Cookery Maven Blog

Great Big Sea Under A Great Big Top 2013

Great Big Sea has provided the soundtrack to our family story for years and as I waited for them to take the stage at Big Top on Saturday, some of those memories came flooding back. Dancing in our living room to Donkey Riding when Jack was 6 or 7, listening to Charlie belt out, 'oh me, oh my, I heard me old wife cry, oh me, oh my, I think I'm going to die' at Target when he was 3 years old, sitting in the cockpit of Isle of Skye listening to Road Rage on countless afternoons among the Apostle Islands, listening to Consequence Free on the dock in Presque Isle with Guinness at my side and Meg in my lap and seeing them for the first time at First Avenue in 2004 with Katie and Ted. Their music has been woven into the tapestry we've created as a family and Saturday night was perfect, every single minute of it.

From the very first song, I knew it was going to be a night to remember. And it was— dancing and singing for two hours with the kids, Katie, Dan and Molly was unforgettable.

Watching Ted dance with the boys made my heart sing with pure joy.

After a little coaxing, Meg got up and joined in the fun.

Alan came to the end of the stage and showed the boys some love— they were thrilled.

Charlie had the time of his life— he was on his feet nearly the entire show.

My heart was bursting with love, pride and gratitude by the end of the concert. It's nearly impossible to put into words what it felt like to dance next to the babies I used to hold in my arms— they've grown into such extraordinary human beings. As our family continues to grow up and travel into uncharted territory, nights like last Saturday are my touchstones— beautiful memories made to the soundtrack of our family's story.

I Wonder If Emmylou Likes Cobb Salad??

A long time ago, when I was in my early thirties, I bought a Lilith Fair CD and heard a duet with Sarah McLachan and Emmylou Harris. I was blown away by her voice. Now that I am decidedly in my forties, I still listen to Emmylou and was excited to see her at Chatauqua this summer. However, dinner before Big Top concerts always present a challenge for me— we have to be in the car on our way to the hill by 7:30ish. This is a problem for me, my meals like to hit the table about 8:30 or so. Salads are about the only thing I have a half a chance to get on the table before we have to leave.

The other Maven, Arthur Schwartz, has the original Cobb salad dressing recipe from the Brown Derby, along with the history of this illustrious salad, on his website. According to Arthur, Bob Cobb, the owner of the Brown Derby, was hungry late one night after service and went through his walk-in refrigerator looking for something to eat. The funny thing about a restaurant kitchen is there is very little to grab and eat late at night and the last thing anyone wants to do is turn on the oven or start a fire in the grill after everything is cleaned up. Another funny thing is that if you are in the kitchen looking for something to eat late at night, you are definitely not thinking about lettuce. I bet this is why the Cobb salad bears very little resemblance to a healthy and virtuous salad. Bob had been working all night and he wanted something that would stick to his bones. Adding bacon, cheese, avocado, hard-boiled eggs and potatoes to a pile of greens makes perfect sense to me.

I made two changes to Arthur's recipe— I substituted arugula for the watercress and chicory and I tossed the potatoes, while they were still warm, with olive oil, Maldon sea salt and chopped preserved lemons. Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe and it was perfect. I bet Emmylou would like my Cobb salad.

Emmylou was great—she has a magnificent soulful voice and is an amazing guitarist. I kept watching her hands, flying up and down her guitar, and thinking about all the life they have seen and the music they have made. Seems like a fairly innocent observation, right? Well, we had the opportunity to meet her after the show and I blurted out, 'I love your hands'. She looked at me like I was either nuts or had a hand fetish. I continued shoving my foot down my throat and mumbled something about her hands having beautiful life in them and that was that. She graciously agreed to take a picture with me and I decided to have a few rational and witty talking points next time I meet a musical legend.

Trampled By Turtles At The Tent

Summer of 2012 is off to a spectacular start. We went to see Trampled By Turtles at Big Top Chautauqua and it was one of the best live shows I have ever seen. Our friends, Bob and Kelly, sponsored the show— we met the band and had front row seats. I was serious about the summer of 2012, it's poised for greatness. Bluegrass played under a tent at my favorite ski hill made for a night I won't soon forget.

There were a lot of people there, I think it was a record-breaking night. There were hula hooping girls, little kids and lots of happy people waiting for a brilliant show, inside and outside the tent. I doubt anyone left disappointed, Trampled By Turtles were fantastic. I like bluegrass and I really like bluegrass played by a bunch of talented men from Duluth.

I was so happy that Jack was there. In fact, he was the one who turned me onto Trampled By Turtles. One of the perks of having teenagers is their music knowledge, they play new music for us all the time. Thankfully, they have been raised on a steady diet of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Dave Matthews and Cat Stevens.

Music frames a childhood. I remember listening to Cat Steven's, Tea For The Tillerman, when I was eight or nine in the family room while my Dad grilled steaks outside. I still can smell the smoke from the grill and feel the scratchy blueish green scalloped carpet every time I hear Hard Headed Woman. Jack will remember this night long after we are gone and that makes me happy.

When we met the band earlier in the evening a couple came up to Dave Simonett with a small box wrapped in gift wrap with his face and a red bow on it. It was their anniversary and either they met at a TBT concert or played one of their songs at the wedding (I wasn't listening that well, trying to balance picture-taking and beer drinking). It must be pretty humbling to realize the words and chords that lived in your head and were brought to life with a banjo, guitar or your voice have become touchstones for people you may never meet. There were moments during the concert where everyone was singing and dancing— a collective consciousness of pure joy. I could be wrong but I think the band felt it as well.

I don't play any musical instruments but if I did, it would be the violin. It is a seriously sexy instrument— all curves and beautiful details. It looks delicate but after watching Ryan Young play it, appearances are clearly deceiving. It is very sturdy and makes the most beguiling sounds. I am going to add violinist to the list of things I want to be when I grow up (or older, in my case).

We have spent many summer nights listening to music at Big Top with friends and family and the tent holds a special place in our family story. Jack said he has had an amazing childhood since we moved up here and one of the reasons was seeing Trampled By Turtles and Great Big Sea at the tent. Meghan and Charlie were in a few of the house shows last year, although they seemed to enjoy running around outside as much as being on stage. When we park our car in the gravel parking lot and see the striped canvas tent at the foot of the ski hill we were skiing on 4 months ago, I am awestruck by how blessed and lucky we are. Music is a gift and having a place in my backyard where I can share it with my kids is astounding.

In the song, Alone, the first verse is 'come in to this world alone and you go out of the world alone but in between there is you and me'. In between there are nights like last Friday— music, good friends, my first-born son and memories made under a canvas tent near the shores of Lake Superior. Absolutely brilliant.