Grandpa had been a month in Panama, Pia was in from Shanghai on a rare visit, and for a long and light-filled Sunday evening, we could forget that life sometimes scatters us all over the world. Instead it was just seven around a table, in the old neighborhood, on Rocky Hill above the sea where we’ve always lived– our plates piled with Aunty Fenny’s sourdough rolls, grilled salmon, and roasted vegetables for a celebration of fathers and family.
My mother allows potato salad on the dinner table but three days a year: Father’s Day, 4th of July, and Dad’s birthday. These three occasions span just six weeks of summer, exactly when cool potatoes robed in mayonnaise belong in the court of grilled foods.
Salmon is a staple food for my nearest of kin, who fetishize the different provenances and seasons of wild-caught and farm-raised and smoked, and salted, and cured, and even thaw frozen salmon patties for weeknight dinners. If there’s any disease for salmon overeaters, we’ll all die of it–but Aunty Fenny, licking her fingers like a grizzly bear mid-stream, will still proclaim it with her last breath to be “Food of the Gods.”
Rounding out our plates: grilled and roasted stowaways from the crisper. Eggplant, onion, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, beets, and more. A touch of curry powder, a turn of olive oil and balsamic, a shake of salt and cracked black pepper.
The lone departure from classic family fare was this dessert– little lava cakes. Fenny’s summer standard and signature after-dinner treat is lilikoi cheesecake, an ever-evolving recipe that over decades has been engineered to hold previously unthinkable concentrations of supertart, fresh-squeezed passionfruit juice. Lilikoi vines usually hang heavy from our railings and trellises, but in the wake of fumigation have been slow to take hold again. Until we see another summer of passionfruit, these will have to do. Happy Father’s Day!