It’s that date again, Cindy’s birthday. Today she would have been fifty seven. I really wonder what the course of her life would have been had she not been taken from us twenty seven years ago.
I’m doing better today than I ever dreamed I would be all those years ago when her murder flattened me. I feel certain she’d be proud of me and happy for me now. It wasn’t easy getting here but I finally arrived in a life I deserved all along.
I wrote this piece a few years ago but share it every year on her birthday. As I’m out in the country at our rural PA house and can’t easily get to a store, I’m substituting Paleo Italian meatballs for my birthday dish this year. I think she’d be very happy with that.
Anyone who knew my sister, also knew she believed that anyone, or anything that was given a name also deserved a nickname. There are friends from those years, that still call me “katiecoolady” not knowing I adopted her nickname for me years later as my online moniker. It still makes me laugh that some of them never knew my actual name was Kathy. This note is about a recipe that she nicknamed “Chicken Catch My Story”.
I was recently inspired by a food blogger who as a very recent young widow, asked for support from cyberspace by sending out a call, with a recipe, for people so inclined to make her husband’s favorite pie for someone they loved on a particular day as a global act of love. I was out of town on that day but my friends generously allowed me to use their kitchen to make this “peanut butter pie for Mikey” and participate in this beautifully poignant effort. It took off on a big scale and I read hundreds of posts by home and professional bakers sharing stories describing they supported this gal and her family in this sweet way. Everyone got something out of it. None of us escape this life without some connection to grief.
Although my sister has been gone nearly 23 years now, the grieving process is often tricky, circuitous, mysterious and at times enlightened. I made a personal turning point this summer related to certain chains of events where I finally, after all of these years, found a way to start asking for an absence to be filled with a presence and in many conscious ways have started inviting my sister back in to my life. The need for connection finally outweighed the pain of feeling only a void and she’s started coming back to me in some truly miraculous ways. I guess it truly is never too late.
So this Friday, September 16 marks what would have been Cindy’s 53rd birthday. Food and cooking was always very important to Cindy (her Bachelor’s was in Nutrition). I started thinking about what was one special dish that reminds me of her. And it was totally clear–her chicken cacciatore that she always made for me on my birthday.
I have been in possession of but not looked inside her recipe file box in all of these years. I opened it last week and there it was, in her own handwriting–her Better Homes and Gardens recipe for “Chicken Cacciatora” although she nicknamed it “Chicken Catch My Story” which is always how she referred to it when she made it for me.
So this Friday I will be making her recipe and invite any of you so inclined to make it as well (if you find this recipe too basic, feel free to use one of your own). And yes, she did always serve it with the “buttered egg noodles” just like BH and G suggested. And often threw in some zuchinni. She always used her well worn electric skillet.
To end I’d like to quote Annelle from Steel Magnolias:
“She will always be young. She will always be beautiful. And I personally feel much safer knowing she’s up there on my side.”
Happy Birthday Cindy. I love you.
Here’s the recipe (copied exactly from her recipe card):
Chicken Cacciatora (Chicken Catch My Story)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 1/2 to 3 lb. chicken, cut up
2 med onions
2 cloves garlic
1 lb canned tomatoes
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 t. celery seed
1 t oregano
1/4 t. basil
1-2 bay leaves
1/2 c. cooking wine
opt. chopped veggies
1. Heat oil in skillet, add chicken, brown slowly turning once.
2. Remove chicken; cook onions and garlic in oil until tender.
3. Combine remaining ingredients except wine; add with chicken to oil.
4. Cover and simmer 45 min.
5. Add wine, cook uncovered 20 min.
Skim excess fat
Serve with buttered egg noodles
Happy Birthday Miss Cinnie. I will always love you.