The tuna and leek hot-pot that I made before Christmas was a “trial run” which I ate by myself at the counter, next to the stove where my hot pot simmered gently. Once husband and daughter were home for the holidays, I had to find a better way: my slow cooker worked pretty well! One caveat: As I was soaking the kombu, I thought it would be alright to turn the crockpot on to see if it would get hot enough to cook the tuna. The pot got plenty hot, but the kombu cooked before it released its delicious umami flavor. Now we know why you should soak the kombu in cool to warm water before making dashi!
The problem with using the hot-pot is that it has a very short cord, so it would not reach all the way to the middle. My daughter got the hot seat, tending to the cooking and serving. Eating this way is a lot of fun, all gathered together talking and enjoying each others’ company as the broth simmers.
In the autumn of 1998, we got a phone call from a man asking to speak to “Jack” (Mr. Tess’s father), who had died in 1972. The stranger was a paratrooper on D-Day in Normandy, as was “Jack.” The fellow had a picture from “Newsweek” magazine with a picture of “Jack” carrying an injured French boy—and he knew that boy, now grown up and who wanted to meet and thank “Jack.”
Louie invited us to stay with his family for the 55 th D-Day commemoration in Normandy. Mr. Tess, one of is sisters, and I visited them, and they gave us royal treatment. We stayed in a hotel for one night, because we did not want to impose, but they were so taken aback that we went to their house. His wife put the most beautiful white sheets with lace and hand embroidery on the bed. They brought us to a private WWII museum in the top of a house, with maniquins dressed in authentic uniforms, a plane they were restoring, and a jeep that they gave us a ride in. There were many people driving period vehicles, and dressed in uniforms from the war. It was like a movie! On that day, the French loved Americans.
Louie and his family took us to a restaurant so secret it doesn’t have a sign—only the locals know it. It was right on the beach, and the mussels were so fresh that they melted in your mouth. Our money was no good—we were their guests. He grows white asparagus, blanching the stalks with sand from Normandy Beach. In fact, his entire back garden is full of vegetables. And the front garden has amazing roses. One evening he brought us out to his garage and opened a trap-door in the floor. Down he went, and when he came up, he had several bottles of brandy he’d made himself. We have saved our bottle for a special occasion, and this was it.
As we walked through customs back home, the sniffer dogs found we were carrying some contraband sausage, but they did not confiscate, nor even notice the beautiful rose Louis had picked for me from his garden.
We talk about returning to Normandy to visit them again. Louis’ son invited my daughter to to stay with his family when she was in Paris, but she was too shy. Maybe we’ll all go in the spring.
And there was a wedding this year. The daughter of one of Mr. Tess’s new twin brothers got married.
But that is a story for another day…
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