I floated in and out of sleep last night with the Food Network chefs whisking in the background. At 2 am, I saw Rachel Ray whip up crab and corn chowder, served along a side of New England-style hot dogs with Napa slaw. Another chef, famous for using the ingredients in his freezer, created succulent quesadillas with frozen chicken thighs, the ubiquitous onions and garlic, cumin, canned Italian tomatoes and chillis.
Bobby Flay, by comparison, was too complicated and the high power gas stove and grill that he flaunts left me cold. But I like Sandra Lee, the queen of semi-homemade cooking, because she epitomizes the lazy but semi-stylish flair I like to emulate.
It's 8 am and the energetic Rachel Ray is back on with a recipe for Crouque Madame, a French ham and cheese sandwich (Crouque Monsieur) topped with an egg. Cindy and I had our first Croque Monsieur nine years ago after we Chunneled together from London to Paris for a three-day jaunt. Cindy was a notioriously picky eater, but she fell hard and fast for French breads (baguettes and croissants) and Croque Monsiuers.
Years later, the Croque Monsieur became a secret weapon. During her troubled teen years, it took serious bribing to get her to spend time with me. I knew I had used the last of my arsenal when she refused a lunch of a Croque Monsieur at the Le Petit Beaujais in Eagle Rock during those turbulent times.
Today as a young lady of 18, I no longer need to ply her with her favorite foods. Miraculously (and those who know our story realize that I don't use that word lightly), she looks for excuses to spend time with me. As a matter of fact, she is now slumbering in the cot beside my City of Hope hospital bed.
Room service has just called to take my order, but there are no Croque Monsieurs or Madames on the menu. Instead, I'll have herb tea, wheat toast with peanut butter and an orange while I replay the memory of a sunny French cafe with Cindy scarfing down Croque Monsieurs thick with rich bechamel sauce.
But I have a feeling that the memory of toast and a sleeping teen will be etched just as permanently on my mind.
Please share some more of your favorite food memories with me in the comments section.