Saturday, February 28, 2009

A cozy family lunch

Today was such fun. Sister Sue, Lee, Aunt Dorr and I had a wonderful family lunch in Cincinnati. Sue started a tradition of taking Aunt Dorr and me to lunch every year as a Christmas treat. Sue graciously included Lee who loves spending time with our family. Lee's family is in Texas and her Mom passed away last summer. Most opportunities for her to get a fix of being with family come through mine. She's found similarities to her own parents in Mimi and Bobo. She and my Mimi are two chatterboxes when they get together. Lee loves to talk about family issues with Mom and thinks its critical to share important news with her as well. Lee also is very fond of my sisters and my aunt so getting together is fun for everyone. The bonus was we were able to see Tom, Sue's husband and my very favorite brother-in-law. It was too cold to golf so Tom was home making chicken divan and planning to work out.

The lunch at Parker's was delicious and fun. It's an old house with fireplaces and cozy seating. Aunt Dorr returned from a 3 week trip to Petra, Egypt and other haunts last month so we needed to hear about the trip. Pretty amazing for a woman in her mid-eighties to travel half-way around the world. She had a great time. She and another woman friend arranged to travel through a group. She did lots of sight seeing, a cruise on the Red Sea and lots of shopping. Aunt Dorr is well known for her awesome shopping and bargains. I have to digress to tell an Aunt Dorr shopping story. When my children were about 4 and 2 one of the things we loved to do was to go to Cincinnati to visit the Christmas display at the Krohn Conservatory. Aunt Dorr's been a volunteer there for many years and knows just what to see. Outside the conservatory was a nativity display with live animals. We were gathered in front of the display when Jon yelled and said "Aunt Dorr, the sheep are on sale!". All of the sheep had tags on their ears and Jon was convinced there was a markdown and that this was a real buy. Needless to say it's been a great story that touts the fact that Aunt Dorr's found some very interesting bargains.

Time together today included some reminiscing about her Mom and Dad - Grandma and Grandpa Oechsler. Aunt Dorr recounted that Grandma was very social. She had bridge club and garden club, civic duties and her work as secretary for her national music sorority Mu Phi Epsilon. She usually arrived home from these activities about 30 minutes before Grandpa returned from work. Aunt Dorr told us that often there were written instructions for Aunt Dorr and Mom about getting dinner started. After these duties, Mom and Aunt Dorr went up the block to stay with Mrs. Randall until their parents returned home. Grandma was very organized. She was the manager for the team of secretaries in a Toledo law practice when she met Grandpa who was a cashier at the Toledo Trust bank. They dated before Grandpa went off to WWI. They corresponded through the war and married after he returned. She carried her organizational skills through to her home.

She loved us deeply and was very proud of all of her family. She was affectionate and warm but she really believed in holding fast and firm to society's rules. She had definite ideas about women's roles and what little girls should do and not do. Granma called my Mom every day to offer lots of guidance to my Mom about how to run her home and her family. Grandma was convinced that Mom was very lucky to have married my Dad. My grandparents loved music and in particular loved classical music and music from the theatre. She and Grandpa were also avid gardeners. Their backyard was incredible and when they moved to a smaller home after retirement they lavished attention and hard work on the new garden. They loved fresh vegetables and would drive to the country to purchase vegetables from their favorite farmers. It was wonderful to go with them and see the array of vegetables and some choices that were unique back then. Some of the best was patty pan squash and eggplant. At our house eggplant was fried and Dad loves it with maple syrup. Grandma made a wonderful scalloped eggplant baked an served in the shell that is still a favorite with me. Here's Grandma's recipe for scalloped eggplant. It's great as a dinner sid and wonderful for lunch with a salad.

Scalloped Eggplant

1 large firm eggplant
3 T. olive oil
3/4 C. onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 C. chopped celery
1 C. chopped raw mushrooms
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 C. milk or half and half
1 C. crushed cracker crumbs (Ritz)
3 T. melted butter
1/2 C. grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Grease a baking dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Carefully remove the eggplant from the shell leaving a 3/4 inch shell. Cut the eggplant pieces in small cubes.

In a large skillet, heat the oil to medium high. Saute the onion, mushrooms and celery for 7 minutes then add the garlic. Add the chopped eggplant and saute until lightly cooked. Transfer to a large bowl. To the contents of the bowl add mushroom soup and milk. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and spoon the eggplant into the shells.

In a small bowl mix together the crumbs, cheese and melted butter. Sprinkle the crumbs over the eggplant. Place the eggplant in the baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes. It should be bubbly and brown. If you'd rather not use eggplant shells you can place the eggplant mixture in a greased baking dish, cover with crumbs and bake.

This is one of my quintessential Grandma Oechsler recipe memories. Thanks again Sue for a wonderful lunch and an opportunity to make more family memories!


  1. This has been like a walk down memory lane for me. I think, when Ted and I visited you once in Dayton, that we went to visit your Aunt Dorr in Cincinnati (did she live up on that hill overlooking the city?) and then we went to the Christmas display at the Krohn Conservatory. Did we have the kids? I am going to have to look up those photos, because I was even Miss Snap Happy back then!

  2. Ann, I loved this story and hearing about your grandma. But...eggplant with maple syrup? Hmmmmm...