As I was growing up, it seemed that all around me were wonderful examples of smart and strong women. In addition to my mother and maternal grandmother, there were many dear friends of my mother who were raising children, taking care of a household, and still forging careers and contributing to the world around them. My mother's dear friend Dolly raised five children as a single mother, created a career for herself by identifying a need in our community and filling it, and still managed to be the life of the party and a riot to be around. My mother's friend Ellen was so interested in the world it was contagious, and my Aunt Kathy often reinvented her professional self while always remaining true to who she was.
My father's mother, my Nana, was an example of a strong woman who was in many ways ahead of her time. She had a good career working for the telephone company at a time when many women did not work outside the home. She spoke of those days so proudly, and it was clear that although she needed to work financially, she enjoyed what she did and the people she met and with whom she became lifelong friends. She was a character and a great lady, my Nana. She smoked her Pall Malls until the day she died, which was well into her 80s, she salted her beer, and she pronounced potatoes "pa-DAY-das." One of the things I always appreciated was the fact that while we were in college, my Nana would take my sister and me out for dinner whenever we were home from school on break. I think it was her way of getting to know us as adults, having a little quality time with us, and catching up with us. Usually we would go to a place called The Seafarer, a seafood restaurant, where, ironically, we would all order the stuffed chicken breast. But before the entree, we always got a salad, and Nana introduced us to Blue Cheese dressing, which we loved. Nowadays, it seems that the "Wedge Salad,' with its signature blue cheese dressing is on just about every restaurant menu, and I love it. The crisp iceberg lettuce seems so retro, but in the best way. If tomatoes are in season, and the bacon is crispy, it is a beautiful thing. What is old is new again. Even in this, Nana was ahead of her time.
Wedge Salad (Serves 4)
1 head iceberg lettuce, cored, trimmed and washed
8 strip thick cut bacon, cooked until crisp
2 really good tomatoes (I used heirloom from my garden), cut into small chunks
2/3 cup light cream or half and half
6 ounces Gorgonzola or bleu cheese crumbled and divided
1/2 clove garlic, minced fine
1/2 tsp. black pepper
To make dressing: Put cream or half and half in a microwaveable bowl, add garlic and pepper. Microwave on medium heat until very warm. Crumble 5 ounces Gorgonzola (eyeball it) into the warm cream and stir until it is mostly melted into the cream. Put it back into the microwave if necessary. Place the dressing in the fridge until very cold. Right before serving, add the remainder of the cheese to make it chunky.
Cut the lettuce in half, then in half again, keeping it in the wedges. Place the wedges onto either 4 plates, or line them up in a platter. Place tomatoes on top of lettuce wedges. Crumble bacon and scatter over lettuce and tomatoes. Drizzle dressing over the whole salad. Enjoy! Delicious with a salted beer (just like Nana liked it).