The light hit her face in a way that made me look twice. We were sitting around the dinner table, I had been making sarcastic jokes, my nephews were climbing all over my sister, my brother-in-law was talking shop with my dad, the TV was blaring from the other room. She wasn’t saying anything, just sitting, starring ahead, and I looked twice.
My mother is many things and one of those things is stubborn. This means that she wins most arguments — inserting the proper dose of razor-sharp wit or elongated, painful silence. Not even cancer could win a fight with her. A few years back — after a gut-wrenching litany of surgery and chemotherapy and then an epic bone marrow transplant, she sent its ass packing and we never heard from it again. My mother is scrappy.
So there we were at the table and she continued to sit, saying nothing, just starring forward. It must have been a moment.
“If I ever wrote a book,” I told her, “I’d dedicate it to you.” And just then her eyes filled with tears. I had said something too kind and too loud and my mother — proud, complicated, unbreakable — had heard me.
Without her here, we’d have no inherited love of food, no delicious sauce, no designated Sunday to eat around a table together. She knew it — we all knew it — and I guess that was my way of saying thanks.
Every weekend we get together even when we’re too lazy, when we’re mad at each other, despite jobs and friends and other plans. We’re the Sunday dinner crew and around this dinner table, plans have been made, feelings have been bruised, babies have been announced, arguments have come and gone and then come again. But around this table we’ve somehow been able to hold it all together, breaking each other’s falls as we go, the only way we know how: by eating.
I don’t have a book to write of my own but I do have this page. And so, without further ado, last week’s amazing dinner is:
For my mother.
Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon Molasses Glaze
Adapted from Todd Kelly
1/2 cup bourbon
1/8 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup Dijon mustard
1 tsp paprika
1/8 cup molasses (use honey to substitute)
2 trimmed pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each), at room temperature
1/4 lb bacon, diced
1 bunch fresh thyme
1/2 quart chicken stock
Ground black pepper
Marinade pork tenderloins over night or for at least half an hour.
Preheat oven to 350.
Meanwhile, make sauce. Saute bacon until medium, about five minutes. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add thyme and stock and season. Simmer until reduced to desired consistency and strain.
Remove pork from marinade and roast. Place tenderloins side by side but not touching in the smallest roasting pan that will hold them. Roast for 10 minutes, flip over and roast again until the internal temperature registers 155°, about 8 minutes more. Let rest for about 10 minutes and slice into ½-inch-thick slices.
Serving suggestion: Serve pork on top of pureed potatoes and sauteed spinach. Spoon sauce over the top.