November, the month of remembrance, began as it always does in our house with the Halloween decorations coming down and the vintage family photos going up on the mantle in the hallway and on mom’s old library table in the living room.
This transition from the silly season of Halloween (which we really enjoy) to the reflective days of November is both poignant and pleasureable. Throughout the rest of the year, the photos of mom, dad and the grandparents have pride of place in the china closets bequeathed to us from them.
Then November comes and these dear faces are on prominent display before all who come into the house and a good time begins to unfold. Family stories are spun once again: the heroes and heroines of the past and the characters too, reappear. Their lives, always interwoven with
ours, emerge clearly as the fabric of family history.
In the kitchen, November with the saints in our family communion, equates to a melange of old, treasured family recipes. One of my favorites is Grandma Mae’s escarole soup. Making it kindles warm memories of the days in Newark and later, South Orange, when her kitchen windows would steam up as this brew cooked merrily on the old stove. I never make the soup without seeing her in her apron at the stove.
Since, like most grandmothers of her generation, she never measured any ingredients, reducing all instructions to a “pinch” or a “handfull,” it’s impossible to pass on to you the actual makeup of the marvelous brew. I share this very easy recipe with you in memory of her.
Escarole and Bean Soup ala Mae
Ingredients: 6 cloves garlic, crushed; 1 sweet onion, diced; 2 cans (15 ounce) drained cannellini beans; 1 quart chicken broth, either homemade or from the supermarket; 4 cups escarole, well washed and torn.
Directions: In a large pan, drizzled with olive oil and a bit of stock, cook and stir the onion and garlic taking care not to brown either. Add the rest of the stock, the beans and the escarole and cook until tender. Serve topped with grated Italian cheese of your preference — in our house, it is Pecorino Romano — and crusty Italian bread.