This is a recipe for my Aunt Emily’s Lip-Smacking Strawberry Sauce. Aunt Emily is not exactly the warm, inviting face of home and hearth you might imagine on a jar of desset topping, but she is definitely worth a few minutes of your time. She met my Uncle Raybon on a blind date at a mini-golf and pirate-themed adventure park just before the bicentennial. They were married six weeks later, the second time for both. The first piece of furniture they split fifty-fifty was a tiki bar with light up palm trees and wooden, half-pineapple ashtrays. It was the focal point of their sunken den, and the home base for all their football parties. Raybon would mix the drinks and Emily would sit on one of the stools, sipping and barking out raunchy jokes with set-ups always involving someone who farted at the worst possible time.
While she was married, Emily worked as a cocktail waitress in a hotel bar. Her bouffant Brenda Vaccaro hair was almost exactly as wide and exactly as red as the short, ruffled skirt that was her uniform. In between the hair and the skirt was a crowd of hilly cleavage and a deep, weary tan. Emily liked to twirl in her waitress skirt before she left the house and say, “It’s the preferred look for today’s cocktail gal… Mexican square dancer with super titties.” Then she would run her fingers in circles around her blouse where her nipples were underneath and stick her tongue out sideways like a rock star, while my mother shouted out her name with reproach and the rest of us fell on the floor.
I remember that Emily was always more socially fearless when she had a cigarette going. When she wasn’t smoking, her hands weren’t sure what to do with themselves, and the attention they required took away her ability to focus on anything. With a Pall Mall and a martini, she could re-tell a story exactly the way Robert Klein had told it on tv. Without them, she was a downright kook, though that never stopped her from contributing. Once, she was recruited by my parents to audition as part of a team for Family Feud. When the mock-host challenged them with, “Name something you bake in the oven.” my dad said, “Pies.” My mom said, “Cakes.” Aunt Emily wrung her hands and frantically spat out, “Tennis shoes!” Next, they were asked: “Name something you dig out of the ground.” Dad went with potatoes. Mom came up with onions. My Aunt Emily said, “People!” They were not asked to stay and meet the Executive Producer.
She divorced my Uncle Raybon in the middle of the 1980s because she said he loved beer cans more than he loved her can. She moved with the children that weren’t his to Philadelphia where she got a job helping to re-write a company’s old greeting cards so they’d rhyme and could be re-issued. Eventually, she talked her way into a writer job with a product branding firm and re-located to Norfolk. Now in her sixties, she still lives there today. After my twin brother Dax sent her a link to TvFoodAndDrink.com, she e-mailed me her recipe for this strawberry sauce, which she swears was invented by her great grandmother whose real name was Lucille, but that everyone called “Lippy.” The e-mail reads:
“Tell people I’ve watched young men fall to their knees after tasting this sauce, but that may have something to do with what they were eating it off of at the time…ha! But seriously Gar, you know any men out in Hollywood with long, overgrown curly hair? I mean real tumbleweeds! Tell them I’m coming to visit you and I want to play desert island games with them… ha HA ha! Mai Tais on Emily!”
Despite her countless inappropriate body gestures and endless drunken nights ending in, “I’m fine! I’m fine!” Aunt Emily has actually done darn well for herself in the professional world. If you’ve ever been to the grocery store and passed bottles of Sloppy Uncle Pete’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Barbecue Baster or picked up some Sane Granny Margaret’s Soup in a Bag with the cartoon old lady winking as she stirs up chowder in a burlap sack, you’ve seen the work of my Aunt Emily. She says that adding the name of a fictitious cherished family member to a product, then adding an oddball back story about them adds an immeasurable “comfort value” that just about everyone will embrace. That makes sense to me, even though it’s coming from a member of my family who’s never been very interested in sensible behavior. I haven’t actually laid eyes on the woman in over twenty years. I can’t imagine what she might look like now. In my head it’s still the wide ruffled skirt, the big hair, the youthful cleavage and the just-slightly twisted brain that wrote this on my eighth grade graduation card: “Whenever you don’t have anything to say, just go ahead and make a pile of shit up! Love, Aunt Emily.”
Aunt Emily’s Lip Smacking Strawberry Sauce
- 1 quart strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
In a small pot over medium heat, combine the strawberries, sugar, water, lemon zest, lemon juice and cornstarch. Bring to a simmer and whisk gently until mixture thickens slightly. Allow to cool slightly, then serve over ice cream