HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RALPH: One couple’s journey through 1/4 of a grassfed cow

Linda and I are opting out of the industrialized chicken market.  Instead of buying boneless, skinless breasts from the big producers – where chickens are raised in deplorable conditions and the birds fed a steady diet of chemicals and antibiotics – we are buying chicken parts from local producers and carving them up ourselves.  Last night I made chicken piccata, cutting the meat from the breast and then baking the remains to save for Linda to freeze and use later in chicken stock.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robin-miller/chicken-piccata-with-lemon-capers-and-artichoke-hearts-recipe/index.html

The chicken piccata was the first meal cooked on our new gas range, and I know we’re going to love it.  The heating element broke on our cheap electric range and rather than invest $200+/- in fixing it we bought a new gas range.  At the last minute we bought a new dishwasher to replace the cheap, 12-year-old builder’s model which probably didn’t have too many cycles left in its lifetime.  We washed the first load after dinner and could actually hear the television for a change while the dishwasher was running.

Were my father still alive he would be 85 years old today.  The big guy left us in 1988 and I still think of him every day.  A fine cook, I think he would have liked grassfed beef, or at least have been pleased at my interest.  I remember him telling me back in the 1970s that one should eat butter rather than margarine because of all the chemicals in margarine, so he was on the right track way back then.

The following story is from my mom’s book, “Around The Next Corner: The Writings of Catherine McNabb“.

Never to be Duplicated, Never to be Forgotten 

Ralph always brought me a dozen red roses on Christmas Eve.  Not really a surprise, but surely treasured.

Never to be duplicated and never to be forgotten: Ralph’s Swedish Smorgasbord created for Christmas Eve.  In early years Ralph’s Swedish mother – a Peterson – visited from Chicago, arriving on the train with goodies from the delicatessens in her neighborhood.  She helped Ralph arrange the evening meal in keeping with their traditions.  How Ralph produced it all and presented it as a gift to his family and on occasion to a select few special friends I will never figure out. 

I helped a bit with tables and decorations, but Ralph cooked and assembled the bountiful and distinctive platters for separate tables of fruits, fish, meat, hot and cold dishes, breads and sweets.  Each platter was a work of art; he could have been a professional chef!  The final dessert was bakery-bought: a layered cake, white frosted with red roses and candles – – a birthday cake to honor the Baby Jesus.

For a climax we all piled into the station wagon to view the lighted Nativity Scene across the channel, then midnight church with Christ Community Church’s stupendous choir.  One year Ruth, a friend from church, joined us with her son Chris.  My son Tom was acting as Chris’s Big Brother mentor.  Ruth sat at the table with heavy snow falling outside the windows and sang Oh, Holy Night.  It gave us chills!

Never to be duplicated and never to be forgotten, my Ralph and our Christmas Eve rituals of twenty to thirty years ago – – – –

Ralph Neely committed suicide in November, 1988.  He is sorely missed by his family and friends.


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