It must’ve been about ten years ago. I was driving with my friend Nancy to Jones Beach to walk on the boardwalk. It was a bright sunny morning; the windows were down, our hair blowing, the radio blasting when suddenly I yelled out “OH MY GOD, THE CHICKEN CUTLET!! Not a sentence most people say, but I kept screaming “THE CHICKEN CUTLET! THE CHICKEN CUTLET”!!
You see my nephew Sam was away at sleep away camp. The only thing he asked my sister to bring him on visiting day was one of Aunt Jackie’s chicken cutlets. I had one frozen in the freezer and was supposed to drop it off and I forgot. Fortunately, my sister lives around the corner and was able to pick it up. If he didn’t get that chicken cutlet I would never have forgiven myself.
Sounds ridiculous, I know. But in my family, my chicken cutlets have become an expression of my love. It’s an “event” when Aunt Jackie is making her famous chicken cutlets. Word gets around and the family gathers together for what is sure to be a special meal. It takes me hours to prepare. Not only do I prepare enough for the dinner, but I make enough to give home to both my nephews (who are now 23 and 26). It is somewhere around the second hour of frying that I think to myself “Why can’t they like my roast beef?”
Now, just so you know, my nephews, for whom I would throw myself in front of a train, refer to me as “Crazy” Aunt Jackie. They try to tell me it’s a term of endearment. So while writing this blog I texted them and asked them to give me some examples of why I’m “crazy”. Well the good news is, they didn’t come up with anything off the top of their heads. The bad news is, about 24 hours later they called me with a long list, and yes, I’m indeed crazy. It’s enough for a blog of its own. But the one thing they didn’t mention was the time I took them out for lunch to the International Café. They were probably 5 and 8 years old. I didn’t know the restaurant only accepted cash so I had to leave to go to the bank and I left them as collateral.
My nephew, Robby, is getting married in just a couple of weeks. I recently attended his fiancée Lindsay’s bridal shower. The invitation asked to bring a recipe. I wrestled with the idea of giving her my chicken cutlet recipe, but I just couldn’t do it. If she had the recipe then Robby wouldn’t have to come to Aunt Jackie’s for his chicken cutlets; he could get them right at home. That was not happening! Instead I gave her a “recipe for a successful marriage”. I wrote, whatever advice I give you, do the opposite!
I’m sure you all have your own favorites- your mother’s chicken soup, your Nana’s banana cake, your aunt’s sweet potato pie. But is it really that much better than any you’ve ever had, or does it have more to do with the person that’s making it? People ask me all the time what makes my chicken cutlets so special. I tell them, it’s not the ingredients; it’s being around the table with the people you love most that makes everything taste better.
So I’m sure Robby and Sam will add to their list that I wrote an entire blog about chicken cutlets. Yes, I’m crazy, but I think they love me all the more for it!