Friday, January 15, 2016


That is NOT me in the communion dress!
Yes, it is true! Once as a teen I was 120 lbs, soaking wet. My metabolism was intense and I could eat anything I wanted and plenty of it. Then one day it all changed, I moved from Brooklyn to the sterility of the burbs.

Grandma Frances was of the opinion that I was too skinny, maybe the whole world was in her eyes. You had to eat to live, and you lived to eat. That she owned no recipe books, but did have every one of her recipes on file in her head was amazing. SHE WOULD ASK ME EVERY TIME SHE SAW ME: “AJOJO, A WHYA HUE SO SKINNY, ITZA NOGOOD!”

She was not one of those fancy cooks, she didn’t dice, she slaughtered. She didn’t cut, she butchered, all this to perfection: she placed nothing in a pot or pan; she threw it in. With the precision of Joe Namath she could hit the pan or pot from deep in her large kitchen, with grandchildren and children talking to her and in the way of her view with the stove, she was that good.

Her mantra was simple: “Mangia!” She repeatedly reminded me I was too skinny, I needed to eat: I had to sit down and eat. Once she put out a pepperoni and steak, with a chunk of cheese and a salad, to be washed down with Grandpa’s home made wine. As I bit into the steak she asked: “Eh, whatza matter, you no likea the pepperoni?” I guess I needed to eat everything at once!

If you arrived at her kitchen on a Sunday or anytime around noon or suppertime, she immediately went into cooking mode, and the doors automatically locked, you could only unlock the door after eating enough. Enough meant not what you could hold, but what Grandma thought you should hold, this was of course more than you could hold.

When Grandma visited she carried at least two shopping bags, filled with meat and cheeses of all kinds. There were salami and cut of meat fresh from her butcher, a gallon of grandpa’s homemade wine and a decree from the matriarch, “Mangi tutto!”

Her arrivals were met with reverence, since she had homemade wine, and maybe even homemade vinegar, the best I ever tasted.

On Thanksgiving Day, she made a turkey for her family, a small capon for herself (she hated turkey) homemade Italian sausage stuffing and of course the pasta and meat platter that preceded the turkey. To prepare for the meal you had to start a starvation on Monday, with soup only until Thursday afternoon, because boy, she could cook, and no one wanted to miss any of it. If the women in the family tried to put on an appearance of dignity, once they dug into the food, that dignity was shattered by the happy sounds of chomping and contentment.

Grandma would police the table, keeping mental track of who was eating and eating what. She insisted we all eat all of everything, because if you didn’t, you weren’t too old or tough to get a beating from her.

This month is her birthday, and she died at the age of 97 and had she taken better care of herself she would have been 122 years old today!



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