This is Siev Mai, the student I sponsor in Cambodia. I met her when I visited the country recently. I know - you're wondering what this has to do with Mother's Day.
I'll be the first to tell you I think Mother's Day is a Hallmark holiday. Now before you accuse me of blasphemy, hear me out. It's not that I think we shouldn't honor our mothers (heck, I am one) but I do have some thoughts on the subject (uh-oh, look out, here comes another rant....)
Let's start with brunch. Oh, my favorite meal (NOT, as you already know if you read my granola post). The last thing I want to do is get all gussied up on a Sunday and head out for some overpriced buffet where they are probably just recycling leftovers anyway. And then I will eat too much, because it's in front of me and I will subsequently feel miserable the rest of the day. Uh ... no.
Dinner out? Nope. We tried that last year with my mom and it was a complete failure. Any restaurant open on the Sunday night of Mother's Day was probably open for brunch also and guess what? THEY ARE IN THE WEEDS! The staff is stressed, there is no prep anywhere to be found, the larder is depleted, the bathrooms are filthy because no one has had time to check them and all the staff wants to do is get you in and out the door as fast as possible so they can go home. I can't really blame them.
And cards? Oh please. Don't get me started. Do you realize the average cost of a card these days is $3.50. WHAT????? For something that you will read once or twice then throw away? I wonder how many trees are destroyed for Mother's Day cards. Or how much money is spent on them. Between Henry and my mom, the four cards I received cost more than $20 dollars. That's a ridiculous amount of wasted money and trees if you ask me.
Approximately $14 billion annually in this country is spent on meals, jewelry and flowers for Mother's Day. I wish I was making this up.
Nick Kristof wrote about it in the New York Times. (His book "Half the Sky" inspired my trip to Cambodia). He writes that $14 billion would pay for a primary school education for the 60 million girls around the world who aren't attending school, effectively ending female literacy. This is something to think about.
Students I met in Cambodia
In that spirit, I decided against expensive restaurants, fancy gifts and the like this year. I called up my mom and invited her to dinner. Along with three of her friends. Now really, who wouldn't want that as a gift? I'd love it if someone did that for me!
So she, Jean, Adelaide and Vallie showed up here on Saturday night. What a wonderful time we had! These ladies are feisty, interesting, smart and engaging. Any one of them could have equaled Betty White's fabulous hosting gig on SNL.
Dinner was simple, but delicious. We started with crostini with various toppings then moved on to shrimp scampi. Dessert was wonderful. Yogurt panna cotta with macerated strawberries. The perfect end to a perfect evening. Without costing $14 billion.
YOGURT PANNA COTTA WITH MACERATED STRAWBERRIES (adapted from Ina Garten)
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups low-fat greek yogurt (I used Fage 2%)
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
1 cup granulated sugar
4 pints fresh strawberries, cored and sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lemon zest and fresh mint leaves, for serving
Place gelatin in a small bowl and add 3 tablespoons of cold water. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes. If using gelatin sheets, soak briefly in cold water, then squeeze out and set aside.
Heat remaining 1 1/2 cups of cream and the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. Remove from heat and add gelatin. Stir to dissolve then pour into the cream/yogurt mixture. Stir to combine.
One hour before serving, combine strawberries, sugar, vinegar and pepper. Let sit at room temperature to allow juices to develop.
To serve, unmold panna cottas onto plates by running a knife around edges and dipping custard cups into a bowl of hot water for 15 seconds. Top with strawberries and garnish with lemon zest.
And besides this dinner, my gift to Mom? A printed copy of this blog (she's not computer literate) and a straw purse made by a Cambodian woman who survived sex-trafficking and the brothels.
I'm finally done now. Thanks for listening.