Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

The Husband and I along with two of our other sons spent Father’s Day with my super-competent older son, his wife, and their firstborn son, Jack, at their apartment in a nearby New York suburban village. My son and his wife entertain often and comfortably.  They go to places like farmer’s markets and someplace called “Whole Foods,” where they joyfully find fabulous fresh ingredients for simple-to-prepare, healthy, and delicious meals.  Listening to them talk about where they find an incredible smoky, slightly tart roasted tomato product that would give life to any dead sandwich, I could not picture going to a farmer’s market.  I’ve chosen  Fresh Direct over the unpleasant New York City grocery store experience for many years now.  Just email the grocery list in and wait for delivery.

My sons grew up in a home where dinner parties and surprise events were not frequent, because of my work schedule, but they were always memorable.  Mommie, Esperanza, Ro, and I loved planning special meals and always, always overdoing things. The boys were witness to the chaos.  Guests were chosen, menu prepared, lists created for many people . . . this was something like preparing for a military adventure.  The to-do list often began days before the event: linen checks, wine availability, flowers or seasonal fruit?  Grapes falling over the sides of antique silver bowls, books in stacks on the long dining-room table (YES! Let’s find just the right book for each of fourteen people, a book that would serve as their place card!!!)  Then, would the suckling pig fit in the oven? When should the small pumpkins be reinvented as soup bowls for a fall dinner? There was an endless list. This kind of entertaining was always fun, but never serene. _ But the new father of six-month-old Jack does it all differently.  He knows how to plan and shop and cook and be a comfortable, unhurried host. He created a lovely brunch for Father’s Day for the family to celebrate at home. And he has a natural ease with his son that is surprising, because he was the firstborn and always the center of attention.  Now his son is the center of his attention, and he shares childcare and home care without complaint with his wife, who also works full time. _ There was so much discussion of this “Whole Foods” place that The Husband and I (who do not shop for food in grocery stores—but that is another story) decided that we would visit the new store on the Upper East Side in New York City after brunch.  The younger son, who knows everything, insisted that there was no new Whole Foods store on the Upper East Side.   I insisted that Dr. Google be consulted for a second opinion.  Brainiac right again.  New store called “Fairway.”  However, the smart one, who likes to shop for food and cook and entertain as much as his older brother, informed me that Fairway was fantastic.  He waxed poetic.  I persuaded The Husband that we should travel to this food emporium on 86th Street between Second and Third and put something in our fridge other than low calorie items. Perhaps we could enliven our dinner table with fresh foods and posh olive oils?
“…he had given me the recipe for making easy family dinners again: Begin with good ingredients and end with a good time.” We were instantly overwhelmed by hundreds of people pushing large carts around this Fairway store, which had an elevator and two floors!  No one was in a hurry, however.  No shoving or trying to be first.  The atmosphere was reasonably calm for The City, and this reassured us somewhat.  We decided to buy very attractive red and yellow peppers at first. We found a roll of what appeared to be plastic bags, but none of this plastic came apart.  I pulled and pulled.  Then I gave the roll of plastic to The Husband, who did the same. He is very strong, after all.  No luck.  We were almost defeated before we started.  Then a lovely young thing in her early twenties walked over, removed a small plastic bag from a wall dispenser, and began to fill it with produce.  “How did you do that?” I asked her.  She looked at me with some surprise.  “We are aliens in the world of food markets,” I reported.  “I can see that you have frequented these stores before.”  Then I took one of the plastic bags and filled it with the peppers.  That young woman will have stories to tell around the water cooler tomorrow.
We bought fresh salad ingredients, The Husband’s favorite summer soup, gazpacho, fresh blackberries from somewhere, organic heavy cream for those blackberries, more fresh produce, fabulous virgin olive oil, and my favorite FAGE yogurts at a great price. We stood in a quickly moving line with a grocery cart filled with our loot.  The Husband was pleased that the larder and the fridge would not look like those found in alcoholic bachelor apartments.
The son who is now a new father had reminded his mother on Father’s Day that simple events like finding fresh produce can be yet another adventure to be savored.  And then savored again at the table.  I can’t wait to share with him that he had given me the recipe for making easy family dinners again: Begin with good ingredients and end with a good time.

 

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  • mary moss greenebaum June 18, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Greetings to the followers of women’s voices…

    I thought Pat Allen’s piece was charming and reminded me of the equally delicious one she wrote about Christmas dinner and it’s preparation.
    It seemed to drive home the fact that off-spring never understand anything much until they themselves have a living reason to set their own tradition, all by themselves.

    The rabbit warren now known as organic food shopping is funny if you didn’t seriously consider the ill-effects of the alternative. You enter the fray seizing upon all the fresh produce and succumb about a month later to long trays of pre-prepared food…

    Of course all of us can spot the lie in Pat’s piece. Everyone who knows Dr. Allen KNOwS she didn’t buy heavy cream to pour over her fruit.

    A fiction!

    Happy week to all.

    mary moss greenebaum

    Reply
  • rozwarren June 18, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Sounds like a lovely day! Great last line.

    Reply
  • Andrew Mullins June 18, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Pat, loved your insights. Let’s try to have dinner sometime this summer if you are around.
    Love,
    Andrew and Cathy.

    Reply
  • Elizabeth Turner June 18, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Delightful! Read aloud to my husband and we laughed lovingly.

    Reply