Dear Grandma L:
It’s weird sometimes what we remember from childhood. I don’t know if you realized that some perfectly ordinary moments were the ones I’d recall. Things like the powdered packet of Lipton Noodle soup made for lunch. Things like watching cartoons on your 11 inch TV, perched on the foot of your bed.
No one has ever been able to make tomato sauce (oops, I mean ‘gravy’) the way you did. I’ve tried.
But today I’m making your pizza dough for dinner (pizza, not just the dough) and I have the recipe in your handwriting, but because I’ve got it memorized, I make it without looking, just the way you did.
As I kneaded it, I thought about how odd it is, that you died while I was in college, but you’re still feeding my family. One of the special-day meals we make is eggplant parmigiana, and although you didn’t give me your recipe, somehow mine tastes just like yours.
Or pizza, or casarella — those were yours. English muffin pizzas? Check. We don’t do the Lipton soup packets. But I use butter instead of margarine, and I do that because I associate butter with your house. You always got the Breakstone whipped butter and the Pepperidge Farm thin-sliced white bread.
And remember the lemon cakes? We’d show up at your house and some days you’d have a lemon cake cooling on the table. You never said “I made this for you,” but clearly it was for us because I don’t remember ever seeing you eat any.
Well, sometimes I’ll make a lemon cake for the kids. Just ‘cuz. And I haven’t figured out what you did to make it so lemony, but I’ll get it right someday.
There was that time you had me standing beside you, watching you knead dough, and you pulled off a softball-sized lump. You rolled it around smooth, then pinched up the end, and said to me, “What is this?” I said I didn’t know, and you said, “It’s a breast.” And I exclaimed, “Grandma!”
Somehow I’ve refrained from doing that to my own daughter. Well, so far. But she helps me knead. She watches me the way I watched you.
So here we are, a decade and a half after you died, and you’re still feeding my family. Kind-of. In twenty years, the Kiddos will probably be making things they learned from my parents, and they’ll remember.
Humans will always need to eat, and food is more than just nutrition. Food can also be a bridge through time.
Rest in peace, Grandma.