Eggs Benedict a la Loretta

Loretta, catering at the annual St. Francis of Assisi Luau, around 1991-2

Loretta, catering at the annual St. Francis of Assisi Luau, around 1991-2

Another birthday, another close-up look at my life. My husband and partner for the past thirty years has made me another birthday breakfast of Eggs Benedict, my favorite. They always looks so delicious, so each year I take a picture of how it looks before I dive in. Countless photos I've taken over the years, and each year the ingredients and presentation change slightly. They started out true to recipe, but as we've grown more casual and tastes have changed, interesting variations emerge. Spam replaced Canadian bacon one year, and lately artichoke bottoms have replaced the English muffin. How bad is that? My favorite food in the whole world is the artichoke, prepared any way or right out of the can. I love 'em.

So this year, the Eggs Benedict was less Benedict and really just poached eggs with caramelized artichoke hearts and hollandaise. Yum.

This years birthday coincides with the passing of my mother-in-law a few days ago, a woman I not only liked and loved, but really enjoyed. It was easy to see why her children were as irreverent as they are, given their parents. Loretta's sense of humor was bawdy, and I enjoyed it very much, even if it made me blush sometimes. When I first met my husband and his parents, I feigned modesty at their off-color jokes because I didn't want them to think less of me, even though I thought they were hilarious.  They saw right through me.

Loretta loved to cook, and eat, and she cooked for others her whole life, including the Bishop in  the Allentown Diocese and the children at their schools who called her Tino.  Among many other things, she taught me to fold linen napkins and make a port wine cheddar cheese ball for two hundred people.  That may come in handy some day!

Loretta and Angie liked me too, I knew that from the start. When I first met my father-in-law, he said to my husband "I like her, she knows respect." And Loretta loved me because she knew how very much I loved and respected her son. I wish I had known both of them when they were younger. They must have been a ton of fun at parties. Even up to her last day, she was joking in the hospital moments before they wheeled her in to insert the pacemaker. "I don't feel so good" she said. And then she was gone.

It's cliche, I know. But birthdays and funerals force you to reevaluate your life and the priorities you've set. There's no way around it. Aging is the great balancer. I've been reevaluating for a while now, preparing to make some changes in my life, to enjoy certain things while I still can.  I will make time to enjoy the people I love and share my meals with, enjoy many more versions of Eggs Benedict birthday breakfasts, with new and interesting ingredients and substitutions. They were her favorite as well.  Maybe this years version should be called Eggs L'etta. That was her nickname. I wish she was still here to enjoy them too!