I can remember the excitement as though it were yesterday. Sleepovers at my Memere and Pepere’s house were visits to a magical land filled with delicious perfection and care-free laughter. My sister and I would pack our favorite dolls, careful not to wrinkle their brightly colored dresses, and my brother would carefully tuck Rick — his raccoon stuffed-animal — into the top of his backpack. As far as we were concerned, these were the only necessary items to bring. When added to the clothes, toothbrushes, and combs that my mom made sure we brought for ourselves, we were guaranteed to be greeted by my Pepere with a smile and a question: “Are you three moving in?”
The summer sleepovers were the best. As the sun was setting and lights were turned on in the surrounding homes, we would walk around the neighborhood with my Memere and peak into open windows as we passed. My Memere would comment on cute kitchens or cheery living rooms; my sister and I would keep our eyes peeled for lonely dogs who might be in need of a friendly scratch behind the ears. Sometimes, if the sun cooperated and hung on just a bit longer in the sky, my Pepere would show us his garden and pick us fresh cherry tomatoes or peas to try. The garden was at the end of the yard, down a grassy hill, which was perfect for rolling down in the summer or sliding in the winter.
As the bugs began to get pesky and our skin began to feel itchy from the garden leaves brushing against our legs, dinner would be ready. And this is where the magic began.
My memere always made our favorite meal: macaroni and cheese served with little hot-dogs. The little shell-macaroni’s were oozing with cheese and dotted with little specks of pepper, and the hotdogs had been grilled until they were slightly crispy. Each plate would have a few cucumber slices — fresh from the garden — and the meal was served with tall glasses of cold milk and thick slices of homemade bread. It was the epitome of comfort food.
Bedtime at Memere and Pepere’s house was hours later than at home. We’d watch old movies on TV or play card games late into the night. For a snack, Memere would serve strawberry milk and more slices of bread. When we were finally yawning and struggling to keep our eyes open, we’d snuggle up in the guest bedroom and dream about the next time we would get to sleep over.
The memories are priceless and today I had a small opportunity to say thank you to my grandparents for the sleepovers and for the amazing, comfort food. My grandmother has not been feeling quite well, and I decided to share a comfort-food dish with her. After all those years of spoiling us, it was something small that I could do for them. I know that when I’m not feeling well, I certainly don’t feel like cooking!
So I made a chicken pot pie filling and nestled it between puff pastry shells. Served with butternut squash, cranberry sauce, and some of Memere’s rich chocolate brownies for dessert, it was just the dinner this wintery day had needed. 🙂 Memere and Pepere gave me the thumbs up and complimented my cooking. But I found myself wondering if sometimes comfort food isn’t always the food that is served but the people that you’re eating it with. At the end of the day, there’s nothing like eating a meal with the people that you love.