Kitchen Gatherings

Written by Cathy


Yesterday we celebrated my birthday. After a certain age, perhaps I shouldn’t refer to it as a celebration? I’m not sure. The get-together was a totally impromptu event, but wonderfully fun. Besides the kids and grandkids, some good old friends dropped by for dinner. I cooked. My son-in-law joked,”So, Gigi, is this what you expected to be cooking for us on your birthday?”

But really, nothing else could make me happier. I remember my grandmother had a little plaque hanging in her kitchen:

No matter where I serve my guests,

They seem to like my kitchen best.

It was true then, and it’s true now. While I sauté, mash, bake, and broil, the conversation ebbs and flows.

Yesterday the little ones searched for plastic eggs and chased each other from room to room. Little Sylvie entertained us with her animated baby talk and dance moves. Topics at the table ranged from growing up in the coal region (Did you really beg cigarettes from the town bum, Dave?), to March Madness underdogs, to the role of government (Should we legislate the size of soda cups?), to economics. If things got too heated, one of us would adeptly swing the conversation. “Did you see Sylvie’s new move?”

The drinks ranged from champagne-hey, it was my birthday, remember- to Guinness, Irish coffee, and finally tea. The Irish Tenors, John Prine, and Van Morrison created a backdrop of comforting “old friend” voices. All of this had a Gaelic quality because I had prepared my traditional St.Patrick’s Day meal, a week late. John and I had been on the road last Sunday, so this seemed as good a time as any to crack out the corned beef and cabbage.

But the day wasn’t really about the food.

I hope that when the haze grows over my eyes and the spots on my hands deepen, when my back becomes stooped with age, then I want to hear those voices again and see those faces in my mind’s eye.

When I was in college, a few of us listened to a folk group, Hedge and Donna. A favorite song’s lyrics went something like this:

Mama, see you smilin’ and it’s plain to me and Jamie that your life has brought you places

Where your mind can make you happy,

Where your thoughts don’t drive you crazy,

They just flow on free and easy…

So many memories around that table.

I want to replay them all.


Although I did say this wasn’t all about food, I’d like to share a dish from the birthday gathering that everyone enjoyed. It’s called Colcannon. Now, I must admit that I don’t follow a specific recipe, but this dish is forgiving. The amounts can vary, and it will still be good.


  • 1 bunch of Kale
  • 5-6 Potatoes
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 large Onion
  • Butter
  • Milk or Buttermilk
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. I peel, cube, and boil several potatoes in salted water.
  2. While the potatoes cook, I sauté a large onion, a few garlic cloves, and a large bunch of chopped kale in butter.
  3. To keep the butter at a minimum, I add a little of the potato water to the kale.
  4. After the potatoes are soft, I mash them with butter and milk. This year I had buttermilk, so I used that.
  5. Then, after I season the kale with salt and pepper, I add it to the mashed potatoes.
  6. The final step is to brown the mixture in butter. A cast iron skillet works best. When one side is browned, flip portions over to brown the other.

Enjoy around your table!

Categories: Family

Tags: , , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. I love this: “I hope that when the haze grows over my eyes and the spots on my hands deepen, when my back becomes stooped with age, then I want to hear those voices again and see those faces in my mind’s eye.” So poetic.

    And I LOVE the Colcannon. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  2. We hope it was a happy birthday, and thanks again for another great meal and for sharing your grandchildren!

  3. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the day. You all mean the world to me.

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