On Sunday, I went to my sister’s home. A place I’ve only been to twice. A duplex on hill, a ten-year-old Golden Retriever to greet us. We met at a McDonald’s and followed her past a lumber yard, a gas station that still showed gas at a dollar-sixty, and a fencepost where a wreath was nailed on.
I’ve only hung out with my sister once or twice. We smoked a cigarette in her old Mustang in high school and she bought me beer one Fourth of July. We met in a Walmart parking lot and I never paid her back. But it’s different now, we’ve grown up. Had to. Wanted to. Her husband still plays video games and they had their honeymoon in Niagara. They live a good life and I’m happy to witness it, even if it’s just for a couple hours. Going to the outlet malls and sharing nachos for lunch.
She’s precious cargo now, she sat in the backseat. Thirteen weeks along, she’s having a baby come October. Niece or nephew, boy or girl. It’s changed me on a molecular level. I think of a future now. I put money away for her, I paid for dinner. She gave up caffeine, Keith still smokes, though. It’s okay. There’s love there. I give her a hug, a kiss. I tell her I love her so much.
These are hungry words, hungry for the eight years since we last sat in a car together and got food. Hungry for a connection. We share a mom, a handful of aunts and uncles. A tendency to hold a grudge, react and then apologize. We demand apologies in my family, but we ask for hugs and forgiveness on our own time. They were hungry words and I’m excited to learn how to be a brother again and to go fawn-legged into helping raise her child when she needs me.
We talk about ordinary things. Vacations we used to take in the Smokies. If it will be a hot summer. We talk about sad things, the uncle we lost in Afghanistan and the dog we had growing up. We talk about scary things, blood tests and airbags. We drove forty more miles and talked about baby names.
We don’t mention my grandmother’s name, but it’s in the running. So is Elliott. Cash for a boy. Something simple, classic for a girl. She liked Rachel and then she didn’t. She liked Nora and then she didn’t. She never liked her own name. She said she didn’t like mine too much either. But we think, make lists on an old envelope I found in my glove compartment. We laugh, stop for gas. She said she’d like to think of a name that’s in the family, something strong, something from Indiana. She said we didn’t have a lot to remember from back there, so it’d be nice to remember it now.
I thought about that the rest of the day. How names become heritage, relics. Antiques and heirlooms. I think of the way my sister and I are different, but how we are the same. How there’s a bit of dirt under our fingernails from our farmer uncles and diesel in us from our truck driver grandfather. How our eyes are shaped the same but hers are hazel and mine are blue. How we are just tattooed skin stretched over cast iron bones. How we don’t say sorry much and crush the cigarettes we used to smoke under the same rock by the creekbed. Those were our traditions. And we think back on all the traditions we missed from our relatives in the Midwest. Bundt cakes cooling on a rack and gone by midnight. The tire swing in the woods behind my aunt’s doublewide trailer. And the collection of Lodge cast iron pans that’s been passed between us all at one time or another. Seasoned and still black as coal. That’s how tradition works, rough on the hands and it’s got some weight to it. And in forty years’ time maybe going to the outlets on an ordinary Sunday will seem like a tradition, too.
Savory Dutch Baby with Onion-Apple Relish
This recipe was inspired by my heritage--easy comfort food, cooked with butter and in cast iron. The Dutch baby can be made in a skillet of 10-12" and is best served hot. The relish can be made ahead and kept for up to two days.
Ingredients for Onion-Apple Relish
- 1 medium-sized apple, cored and chopped
- ½ of a yellow onion, chopped thinly
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- ¼ cup beer
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- Salt and pepper to tast
Directions for Onion-Apple Relish
- Preheat oven to 425*F (this is not for the relish, but you want your oven hot for the Dutch Baby)
- In your Lodge 11” cast iron skillet, heat 2 TB butter on medium until melted and hot
- Toss in your onion and apple and stir occasionally for 8-12 minutes, until apples are tender and onions are translucent
- Turn heat up to medium-high and add beer, which will steam immediately
- Add brown sugar and last TB of butter and continue stirring until all liquid is cooked off and you are left with a soft and tender mixture of onion and apples
- Salt and pepper to taste, reserve in a container, scraping all bits of the relish out of the pan and set the pan aside for the Dutch baby without washing (you want some of the savory flavors to mix into the batter while it cooks!)
Ingredients for the Dutch Baby
- ¾ cup AP flour
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ½ tablespoon finely chopped rosemar
Directions for Dutch Baby
- While skillet is still hot from making the Onion-Apple Relish (above), you may want to rub a TB of butter around the pan to grease it a bit more
- In a bowl, sift flour and salt and set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and whole milk
- Slowly add the flour mixture, whisking continuously to avoid lumps
- Sprinkle in the rosemary when all flour is incorporated
- Whisk vigorously for about 30 seconds to create some air and form bubbles on top of the batter
Immediately pour into prepared skillet and place in preheated oven
Bake for 14-18 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Begin checking at the 12-minute mark for any burning
Remove from oven, top with relish, and enjoy. Best results are immediately from oven.
Thank you so much to Lodge Cast Iron for sponsoring this post with your amazing products. We have used cast iron in our family for generations and I am proud to work alongside Lodge in creating this post. All opinions, recipes, and photos are my own. For this post, I used their 11” rust resistant cast iron skillet. For more information about Lodge, please visit their website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.