“How pretty you look!” your mother exclaimed.

You didn’t answer her.

I have to confess … I don’t like you very much. You’re sullen and rude and not at all appreciative of this 30th birthday party your mother is giving you.

Then, while I’m at the kitchen sink, I see you on the patio outside. You’re holding a glass of wine, standing apart from everyone else. You look so unhappy. So unsure of yourself. So disappointed with life so far.

You didn’t want this. You told your mother not to make a big deal of this birthday. She worried about your instructions as the guest list grew from 30 to 50 to 65.

You don’t understand yet that birthdays are as important to the mothers as they are to the children. Besides, your boyfriend has hinted that he’s going to ask you to marry him tonight, and your mother wants her friends and family there to celebrate.

He doesn’t. He doesn’t do a lot of things. He doesn’t ask you to marry him; he doesn’t stand with you on the patio; he doesn’t want to see pictures of you when you were a little girl.

He does drink too much. And he has great fun making sport of your mother, who has spent thousands of dollars on this party.

I want to put my arm around you and promise that things get better. The woman you are at 30 is not the woman you’ll grow to be. Your mother adores you. And someday, you’ll meet a man who will keep his word and love your mother and want to see pictures of you as a tiny girl.

I want to say all that. But I can’t. I’m just the help. So I feed you instead.

cranberry relish“Try some of this,” I say.

“Oh,” you respond. “It’s so pretty.”

“So are you.”


Pretty-In-Red Cranberry Relish (“Bon Appetit,” 2002)

I serve this year-round as a relish with smoked ham or roasted salmon. It’s perfect right now for the Thanksgiving table.

  • cranberry1 12-ounce bag of cranberries (thawed if frozen)
  • 1 tangerine or orange, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade

Place the cranberries in a food processor and coarsely chop them. Remove them to a large mixing bowl.

Place the tangerine or orange in the processor and coarsely chop it. Place it in the bowl with the cranberries.

Add the sugar, ginger and marmalade to the mixing bowl and stir well. Move to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight or up to one week.