LIVING A DELICIOUS LIFE!
My Grandmother and Grandfather –immigrants both – inspired my reverence for Nature and Creation. More by action but by word as well, they showed me how the Natural World and its earth, air, fire and water gift us with everything we could possibly need to survive and even thrive! In fact, they used Nature – the rejected dandelion, the stunning rose with its piercing thorns, the porcupine’s protective maneuvers, the ever so reliable sun and moon – to teach me how to see beyond the exterior of anyone and anything and into the place where love and longing often live. And, of course, they grew their own food, from seed to harvest, and taught me how to express deep gratitude for the bounty that surrounded us, even when cupboards were bare.
Morning after morning I would find my grandmother sowing, raking, staking or pruning in the garden. Or grinding grain. Maybe stewing tomatoes, canning horseradish or preserving dandelion jelly. Perhaps making her own pasta, fertilizer, cleaning supplies, cheese or blankets. I remained fascinated by the ways in which she completely changed one thing into something else. That, I remembered from school, was the definition of chemistry!
And evening after evening, PapPap and I, hand in hand, walked around the yard listing things we loved. “Mighty Mouse,” I would shout with glee! “ A purring cat,” he would say, his eyes beaming. And then, one after another:
“Building snow forts!” “Waking up!”
“The Flintstones!” “Laughing ‘til you can’t stop!”
“Going to the zoo with you, PapPap!” “Making sure everyone has enough to eat!”
“Helping Nanny find four-leaf clovers!” “Nanny’s big smile!”
“Eating ice cream!” “Eating ice cream with cherries, Joey!”
“Eating ice cream with cherries and chocolate!” “Eating ice cream with cherries and chocolate and whipped cream!”
“Watching you shave, PapPap!” “Watching you do your arithmetic, Joey!”
“My Winnie-the-Pooh books!” “Listening to my transistor radio!”
“You, PapPap!” “You, Joey!”
We’d go back and forth, back and forth, laughing all the way until breathlessness. And like clockwork, as we made our way to the door, PapPap would say: “Ah, Sweet Boy, Life is delicious. Go out there and live a delicious life!"
In my Grandfather’s eyes and in my Grandmother’s smile, I could plainly see that every ounce of love they felt was truly meant for me. They introduced me to a world where life was an adventure. They taught me that the choice was mine to make. Adventure or nightmare? “You choose,” they’d say!
As a little boy, they taught me to believe, not in the “magic” of a man pulling a rabbit from his hat, but in the MAGIC of Santa Claus and Captain Kangaroo and Mighty Mouse and Winnie the Pooh and Mrs. Cleaver (Leave It to Beaver) and Mr. French (Family Affair) and Mrs. McGrew (My 3rd Grade Teacher) for they were kind – and kindness simply enchanted me. All these years later, I still believe in MAGIC.
A week before he died, my Grandfather said: “Joey, when I am no longer with you, I want you to know that I will always live in your heart. Or anywhere else that you’ll have me.”
From him, I learned that food comes in many forms: A grandfather holding his grandson’s hand. A heartfelt “Good Morning.” Smiling, even when you don’t feel like it. Living with an empathic heart. Beginning and ending each day with “Thank you.” And providing extra care for those less fortunate. That man has lived in my heart from the moment I met him.
A few days before my Grandmother died, we reminisced about the people who sat at her table, week after week, over the years: Nooshun, the Algonquin Spiritual Teacher. Aunt Clara, the comic. Hats, the homeless man. Evelyn, born without arms or legs. My Pap, once a violin player in Perry Como’s orchestra who lost his arm in a car accident. Mrs. Abernathy, the senator’s wife who took naps between servings. Tundi, a Holocaust survivor. Vivienne, our cousin with Savant Syndrome. Mr. Greene, owner of a chain of department stores. Mrs. Ahmadi, our Muslim neighbor. Sister Mary Bernard. Rabbi Goldhart. Ivie, our African American next-door neighbor. Henrietta, Miss America 1935. Pepe and Bebe, our Mexican neighbors up the street. Truckers, mill workers, the milkman, cowboys, the lead singer of a rock and roll band, a same gender couple, the beauticians across the street and so many more, including Nanny, though she rarely sat at her table when company was present!
I couldn’t help but ask why she had so many people at our house. Nanny simply said: “Everybody wants to know they belong somewhere. Why couldn’t that ‘somewhere’ be here?”
As I work daily at My Grandmother’s Table making pierogies, pot pies, scones or muffins, I can’t help but feel their presence. Just as my Grandmother marinated every morsel of food with love and just as my Grandfather infused every encounter with joy, we strive to do the same at My Grandmother’s Table. And that's why Nick, our owner, Chef Ron, Chef Arden, Anthony, Lake, Pamela, Sofia, Ginger, Peaches and I say: “Everyone is welcome at My Grandmother's Table. We look forward to seeing and serving you!”
MY GRANDMOTHER'S TABLE
115 Bridge Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
THIS WEEK Our Kitchen will be open THURSDAY through MONDAY for Breakfast until 2:00 PM.
PICTURED: Making Pierogi. Making Kielbasa. Serving a Polish Meal!