The Prodigal Daughter Brings the Pâté

I’ve got the CDs ready. The bag of gifts and wrapping paper together. My suitcase has its usual mix of clean and dirty laundry. Two peanut butter sandwiches and three oranges, because gas station food tends to leave me cranky and depressed. Jeff’s packed the keyboard, the merry sheet music, and a Nintendo set from his childhood. Our ride, a 1993 Lincoln Town Car known in these parts as “The Hoopdy,” is filled up and ready to go. At 3 o’clock in the morning, which is the usual departure time for our yearly 12 hour drive home.

Oh, home. I’ve taken so many car rides home at Christmas—home when it was New Jersey, in college, and home now in North Carolina. Home, when my mom drove me there, and home, when my husband does now. It doesn’t seem to matter, really, whether I’m 18 or 26: these rides have about the same effect on me each time: I get very, very excited for them, and about five minutes after the car revs up, I fall asleep.

My mother and sister still laugh about the time during my sophomore year in college, when they picked me up after my last final exam. I’d stayed up the better part of the past 72 hours—I was, er, a little on the intense side then—and was jittery with caffeine and the pure relief of it all being done. I climbed into the backseat of our red Ford Escape as they chatted and pulled onto the road. As they tell it, my mom asked me a question approximately two seconds later and was met with a loud, un-lady-like snore. I snored all the way to Flemington, New Jersey, where I think I got out of the car, went up to my old bedroom and kept going.

To this day, going home just draws the sleepiness out of me. It must be some internal, biological cue that someone else is temporarily responsible for keeping me alive, and I can relax. It's the same reason, I suppose, that even as an adult, I sometimes forget to buckle my seatbelt when I'm the passenger and one of my parents is driving.

Unfortunately, this instinctual reaction to being home also often results in a sudden inability to rinse out my cereal bowl, pick up my dirty socks, or do my own laundry. And to make up for that--because trust me, my socks are sometimes really dirty--I bring treats with me. Every year, there are cookies in tins and tupperware in The Hoopdy's backseat. But this year, I decided something new was needed. This is going to be a special Christmas: my brother is home from a big ship for the first time in an entire year, my sister and her boyfriend, masters of ceremonies when it comes to merriment of the brew-and-games variety, will be in attendance, and my parents are expressing their excitement in their own time-honored way, by overstocking the pantry and arguing over the merits and demerits of our Christmas tree.

All of this, I decided, called for homemade pâté. Having never ventured into pâté-making before, I was a bit nervous-it seems like it ought to be difficult, doesn't it?--but guided by a very handsome Bon Appetit writer, Andrew Knowlton, I learned two important lessons: first, pâté relatively easy to make, and second, it's also quite economical, given that 20 ounces of chicken livers cost less than two dollars and that my gracious mother-in-law allowed me to siphon off 3 tablespoons from a good bottle of cognac to use in the recipe. With Mr. Knowlton's guidance, I produced 4 Mason jars-full of silky, sassy, melt-in-your-mouth pâté. It's going to taste mighty good on a cracker, with a little Cabernet to wash it all down.

If you're looking for an afternoon's worth of an adventure that will result in wonderful host/ess gifts, I encourage you to check out the BA Foodist's Mom's Chicken Liver Pate recipe, and the BA Foodist in general. Pâté, I know, is a little bit weird and not for the faint of heart. But neither is my family. I can't wait to see them, as soon as I wake up.


Lisa said...

Just found your blog via KERF. I sleep far more at home with my family than at my apartment.

And I'm emailing my boyfriend that pate recipe. Hopefully I'll get some soon!

Susannah said...

Lisa, thanks for stopping by. I hope your boyfriend takes a chance on the recipe! The only slightly laborious part is pushing the pate mixture through a sieve, to achieve the silky texture. You can tell him he can skip that part if he wants, though--my husband and I "tested" it before the sieve step and it's still delicious, just slightly "grainier."