My cousin, just a few years older than me is Brazilian, and her name is Selly.
Selly loves to cook. When I say cook I am serious. Every holiday is an excuse to send chain of text messages, phone calls, e-mails and so on to invite our loud family for lunch, dinner, brunch, breakfast, tea or rich snacks. If you happen to be one of her her guests don’t be surprised to receive the same exact invitation several times from from different sources. Selly will want to make sure that there are no mistakes and that you have well received her invitation.
If you say no, she will reply ” Ok see you at 1 PM then ” , if you say yes, you better stay away from food a few hours prior to the event due to the size , variety and quantities of the dishes you will be presented to.
Selly only cooks at night due to the hyper nature of her being and although her long time housekeeper Rosa has seen her cook many times, she will only assist her the following day setting the table and nothing else. Selly firmly believes that the flavor of her creations prepared with devotion for her beloved family and friends will be better appreciated if the elaborate culinary procedure goes only through her hands.
When you ‘ll reach Selly’s building, the doorman will know of you , the noise of her family coming from the cozy apartment on the 20th floor will be already be heard in the elevator . You coat or umbrella will have to be be placed in the designated area and only after that you will be allowed to interact.
Her entrance door is never locked when Selly is receiving guests as the doorbell will not be heard. My advice is to open the door slowly as you might be overwhelmed by a loud crowd speaking at the same time clearly noticing that none listen to the other, but once you ‘ll step into the entrance hallway you will be greeted individually by all with smiles, hugs, and the same old jokes if you are not on time. Selly will be in the kitchen and this is where you will direct yourself to say hello as she will be on top of her pans, oven, toasters, fridge and several last generation industrial mixers.
Each member of the family is assigned with a different invitation time which will vary from 10 to 50 minutes depending on the member ‘s punctuality carefully evaluated from his previous behavioral patterns.
This decision is always supported by the family board of directors which are basically those who also host family gatherings. The organization of the meal and it’s mix is done well in advance, and consulted among other cousins, sisters, never children who those , participate sporadically with experimental dishes such as cookies, strawberries dipped in chocolate or marsh mallows.
I am never part of this long phone calls decisions, my only responsibility is to bring myself, my children and stay away from the kitchen. I will be assigned to pick flowers, and order cakes only if it will makes me happy but never necessary.
This time apart from two cakes I decide to bring my camera and surprise my cousin with something different : a feature on my website that I will offer for the birthday she likes to celebrate in December. I forgot to mention, Selly has two birthdays one in December and the other one in June. Apparently tit’s is due to the fact that throughout the years she wanted to surround herself with friends and family on her birthday and no one was ever there just after the holiday season . She then decided to move her birth date to June where she could comfortably cheer and enjoy the company of the ones she most loves.
The occasion this time is Thanksgiving. Selly grew to be a specialist in the preparation of a traditional 22 pounds average Turkey who every year struggles with the size of Selly’s oven . The few alteration to the vegetables are Oriental and Mediterranean spices, ( I must remind you that of the 25 guests only some of the young generation is American) and other South American inventions.
Everyone now must move very quickly, the foot is hot. Young girl’s tasks is to ask each guest their drinks preferences and serve them individually , older women are assigned to place the hot dishes coming from the kitchen on the empty heavy silver trays on the dining room table each with a small paper with the name of the dish written in English and Spanish with attention not to make irreparable mistakes! I am generally responsible only to serve the delicious salads because it’s supposed to be an easy to manage task although I was instructed with discipline to do it in a specific manner many times before I got the function upgrade.
After each ” Table Captain’ is ordered to offer to each of the siting guest two servings of a delicious Corn Soup dipped with a garlic and herb toast, the masterfully orchestrated buffet is now ready to be enjoyed and Selly’s feast is about to start.
The main buffet in the dining room now, consist of the impressive roasted turkey with pineapples and apples, a stuffed veal with rice meat and chestnuts, a spiced rosemary and olive oil butter squah sweet potato with out-of-thi-world baked marshmallow, breaded fried cauliflower, orange cranberry sauce, spicy grilled Bruxelles sprouts, 3 grain rice with pecan, carrots and baby corn, corn bread, plum tart, chocolate mousse cake, and fruits.
Do not dare serving yourself only once, Selly will worry and wander about your physical health. After helping everyone cutting meat bones and the service, Selly is now happy, mission accomplished, she sits and enjoys the delicious meal she prepared for the last two days.
Stuffed like the turkey I am now on my coconut and mango tea watching the beautiful landscape of kids playing with their phones and adults chatting in several languages over expressos and digestive liquors on this beautiful holiday whose purpose is the one of appreciation.
I am grateful to the universe to give me the opportunity to enjoy family and friends over a wonderful meal and the uniqueness of this cousin of mine called Selly who I now thank for giving.
Cut a peeled butternut squash in 1 inch circles, sprinkle fresh Rosemary, salt, pepper flakes and olive oil and marsh mallows. Put in a 450 oven until golden and…ready!