Our daughter decided to treat us to a dinner of roast duck in two courses last week. It was her gift to her father, who was to celebrate his birthday in a few days.
It was supposed to be a trio of duck dishes but we did not have the right equipment to make ice cream out of duck fat topped with a candied fried crispy duck skin. Oh well! We had to settle for the remaining two, huh?
The first course was roasted thigh and leg of duck, de-boned and shredded over English cucumber slices, served with a Thai style chili sauce on the side and drizzled with light soy. Sweet ripe cherry tomatoes completed the garnish. A bowl of mixed salad greens was served on the side as an accompaniment with a mustard seed vinaigrette. We opened a bottle of medium bodied Broken Spur Pinot Noir to go with the meal. The duck meat had a flavorful gamey taste with a slightly sweet finish. The chili sauce provided an interesting contrast and zing.
Then came slices of duck breast, skin on, seared on a pan and then roasted with pan juices. It was sliced, plated, and then topped with a sautéed assortment of three mushrooms, pancetta, caramelized onions and fresh thyme. Then it was topped with roasted garlic mashed potatoes piped on top in a pretty rosette. The jus was zigzag-sprinkled on top and a sprig of thyme completed the look.
Of course, as in any dinner, conversation is always key to enjoying a meal. We talked about only children, as my daughter is one. My friend, Baby, who was visiting the Bay Area with her husband, Freddy, was also an only child. There was a period, however, when, she could have had a sibling.
Baby was born about two months after her brother passed away. He was 10 years old at the time. They were preparing to migrate to the United States. My friend’s mother was about 7 months pregnant with her. They had said good-bye to all their relatives and were making their journey from their hometown to the airport, when a truck hit their car. Everyone was injured, the 10-year-old boy was pronounced dead soon after. Baby’s parents were taken to the hospital with multiple injuries.
It had taken almost a month for both Baby’s parents to be medically stable to hear the sad news of their son’s sudden passing. Baby’s mother, Tita Fe, as we all came to know her, never recovered from grieving her son’s death. He had been buried by the time she was informed. It must have been difficult to grieve or have any closure without seeing a body.
Over the years, Baby recalled how she was not allowed to touch her brother’s toys and things while she was growing up. His room was left as though he would be coming home at the end of the day to his room and play with his toys. He had played the violin and it was there ready for him to pick up and play at any time. That was more than 50 years ago today.
On his birthday and death anniversary, Tita Fe would play his music, or recall some of his favorite activities. Until her death about two years ago, Tita Fe still kept his memory alive. She did begin to let go of some of his things when Baby and Freddy started to have children. Tita Fe doted on her granddaughters.
Sometimes, we wonder how and why things are they way they are. This was a senseless death. This boy was bright, talented, and had a great future ahead of him. There are people who continue to live in this world but waste their lives being nothing, doing nothing, amounting to nothing. We wonder why they get to live and someone else, who seems better deserving, more productive, and contributing, does not. There are no rules that favor the good, really.
We finish off the meal with some ripe juicy bing cherries from the farmer’s market, Parano cheese, spiced pecans, and coffee. And of course, more conversation.