Grapes & Port

(Originally written February 20, 2021)

I am keeping it simple as this pandemic journey continues…and we are nearing the one-year mark of this lockdown. If my calculations are accurate, we could have now traveled from earth to Mars on a rocket ship in about the same number of days. Last year at this time I was on my global farewell tour in Asia Pac, and I recall how odd it felt to be temperature checked every time I entered a new public building or to be served a cocktail by someone wearing a mask while I myself didn’t have one. That was when life seemed simple and comparatively carefree. That view is now unrecognizable to me. Yet here I sit, as if nothing has changed, typing on my laptop.

I am certain that there will be good things that manifest out of this period of time. And conversely, there will be new behaviors we developed that will never feel the same. For example, this weekend I celebrated my daughter’s 20th birthday. By all accounts, a very happy time was passed spending time with her, in proximity, from a distance. The cake was made for our party of four, sparklers were used instead of candles so that no one would blow on the cake, and it passed by all to quickly as if it was a hushed whisper escaping from her smiling lips. It was her favorite chocolate cake, ensconced in a shield of fresh made buttercream frosting dyed bright pink and adorned lovingly with candied violets from France and shimmering purple and silver balls. We had eaten a lovely lunch and then gifts were given. The birthday girl was aglow.

It was as close to perfect as we could manage, and yet the problem was that I couldn’t hold her, hug her or touch her as she prepared to leave. My eyes filled with tears, that I attempted to hide. I felt gutted and tried to remind myself to focus on all of the happiness we shared during the fleeting hours, but somehow, I could only hold it together long enough to get her out of the driveway before I crumpled.

The pandemic continues to take its toll and leave its mark on all of us. Social isolation. I refuse to sugarcoat it. I watch in horror as our families struggle to stay connected, as we become more accustomed to going nowhere and seeing virtually no one. And yet, I do believe we are getting closer to finding a path back to our former lives…if we can just hold on a little longer. A. Little. Longer.

I long for the day when I don’t see the sadness in my relatives’ eyes when I too can hug my mom. Yet, there is certainly more time to reflect on the simple things and I am learning to cast my gaze on that perspective. This is the time to see what was previously unseen in our lives and to create a new landscape – I’ve done so, figuratively and literally. I remain open to change, and I am eager to find a world where less ‘on camera’ screen time is acceptable. I know as a society we are on the precipice of a new world social order. And while I ponder the universe around me, I retreat into my kitchen to find an alternative realm of creativity.

This week’s recipe is simply beyond words. To be honest, it is hardly a recipe, and yet it is a lovely dessert, or snack, that brings me back to my European travels. This one is in the genres of Macedonia, marinated grapes. That’s right, today we will make marinated grapes the perfect light end to a winter meal. This is one of those nearly guiltless recipes that encourages you to linger at the dinner table. Creating a mood that is created and conducive to conversation and relaxation. The spicy undertones of the port, with the understated end-of-season grape feels even crisper when placed on ice. It’s just sweet enough to bring you back for a second, and a third, and so on, and so on.

Grapes & Port

Ingredients

1 lb black grapes, in bunches

3 cups ruby port

6 thick strips lemon peel

ice cubes

Directions

Black grapes do have seeds so If you prefer, you can cut them in half and remove the seeds.

Wash and gently dry grapes. Place the grapes in a medium-sized bowl. Pour the port over the grapes. Add the lemon peel, taking care not to use much of the white layer below the skin. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let marinate overnight, or even over a few days for maximum flavor impact. Store in the refrigerator. Before serving, cut into clusters and arrange in a shallow bowl filled with ice cubes. The port can be strained and reused. Serves 3-4.

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