Family, friends, food and love that doesn't die

My siblings: I'm second from right. Gathered for a barbecue.
From left: Rick, Misha, Olivia, Robbie, Cookie, Patrick.
Our sister Peny died on Feb. 1, 1986, the same
weekend the Challenger went down. We lost Robbie in 2010


  SINCE OUR cavemen ancestors first banged a bone onto a rock, we’ve needed an audience for our entertainment.  It’s called family.
     The family audience is hungry -- for sustenance on all levels.  It needs food.
Without family, friends and the inevitable feasts that union produces, we would be that lonely and starving island that no man is – or should be.
Brother Rick reading an essay he wrote at
our Uncle Cog's memorial. Left, Cookie
with great nephews & Yorkies at High Chap. 
        My family and friends take me in when I’m lower than a hound dog’s belly, when everything is temporarily out of order.  When life seems “half a bubble off plumb,” as my grandpa Gus said.

GRANDPA  GUS also said, go to your family. No matter how senseless or sad life seems, your family will fix you a cuppa, pour a glass of wine, offer a bath or back rub, take in your pets, sort your laundry and, of course, offer food.  Things will get better, they promise, and things do.

OUR HERITAGE is Irish, English and Norwegian, which means lots of potatoes, peas, pudding, lutefisk and lefse.  Our Viking ancestors were an ocean away from the Irishmen they conquered and bedded, but they like their spuds, too, and that’s what lefse is. Even before the introduction of "the Japanese contingent" into our family when my sister married Kenichi Otokawa, we've loved sushi, curry and tempura.
Easter meant ham, studded with cloves and pineapple with a half-dozen side dishes.
      Food, family and friends are inextricably linked.  The first words of our cavemen parents were “Pass Ricky the meatloaf” or  “who wants pie? Pumpkin or mincemeat?"  or maybe “Where should we eat after the movies?”
Bruce Keller, Christene Meyers, Sylvia 
Pittendrigh-Dellenty and Sean Dellenty in London.
reunion with English cousins Sean Dellenty and his step-mum Sylvia Pittendrigh Dellenty was, naturally, over a delicious lunch on London's Trafalgar Square.
     The first words when I get off a plane for a visit with any one of my family are “I know you haven’t eaten; they don’t even have peanuts anymore” or “we’re going to take you out -- where would you like to go for supper?”
Cookie plays saxophone for friends on a
mountaintop during appetizers and wine.
Sister Misha with nieces Elliana
and Christena during a gathering.

      Why do we link food and the people we love?  Because they’re parts of the same whole, nurturing, and we all crave someone to take care of us.  FOR YEARS, my sister Olivia believed Elmer Fudd’s last name was Fudge.
Family bonds include paying homage to the too-soon
departed, here Cookie's sister Robbie, whom she helped raise.
That’s because candy was a big part of our family’s life.  My mother’s fudge was legendary, rich with walnuts, chunks of barely melted dark chocolate and sometimes marshmallows to gild the lily.   Our  grandmother’s specialty was divinity, as white as a bridal gown and wondrously melt-in-the-mouth. Aunt Lillian made delicious penuche.  A bag of Carolyn’s caramels were always wrapped for the Christmas stocking.
Sister Misha bags a rainbow trout at the Montana home.
     ON "Mission Impossible” nights, my brother Rick and sister Peny cooked up t-bone steaks from the 4-H beef in the freezer.
 My mother’s birthday cakes were works of art, telling elaborate stories with frosting and decorations – a ranch scene with animals, a night at the opera with tiny singers, a carnival complete with rides and revelers.
      Family reunions always feature a turkey, mum’s favorite main course.  So Thanksgiving can occur any month of the year at Cosgriffe gatherings. One Valentine's Day, mum stuffed a turkey and put red food coloring in the gravy!
Cookie and Keller being silly
       Family and food endure and so do those handful of friends who have charmed their way into the clan’s inner-sanctum. Everyone has a specialty.
Peny (1949-1986) made her
 daughter birthday pie, a
tradition Amarylla continues.
    We remember and appreciate Nancy Ellen’s baked beans, Corby’s ribs, Nadine’s broccoli salad, Olivia’s raspberry vinaigrette, Misha’s breakfast casserole, Patrick’s chili and Rick’s “world famous blueberry pancakes.” Sister Peny began a tradition of blackberry pie instead of birthday cake for my niece, Amarylla, on her birthday.  Ama, now a mother herself, continues the tradition each September 17, honoring her mama’s memory as she rolls out the crust and piles the berries high.
Cookie and Keller can  look pretty good, cleaned up!
     TREASURED family photos involve food preparation – dad with a string of trout by the campfire, on a fishing trip up the West Fork, or mum in her horn-rim glasses of the 1960s, cooking our childhood birthday brunches of pineapple, ham and brown sugar, Hawaiian punch and biscuits.  Gran Nystul baking sugar cookies with a hairnet fashioned from underwear. Grandpa Gus flipping flapjacks on Sunday morning before walking Gran to church, carrying her music books then returning to his own "church of the garden."
       FOOD IS also connected to performance.  We go out to dinner after the matinee.  Or grab an appetizer before the evening show. We gather for a sing-along around the piano after a holiday feast. A nip and nosh are always a fitting accompaniment to a movie.   When we think of a particular play or film, we may remember supper at Tavern on the Green or brunch at the Top of the Mark.
      Or coffee at our favorite Starbucks, where I took my nephews for lattes and pastry after “Sweeney Todd” in Atlanta.
Dad's siblings: from left, daddy,
Mary, Nancy and Harry (Cog.)
      When we dress up for a wedding or christening, we know we’ll share a meal and a toast.  And when we say good-bye to someone, whether a send-off to Europe or that final, large farewell, we celebrate life with lunch or dinner.
       OUR GREATER  family includes cherished cousins and the friends whom we’ve adopted.  They understand us, love us, celebrate and mourn with us.
 And they always bring food.

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