My grandmother was a really good cook. It’s been a very long time since I've eaten anything she cooked – she had to give up cooking long before she died as her mind went before her body. And her body went about 10 years ago so…yeah…it’s been awhile. It was the food of my childhood. Spaghetti. She made spaghetti sauce that was unlike any I have had since. It was not very tomatoey. That’s mainly what I remember. But it was good. And her servings were enormous. My grandfather insisted on baked beans and brown bread every Saturday (he was a Mainiac…also, he was from Maine.) But the baked beans couldn't come from a can – they had to be soaked and…I dunno…whatever it is you do to beans to bake them and make them sweet and soft but not mushy. Every Saturday – so she was an expert. The only other things I remember would be that Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were fabulous and I got to do the wishbone thing with her and she always made sure that I got the side that would win the wish. Oh! And she would halve guavas and put cream cheese in the center and a piece of walnut on top. You’d get one on a small plate with a lettuce leaf under it – that’s how I remember it – and it was really good.
My grandmother purposely didn't teach my mother to cook. She kept her out of the kitchen entirely. She said “If you know how to cook, you’ll be the one stuck in the kitchen at every party while everyone else has fun.” My grandfather did a lot of entertaining. My grandmother did a lot of cooking. So I grew up eating lots of TV dinners and Stouffers Boil-in-a-Bag meals and, because of this, eating is generally perfunctory for me. I eat when I’m hungry. I eat whatever’s around. I cook whatever is easy. I am the opposite of a foodie. This makes me a very cheap date, by the way, if anyone’s interested.
Joe Grace, a Chicago Now blogger who writes Going for Gusto, asked us to write about what our last meal would be before the Mayan Apocalypse. I wasn't going to participate because I couldn't think of a favorite food or favorite restaurant or any of those things off the top of my head. But since it’s all conjecture anyway, since the world is most likely not ending in two days and I won’t actually be seeking out a last meal that would be readily available, I will indulge in a fantasy. I will tell you that if I could have any meal I wanted, it would be spaghetti cooked by my grandmother and served on her white Corelle Livingware with the little blue design along the edge on the vintage metal dining table (that was not at all vintage when she bought it) in the dining room of her little Florida house that could barely accommodate us but that somehow never felt overcrowded. And granddad would be at the head of the table and Gram would be to his right – the seat closest to the door of the kitchen since she was constantly up and down throughout every meal. And my parents would be there – alive and well - and my sister and my cousin and my aunt and uncle. And there would be laughter and shared memories and heated debate that I would tune out – or maybe I wouldn't now that I’m old enough to participate. Or maybe I would immediately fall back into my role as the littlest one at the table and I would just listen and eat and feel cozy and warm and full…and safe…and certain that it would always be exactly like this.
I’d almost endure a Mayan Apocalypse for that.
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