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September 13, 2009

Birthday Feasts

Filed under: Food — Twistie @ 12:37 pm

There was a tradition in my family when I was a child. A week or two before one of us celebrated a birthday, Mom would ask what we wanted to eat on the big day. We could choose anything we wanted, and she would make it. There were certain things you could count on: the medieval historian usually wanted peas while the alpaca rancher wanted Brussels sprouts. The rest of the meal often changed, but they loved those particular veggies.

Me? I was the predictable one. My meal was always the same. I wanted fish, potatoes, and spinach. Mom could prepare them any way she pleased, but that was what I wanted every single year. One year the potatoes would be boiled, another roasted. The fish might be cod, salmon, trout, or red snapper depending on what looked good when the day came. Oh, and for dessert, there needed to be chocolate and plenty of it.

We all got a big laugh one year. It was my birthday and Mom was shopping for the ingredients of my feast when she ran into a friend. They talked for a while, and then Mom said she had to go and get the spinach for my birthday. Her friend looked horrified and said: ‘you’re making that poor child eat spinach on her birthday?’

Yeah, not a lot of people outside the family got the concept of a child who adored spinach. It makes me wonder what they would have made of my brother who so adored Brussels sprouts that they were part of his birthday feast every year (an aspect, incidentally, which kind of made me look forward to his natal day).

What has me musing on this? Well, it’s my birthday. Mom is long gone, so I can’t place an order with her. Still, tonight Mr. Twistie will take me out to our favorite Indian restaurant, where I will no doubt order an appetizer of samosas, which are filled with potatoes, and a main course of prawn palak, which is prawns (my fish) in a lightly spiced creamed spinach. Fish, potatoes, spinach. The eternal verities of my birthday feast.

Oh, and this afternoon I intend to bake myself a chocolate cake. After all, Indian restaurants don’t serve a lot of chocolate cakes, and I still need my chocolate fix.

So what about all of you? Do any of you have birthday traditions you love?


  1. Many happy returns!

    Comment by Plumcake — September 13, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  2. Happy birthday, Twistie! I don’t really have any traditions for my own birthday, but my brother had one. We always got to choose what kind of birthday cake my mom would bake for us, and my brother always eschewed the cake and asked for lemon meringue pie. He died nine years ago, but my mom still makes a couple of lemon meringue pies every year on his birthday.

    Comment by Cat — September 13, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

  3. My mom always made me an angel food Barbie doll cake. I loved that cake.

    I have since switched to chocolate on my birthday (and every other day), but would take an angel food cake in an emergency.

    Saag paneer. Yum!

    Comment by class factotum — September 13, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

  4. Virgo posse unite! My birthday is on Tuesday and we would almost always either get our choice of menu for home-cooked or to a restaurant of our choice, with home-made cake to follow.

    My menu has changed due to where I was in my life. When I was younger I usually wanted Dad to grill steak or lemon barbeque chicken. Now that I’m older and can get a decent steak at many places, I want things that I can only get at home.

    I now live 7000 miles away from home, so I had to celebrate my birthday in August before moving back to the sandbox. I wanted my mom’s lasagna and fresh local veggies in a salad.

    As for cakes, I’m usually a chocolate gal, though I also have been known to pick carrot cake, as long as the icing is nut free!

    Comment by Lunakitsch — September 13, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

  5. Happy Birthday!

    And I cannot believe I’ve found someone else who asked for spinach on their birthday as they were growing up! Those were the dark days when spinach didn’t come pre-washed and ready to cook in bags – the leaves were loose and gritty and required three washes so Mom didn’t make it all that often. (And Mom didn’t like frozen spinach one bit.)

    I always wanted spinach a la goldenrod: steamed or sauteed buttered spinach with sieved hard boiled egg on top. The whites and yolks were sieved separately, then a little pile of white would be placed on top of each serving of spinach with the yolk on top of that. It’s SO good. And after making it myself I now know why Mom didn’t make it all that often. I still love spinach.

    These days I just want to go out for my birthday to the restaurant of my choosing. Ok, so I usually choose the same place, but it’s very, very good. And dessert must be chocolate. No exceptions.

    Comment by TropicalChrome — September 13, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

  6. Dear Twistie, your post has made me want to cook you an imaginary birthday dinner of fish, potatoes and spinach, especially since you like Indian food. I’d make you a potato masala, which is potatoes and peas spiced with ginger, garlic, chile, and coriander. Then a fish curry with blue marlin in a spicy coconut sauce, and maybe a palak paneer, spinach and cheese. And one of those molten chocolate baby cakes for dessert where the chocolate pours out of it like lava.

    Happy Birthday!

    Comment by Mrs. Hendricks — September 13, 2009 @ 5:31 pm

  7. Happy, happy, happy and many more….

    My birthday is right around Thanksgiving…sometimes ON T-day. I always have a pumpkin pie for a birthday cake. People always ask if I wouldn’t prefer cake. I wouldn’t. (Guess it’s like spinich.)

    Comment by that redhead — September 13, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

  8. How funny, I just got back from shopping for my boyfriend’s birthday dinner. I told him he could have anything he wanted, as long as it was one of the three things I can cook (crab cakes, risotto, grilled cheese sandwiches). So I’m making risotto with seared scallops and green beans cooked in panchetta. Wish me luck.

    Oh, and happy birthday, Twistie!

    Comment by daisyj — September 13, 2009 @ 7:43 pm

  9. Happy b-day, Twistie! Mine happens to be Tuesday :-) Usually I ignore it and since I don’t have a partner (only a beautiful, PITA 13 year old son) everyone else tends to, too. You gave me a great idea, though. I recently introduced my son to Indian food and he absolutely loves it. I think the two of us will have a fabulous Indian dinner for my birthday. And I think we’ll stop and get ice cream afterwards, too.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed your day!

    Comment by Tammy — September 13, 2009 @ 8:00 pm

  10. High five Twistie! Steamed spinach with a few drops of vinegar is a favorite in our house (I have three teen sons) ever since they were tots. I remember my friends’ faces when they saw the kids nomming it down and I had to ban them from mealtimes til they could keep their anti-spinach grimaces under control :)

    Comment by mags — September 13, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

  11. Many happy returns, Twistie!

    Comment by Lisa — September 14, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  12. Aww, hope your birthday dinner was fantastic!

    Comment by Bianca — September 14, 2009 @ 11:01 am

  13. Happy birthday! I always asked for blackened chicken, rice-a-roni, and cucumber and onion salad. And once or twice I asked for cajun meatballs. One brother always gets fried fish, another jambalaya, and the third has a favorite Chinese restaurant we always go to.

    Comment by Elaine — September 14, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

  14. Happy birthday Twistie – we share a birthday. When I was very young I requested lobster for my birthday and got it! Then I moved on to Che Boy-ar-Dee spaghetti sauce from a can, and then on to my mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches – she grated the cheese, added a beaten egg and some mustard, spread it on bread and put it under the broiler. I wish she were still here to make it for me. I celebrated with friends and family and a 3-layer chocolate cake and cocktails. It was a lovely day!

    Comment by Jane H. — September 14, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

  15. Happy birthday Twistie (and happy birthday to all my fellow Virgos!)! My latest tradition for birthday food is to make myself a lovely flourless chocolate cake, to remind myself that being celiac is not a sentence to a lifetime without tasty food.

    I also always wear a fabulous frock on my birthday, regardless of where I’m going and if it’s “appropriate” for the situation. This year, I’m going to accessorize with some delightful Make Up For Ever fake lashes with little feathers on the outside lashes.

    Comment by Abbey — September 14, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

  16. this post caused me to leave the computer, go downstairs and cook a pot of brussels sprouts.

    which I am now happily consuming


    Happy Birthday!

    Comment by monkeyparts — September 14, 2009 @ 9:28 pm

  17. Wow! We pretty much had the same family tradition, only when we were little my grandmother made whatever we wanted for dinner plus what ever kind of dessert we wanted to have. Dinner usually varied for me but I always, always asked for peach cobbler and homemade vanilla ice cream! My mother continues the tradition now that my grandma is gone, and now days dinner always includes her garlic green beans, but I still get my homemade ice cream! Happy Birthday!

    Comment by Jessica — September 14, 2009 @ 11:49 pm

  18. First of all, Happy Birthday Twistie! The birthday tradition for my family was a meal also. The meal itself changed from year to year, but the idea of it being that person’s choice was the same. For example, one year we all got Thai because my older brother loves it. Another time, Mom wanted barbeque so that’s what we had (and that’s hard to find in MI in February). Now that my family is all over the place, I usually just figure out what I want and whom I want to share it with. This year for my 31st, the bf and myself went to BD’s Mongolian BBQ cause I had been wanting it for months and he had never been there.

    Comment by Lisa — September 15, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

  19. Happy belated, Twistie.

    For my family, my birthday dinner has always involved chicken (usually fried) and mashed potatoes. For my middle sister, always lasagna. My baby sis is the only one who varied what she has. But it’s kind of nice to have those touchstones in our life.

    Comment by Katy — September 15, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

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