For me the answer is complicated because I am surrounded by a family that loves to get in the kitchen and have fun. We love food, show love with food and remember memories with our food. We remember our great-grandmother when we eat the food she made for her family. Chicken and polenta or green jello have become legendary in our holiday feasts, but so is the debate about who is making it right. I remember Grandma Newman when my house is engulfed with the smell of fresh Split Pea soup. I think of sitting at the table with my grandparents when I slice a grapefruit in half. These memories season my cooking and help me show my children where they can call home when we are no longer traveling all over the world with the Air Force.
Today I am working off of food memories and honoring my grandfather, Bob Pastorio. He was the one I called to talk about Professional Cooking. He was a mentor when I was in school. He was the person that made the principles hop off the page and make sense. I loved asking him questions and hearing anecdotes from his history. It was the way for us to bond and understand each other.
Grandpa was excellent at stories. We loved hearing about my mother’s first attempt at making breakfast with Crisco and Cornflakes, I think it might have been his infectious laugh while he told it that made the story so comforting. I loved hearing about feeding Bob the cat chocolate mousse under the table at the Massanutten house. I remember one summer I spent a couple of weeks with him and he was the first person to tell me about barbecue. I clearly can hear him say, “It’s just called a barbecue sandwich, that’s it. Not chicken barbecue or pork. Just barbecue.” Something so small blew my mind for some reason. Everytime I smell a fireplace I think of him and every time I have a pulled pork sandwich I think of him saying, “It’s just barbecue.” Weird. 🙂
I can recall grape juice feeling like a treat or Raspberry juice pops making my lips look like I had lipstick on. I remember sleeping on a bed under a neon sign and having the cat curl up on the bottom of the bed. Loved it. For the longest time I thought that grandpa was on Frugal Gourmet and when I saw a cookbook by Jeff Smith I giggled out loud a few months ago, then bought it! Sara and Mikey can both devour Miso Soup, something he loved.
When Grandpa got sick Dave and I were having a tense time. The Air Force had released him from the Navigator program and left him in limbo unsure he would be remaining in the Air Force. We had no back up plan. We got Peanut the dog on Valentine’s Day and I was working at Starbucks. Grandpa got sick and we raced up to Virginia as fast as a car can go with an oil leak requiring 4 quarts of oil every 300 miles. 🙂 We were towed to Tennessee to have an oil change and then showed up. I can now look back on the four months from Feb to May as a huge point in my life where everything was changing. He was my source of wisdom for food. At the point I needed him and felt his passing away was me loosing a person that understood me on some levels, when few at that point did. We didn’t know we would end up moving from Florida to California, already two months pregnant with Mikey completely unaware and still in the Air Force. Priorities had to change, we had to slow down, it was not just us. The one item that gave me comfort during all of this change was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I stayed with Grandpa when I was about Mikey’s age and I remember him teaching me to make a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich with a heart inside. This was the one item that I ate my entire pregnancy.
Today I taught Mikey how to make a simple Peanut butter and Grape Jelly Sandwich with a heart inside. Because there should always be love inside.
love you, grandpa.