When I moved into my apartment I vowed that the only way I’d ever leave was feet first. So far I’ve been true to my word; I’ve lived here for over ten years. Moving is so stressful and awful that I am in awe of people who love to pack and unpack just for the sake of shaking things up. Sure there are those whose lives shift and therefore their housing needs do too. But to those brave souls who just get itchy, I say, “better you than me.”
In my defense, the experience of my last move was so traumatizing that you can’t really blame me for not wanting to uproot my roots. It was a day in which I found myself playing UN peacekeeper between a team of Polish movers and my Peruvian contractor. The contractor was trying to help one of the movers navigate the placement of my new bookshelf unit (a purchase I have since grown to regret) when all of a sudden I heard the worst crack and saw a fault line crawling up the side of one of the shelves. My mouth dropped, my heart raced and my contractor, witnessing my approaching meltdown, started to shout at the mover who shouted back at the contractor—both using their native tongues which meant no one understood anything but the steam coming out of their ears. I was so scared I’d have a crime scene on my hands that I had to drag the mover’s enormous boss from his well-worn seat in the truck fourteen stories below in order to pry the two men apart. Luckily the contractor still had his can of paint and masked the crack. Although now, ten years later, it could definitely use a touch-up and I can’t stop staring at it.
For these past ten years my parents have lived just a seven-minute walk away (I timed it once when my cable went out right before The Sopranos). But this week they volunteered to pack and unpack for the sake of shaking things up and are moving across town. Sweetly, they are returning to the neighborhood they lived in when they were first married. The stories of my mother's early attempts at entertaining are pretty funny but one of my favorites is when she played first-time hostess to her cousin and cousin’s husband. The women were the same age but my mother’s cousin had married at twenty and was living on Long Island. Although my mom married just three years later, her snotty cousin comported herself like she was Sadie, Sadie Married Suburban Lady for those intervening years while casting my mother as pitiful Old Maid (she was anything but, as I learned as an adult). So Mom and (begrudgingly) Dad invited the boring couple over for drinks at their place (“in the city,” as the cousin would have said) before they were all to go to the theater. Mom put out cheese and crackers, Dad mixed drinks and as far as they knew the evening was fine. Until a few days later when my mother heard through the family grapevine that her cousin had reported to my mother's aunt, “She didn’t even serve us a hot hors d’hoeuvre!!” (To really understand how this was communicated you need to imagine someone with the elegant accent of a Fran Drescher and the sneer of a curled upper-lip.) Have you ever? What a witch.
Luckily my parents felt only relief knowing they’d never have to entertain these ingrates again. But that refrain earned a permanent spot in the family private-joke book. Anytime I’m invited anywhere for dinner my mother will say, “Sounds like a great night, but were you served a hot hors d’hoeuvre?” and we’ll crack up. The funny thing is that so many years later Mom actually makes a warm canapé now and again causing her to stock her freezer with various boxes of laminated doughs, the pre-move disposal of which caused her much anxiety. “When are you coming over—I have a freezer full of phyllo dough and you need to take it!!!” (Due to my close proximity I was the only potential recipient of this fragile collection.)
When I arrived at their place I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. My mother was running around like a lunatic as a squadron of men packed up my parents' life, boxes reached to the ceiling, light fixtures were dismantled, walls were bare. There is nothing like the carcass of a soon to be abandoned apartment to give me a stomach ache. (Somehow my father had had the good sense to carve out a little corner of peace where he was reading the Times amidst the mayhem.)
I raced home with my six boxes, the seven minutes being just enough time before they defrosted, where they are now taking up too much room in my freezer. I should add however that they were in the kind of condition completely typical of my mother’s general state of hysteria. They all looked like they’d been opened by a rabid, starving raccoon and several of the phyllo boxes contained only one of the two packs they came with, indicating Mom had purchased a new box without first consulting the freezer as to whether or not she owned any at the moment. And then there were the expiration dates. Anyone up for some freezer burn-infused spanakopita made with "best by September 2009" phyllo dough?
Luckily there was one perfectly intact box of mini phyllo shells which are the ideal carriers for one of my favorite nibbles. They are filled with the best combo—sweet and savory. Sharp Stilton cheese cuts through the warm, slightly caramel-y pears, the pastry cup adds the perfect, delicate crunch and the dried cranberry delivers a pop of much needed color and a little chew. All I need is an invitation to my parents’ new place and in a seven minute cab ride I’ll be serving my parents a hot hors d’oeuvre. And in the meantime, something about this change has me doing a little re-considering. Maybe packing and unpacking for the sake of shaking things up wouldn’t be so bad? Or maybe I should just paint my bookshelves.
Moving Phobia Pear and Stilton Phyllo Cups
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2 Tablespoons butter
3 ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced
2 Tablespoons pear brandy or rum (optional)
4 ounces crumbled Stilton blue cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
4 boxes 15 piece mini phyllo shells
¼ cup dried cranberries for garnish
Preheat oven to 350
In medium skillet melt the 2 tablespoons butter, add pears and brandy. Stir gently until golden brown.
Remove to bowl and cool slightly. Then roughly chop into ½” pieces.
Transfer pears to medium bowl and add Stilton and nuts.
Meanwhile, place phyllo shells on a baking sheet and bake 3-5 minutes till hot and crisp.
Let shells cool slightly then fill each shell with a heaping teaspoon of the pear mixture.Garnish with a few dried cranberries and serve.
Yield: 45 hot d’hoeuvres