming back home, Walter locked himself into our garage/workroom. For two days anyone coming near caused tools to fly and I could not help him in his grief.

My next blog will be titled: New Beginnings; Hard Times

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