We're on the way home now, and once again advancements in technology allow me to post this from the backseat of my Sequoia. We're stuck in Chicago traffic. Again. It seems to be a theme this weekend. This time we made sure we hit town just as soon as the Bears game got out.
Other than the time spent in the Toyota, the weekend was delightful. The cousins acted as if they'd seen each other only last week, not the three years that it has actually been. Steve was able to meet family members that he had only heard about, and he's decided that we need to go back more often so that he can spend more time with them. He actually loved my little hometown, and was able to relax for the first time in months.
Coincidentally, my mother in law-Madeline-has relatives that live in Cleveland, about an hour away from my family. She asked my sister Betsy if if would be okay for the Cleveland relatives to spend a few hours on Saturday afternoon at the house visiting. Betsy was more than happy to accomodate Madeline's request, and we all thought four or five relatives would be joining us. Knowing we had an hour or two before the Cleveland family arrived, my brother in law Eric suggested Steve and I might enjoy a drive down to Amish country, specifically a stop at Lehman's Hardware, a tool mecca that was certain to blow Steve's mind. I couldn't wait to stock up on spices, pumpkin butter and trail bologna at a local shop.
Right before we left, Madeline's cousin Mike arrived with his father in law, Poppy. Poppy and Madeline had shared a few dances a year ago at a fiftieth wedding anniversary party. Madeline likes to tell people that they had a "one night stand." She was looking forward to seeing this silver fox. Understandably, he was a charmer. Their picture was yesterday's post. We left Madeline shamelessly flirting with Poppy, Mike settled in watching the football game in 57 inches of high definition glory.
We had just passed our first horse and buggy when my sister called Eric and said that Brian and his four children had just arrived. "Who the hell is Brian?" I asked when Eric relayed the news.
Never known for his ability to recall names, Steve replied, "I have no idea who these people are, this is my mom's thing."
I shrugged and continued to take in the scenery, admiring the pastoral settings and the little children cloaked in their archaic clothing. We arrived at Ashrey's grocery, a delightful place with bulk spices that are unbelievably affordable, and wonderful items that are impossible to find anywhere but the internet. As we were perusing the aisles, Eric called Betsy and asked for directions to Lehman's. Betsy responded that there was no time for that, we needed to get our asses home now. The four people we were expecting had turned into sixteen, and twenty more were on their way. Betsy is the most accomodating person I have ever met, and I think I've accurately represented her prowess in the kitchen. But she's not a miracle worker, and there's a big difference between four guests and thirty-six. I know how she gets when her temper is tested, and this was a potentially terrifying situation.
We arrived home to pursed lips and a furrowed brow. Betsy shot Steve and I an icy look, and ordered us to entertain our family members. I dispatched Steve to the family room to meet everyone, and looked around to find the house overrun by toddlers. I asked Betsy what I could do to help, and she ordered me to start getting the pepperoni buns made. I felt awful that Betsy had been put on the spot, after she had been waiting on us hand and foot for the last three days. I began to work on the bread dough when Madeline's Uncle Chuck walked into the kitchen to make small talk with us. Eric and Betsy and I were the only three people in the kitchen at this point. He watched as I fiddled with the dough, Betsy piped elaborate frosting on fresh baked cutout cookies and Eric assembled a cheese tray. Eric asked Uncle Chuck his relation to all of the family members gathered, and Uncle Chuck haughtily announced, "I'm the patriarch of this family."
There was an arrogant tone to his voice that we all picked up on. Betsy arched one eyebrow, and turned her mouth down on one side-signs Eric and I knew to be indicators that she was dangerously close to the end of her rope. Uncle Chuck then crossed a line. He spoke to Eric, pointed at Betsy and then asked, "Is she your mother?"
It was as if time stood still. Eric and I both froze. ohshitohfuckohholyhell, she is going to lose it for sure now. Eric slowly raised his head so that his gaze was level to Betsy. I stood with my jaw on my chest, waiting for Uncle Chuck to laugh and shrug off his bad joke, to say that he was just kidding, ha ha. I'm sure it wasn't more than ten seconds, but if felt like ten minutes before Eric said, "Uhhhhh, that's my wife."
The man didn't even apologize, he acted almost put out when he said, "Well how would I know that?"
Umm, because she doesn't look eighteen or more years older than her husband?
Betsy fixed him with her deadly laser shooting stare, but put a gracious smile on her face and ordered him out of her kitchen good naturedly, "Okay Uncle Chuck, you better go watch some football now, ha ha."
I don't think that Uncle Chuck realizes just how close he came to death in my sister's kitchen. Had Betsy been a little closer to the knife block, I'm pretty sure he would have never seen the blade penetrate his heart. I called my mother in law aside and asked when the other twenty people were expected to arrive. Madeline gaily responded that no one else was coming, just these sixteen. I then pulled Steve into the foyer and tried to tell him about Uncle Chuck's faux pas, but I was laughing so hard I had to repeat it three times before Steve finally understood me. I wasn't laughing at my sister's expense, it was just the diffusion of tension.
After sampling Betsy's pepperoni rolls, Steve wanted to know why I never made them. I reminded him that while he may be on a break from the low carb lifestyle while in Ohio, we would be returning to it once we arrived back in Minnesota. Betsy figured out how to make these savory buns after I worked at a restaurant in college that served them. They're pretty easy, but awfully impressive with a big Italian dinner.
12 pieces of Rhode's frozen bread dough rolls, thawed
36 pieces of pepperoni
1 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/2 cup butter
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Combine the butter and garlic, melt over low heat. Set aside. Flatten the pieces of dough until they form a four inch circle. Place three pieces of pepperoni on each round, then sprinkle with provolone cheese, leaving a half inch border clear of any toppings. Bring the seams together, forming a pouch. Place the buns on a cookie sheet with the seam side down, brush generously with the garlic butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown.