Not a Sad Thing, Summer’s End

Archived | September 5, 2014 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad.   It was a broadcast recorded at the State Fair the night before, and it was, and has been, a fine way to take leave of the carefree days of summer.  It’s not a sad thing, summer’s end.  But there’s a wistfulness there, the bitter sweetness of having returned, briefly, to a place of few worries, to the cabin, to childhood perhaps, and inevitably – as the cool winds blow in from the north and the leaves begin their turning – it’s time to pick up and move on.  There’s work to be done.

I loved going to the fair when I was a kid.  I loved the Ferris wheel, and the ride with the swings.  I had to have cheese-on-a-stick, and cotton candy, mini-donuts and cheese curds.  I loved how it felt as if everyone had been invited and most of ‘em showed up.  Loved the feel of twilight coming on, and autumn on the horizon, and how my parents held hands and walked along together.  The fair was a place to lose oneself awhile, a last indulgence in treats and sunlight and games before the alarm went off on school’s first day, and the routine kicked in.

My favorite thing at the fair was the carousel.  I loved scrambling up and onto the platform, choosing “my” horse, climbing on and holding on as the ride kicked into gear.  Then the up-down-up as I held the pole tightly, felt the wind in my hair, caught the eyes of my brothers as the lights flashed and the music played.   Felt free, and a bit wild, and there was always the off-chance that my horse might somehow come unhinged and gallop off into the sky.

It’s still my favorite, the carousel.  Not because I’m older now and it’s something I can still manage, unlike the bungee swings or anything that drops suddenly or spins me into oblivion.  I like it because, on a carousel, I feel like a young girl again, and when the ride is over, it’s as if I’ve visited somewhere far away without really leaving where I am.  Not much else out there where you get that feeling.  Movies, maybe.   Sleep.  And yes, summer.  Where we get to bare our feet, do cannonballs off the dock, catch a fish or two, sit around a fire and tell, one by one, the stories of our lives.

This take on a Greek dish is a favorite of mine because it’s a mix of meat and cheese and cinnamon.  Serve it with salad, some good beans, and baklava.  A glass of red wine wouldn’t hurt, either.

Pastitsio

1 lb ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
¼ cup dry red wine
2 T parsley
½ tsp dried oregano, crushed
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
4 eggs, beaten individually
3 T butter
3 T flour
¼ tsp pepper
1¾ cups milk
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 cup elbow macaroni, cooked and drained

In a large skillet, cook meat, onion and garlic until meat is brown.   Drain fat, and stir in tomato sauce, wine, parsley, oregano, salt and cinnamon.  Bring to bubbling, and reduce heat.  Simmer about 10 minutes, and stir meat mixture into one of the eggs and set aside.

For the sauce, melt the butter in a medium sauce saucepan.  Stir in flour and pepper, and add 1½ cups of the milk. Cook and stir til thick and bubbly, and then give it a minute more.  Gradually stir sauce into two beaten eggs.  Stir in half of the Parmesan cheese. Toss macaroni with the remaining milk, egg, and Parmesan.

In an 8x8x2 baking dish, layer half the macaroni mixture, all of the meat, the remaining macaroni, and all of the sauce.  Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon if you wish, and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until set.  Let stand a bit.   Serves about 6.

Enjoy!