Dr. Gupta, of CNN, regaled the crowd at Michigan’s commencement yesterday, and the frozen crowd, braving 41 F degree temperature and winds that felt like the cold when a freezer door is opened and you have stepped out of a shower, made do. One speaker, playing on the rallying cry, “Go Blue,” said it was more of a day when people, “turned blue,” which made perfect sense until I saw a black woman scowl after it was said.
Dr. Gupta peppered his speech with references to favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner places in Ann Arbor, and it was clear, once again, how food restores memories to us. It’s difficult to remember her face, let’s say, until you recall that it was the morning after, on line at Zingerman’s, that you held her hand and her remembered the grip.
Between the speech and the house party, I headed over to TJ’s to buy food to cook for thirty. We’re talking four+ pounds of turkey black bean chili and four pounds or so of oven braised pork loin in milk and onions. The former recipe is an adaptation of my Grandma Lil’s from South Carolina; she used pork jowls, I use canola, but it was essentially all black all the time, roadhouse food for the late night musicians who gathered at her place after a show. The latter dish is culled from my Uncle Salvatore, who alleged roots in Liguria, but, let’s face it, was Sicilian through and through. It’s a classic Italian no-brainer: Cut the loins in half to fit into a pan. Pan sear them to get a crust. Salt and pepper. Place in baking dish. Cover with a chopped onion. Cover with milk. Roast at 350 for 45 minutes. Slice and serve, adding salt and pepper to taste. Both dishes took a total of 20 minutes prep, 45 minutes of time braising or stovetop, and fed 30.
The party itself featured killer chicken, spicy and not so spicy from “Big” Dave C, amazing cheese and potatoes, and the best cherry, apple, and pure rhubarb pies I have ever, and I do mean ever, have tasted.
Between the speech and party, I went to Kerrytown and bought gorgeous Walleye at Monahan’s, looked over OK choice beef at Sparrow’s (pass), and went to Whole Foods to stock up on beautiful Michigan ramps and the first asparagus of the season, Icelandic salmon, and two Amish chickens, for under $10 each, from northern Michigan.
At the register, the SYT (sweet young thing) asked me how to cook ramps. On the way home, at a CVS, ASYT (another sweet young thing) asked, after seeing my driver’s license for a credit card purchase, if I was moving to Ann Arbor.
“Yes,” I said, “yes, yes, yes, yes.”