"Sail away sweet sister, back to my arms again…"

by Katie Pizzuto on January 2, 2010

in Cooking

It was a surreal moment last Sunday, sitting at one head of the dinner table and seeing my baby sister at the other head, with our loved ones spanning the length of either side, eager to eat a meal she and I had just prepared. I had spent years trying to coax her into the kitchen, but her culinary talent began and ended with a grilled cheese sandwich and she was perfectly content with that. I even bought her a recipe book and wrote a couple of my staples in it to get her started when she moved in with her fiancé, but I think giving her a miter saw would have been equally as utile. It took Julie & Julia to finally inspire the girl to visit this weird place in her home they call a kitchen, but I was honored when she asked me to help her prepare a French meal from Julia Child’s revered tome.

So there we stood at the meat counter in a Whole Foods in southern Miami that Sunday, telling the butcher we needed 8 pounds of stew meat for the Beef Bourguignon. He recommended we take a few minutes to shop while he prepared the meat, so we headed over to the produce and returned 10 minutes later to what was obviously an amount of beef my sister had never seen before. “Oh my god, sis, that’s a lot of meat.” Cooking for 14 people was not on her “been there, done that” list. “I don’t have a pot big enough to hold it. You sure we need all that?” I stopped chuckling long enough to ask my step mom to please bring her big sauce pot, and assured my sister we’d need every last little chunk. Total cost for beef: $50. Look on my sister’s doe-eyed face when beholding 8 pounds of said beef: Priceless.

One hour later we stood in her small kitchen, starting the prep work and making the mise en place. I sliced the onions while she sliced the carrots, and my step mom kept a stool warm, watching the entire dance from her perch. Then it was time to prep my favorite part of Beef Bourguignon…the pearl onions. Side by side, knife in hand, we started peeling the onions—two women, twelve years apart—and I’ll admit, I got choked up. I turned to look at my beautiful baby sister who, also moved, had a stream of tears flowing from her eyes. “I’m glad we’re doing this too, sweetie, but I’m surprised that it moved you to tears,” I said. “No sis, it’s these onions. I can’t take it.” She had peeled 3 pearl onions. Three. And she had had enough. Emotional Katie moment foiled by a fucking pearl onion: Also Priceless.

So yet another hour went by and all the slicing, dicing, chopping, measuring and prepping was done. The onions had finished simmering, the meat had been browned, the veggies had been caramelized, and the whole shebang was cooking away. Timers had been set, dessert was next on the to-do list, and my sister was an egg-beating machine with no off switch, doing her sister proud. I put the sliced pears to soak in a dessert wine and took a moment to look at what needed to be done next with the beef. “Michele, I need the thyme.” “Oh, don’t worry, I set it already…we’ve still got 20 minutes to go.” I’m laughing…she thinks I’m already drunk. “The herb, baby—thyme.” Fucking priceless.

After five hours of non-stop cooking we were done. Five hours, and not a single complaint from her. The family had congregated outside where the table was set, on a beautiful Miami night. We dished out plates of fork-tender Beef Bourguignon and rosemary-roasted potatoes, and then sat at opposing ends of the table to pour ourselves a glass of seductive, earthy, soul-warming pinot noir. The moon sat high above us, gracing us with her light, and the chatter of idle voices was quickly hushed when everyone began digging in to what turned out to be an amazing meal…from start to finish. But before I put that first delicious pearl onion in my mouth, I sat and stared at the beautiful woman who sat several feet in front of me, no longer a stranger to the place that is my favorite sanctuary—the kitchen. I somehow knew it was the beginning of a different relationship for my baby sister and I…one of memories that would be shared in the act of creation, of feeding others, and of knowing that we were the ones to make them smile with what we set before them. Priceless.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Elle January 2, 2010

Wow, that brought a tear to my eye! What amazing Christmas memories you all made together–and here’s to many, many more.

Happy New Year, Katie!


2 Katie Pizzuto January 4, 2010

HNY to you as well, Elle…we had a ton of fun making that meal!


3 ILEANA January 4, 2010

Baby you are priceless


Mom Ile


4 Coupe 60 January 6, 2010

Katie, Happy New Year to you and your family…Great piece , just great, even loved the pictures…

you should be thankful that when you asked for the thyme…she didn’t put on a morris day record…”Oh-wee-oh-wee-oh”


5 Katie Pizzuto January 7, 2010

LMAO…She’s only 26…I doubt she knows who the hell Morris Day is or what “Jungle Love” is.


6 Katie Pizzuto January 7, 2010

BTW, I’ll have you all know that’s a GONZO GASTRONOMY apron on my sis. Booyah!


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