Friday, February 27, 2009

Food and Thoughts and a Green Kitchen Tablecloth

Food is a beautiful thing. As are strong, sweet memories. And, as it's turned out, so too are green cotton tablecloths.

Because I love food, stories, and most particularly the moment when they combine into one, I couldn't let this week pass without sharing a glimpse of the feast and tales of my folks recounted during the recent visit I made to my grandparents. Grammy and Jack; always sitting at that same soft, green, white-dotted tablecloth, my life is expertly seasoned with food memories from that household. My sister filling her cheeks with Easter candy while the grownups were downstairs. Cracking nuts onto napkins, shredding the shells to pieces and picking out only the almonds leaving Brazil nuts and chestnuts too hard in the bowl. Peanut butter waffles. Bacon anytime we wanted it.

We would spend most our visits collected around that tablecloth, eating, talking, snacking until the next meal and then eating more and talking our way through till bedtime. As the tablecloth stayed the same so too have some of the foods that over so many years now are both symbols of family, and triggers for classic memories-turned-stories by my grandparents. And of course there is always something new...

My grandfather eats butter on everything. Toast and pancakes, yes. But also cookies, pretzels, name it and before going down it gets a good slathering in butter. So of course our weekend started off with a tall glass of milk and a properly butter-frosted coffeecake muffin I'd brought from the city.

Which opened the marvelous flood gates for the stories to begin. We talked about cake. Then wedding cakes. Then tales of my grandmother's father, his candy business, his tools and time he spent carefully shaping flowers made of sugar for his own wedding cake creations. Then stories of family weddings. Then...have you ever seen a picture of your parents wedding cake? No?! Then photo albums seen for the first time, copies of wedding vows and the story of that hippie-cake of carob, brought to the wedding in a truck bed, an oversized creation of two hands reaching for each other...and a picture to match.

After coffeecakes and wedding talk we stayed at that table, drinking the required birch beer, eating the proper accompaniment of Chex mix, and listening to tales of my grandparents days on the Chesapeake Bay. From calm waters to wild storms, naps on deck and martinis in the cabin to rescues and rough waters, the stories filled the afternoon. Like a fine wine, the recounting of my grandparents younger days are best paired with a ham sandwich on sourdough, potato chips and a refill on that birch beer.

As night snuck in we settled into arm chairs and sofas, wrapped-up in afghans. Then, the standard offer of my grandfather's licorice. Strong, salty stuff. Never for me but happily a hit with Russ. Perhaps to wash it down, there is always, too, a light-blue wrappered stick of Black Jack teaberry gum.

The next morning begins the same. Butter on coffeecake. Cups of coffee. My cherished bowl of fruit loops (an indulgence I allow myself only at that green covered table). A refill on the cereal. From morning till dinner time it was stories from my grandfather's old diner. Advice on how selling iced-tea would make you your money back then. Frustration that a little glass is just too expensive these days. Recollections of sweet potato pie and arguments over the size of the dish the neighborhood diner's banana split comes in (hands creating spaces at least a foot long. I'm going to get one of those next time.)

After naps and more Chex mix, we end the visit with the ritual take-out visit to Nat's Pizza. We listen to the required telling of the time my dad and grandpa went in to see grease so thick on the floor it rose up through the plastic floor mats. We always laugh, then call to place our order.

Having finished off the birch beer we drink black cherry soda. It's a candlelit dinner of pepperoni, my grandfather opting for buttered gingersnaps as he steers clear from any food with "red stuff," (i.e. tomatoes).

The room is warm. Everything is delicious. While ruminating on the fairness of pooled tipping thus leading into tales of excellent servers from the past, namely Dakota Lil who carried a six-shooter on her apron, my grandparents described themselves as "not gourmet eaters". The truth is, at the heart, neither am I. Give me soda, a sandwich and chips, then pizza for dinner and as long as the company is strong, say, over that green table cloth, I am as happy as a girl can be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

possibly my favorite entry thus far and one hard to beat. don't get me wrong, i've loved them all. this one i take to heart :)