My Grandmother's Table

My Grandmother's Table My Grandmother's Table is a bakery, cafe & coffee bar in Charlevoix, Michigan that specializes in ar

LIVING A DELICIOUS LIFE!My Grandmother and Grandfather –immigrants both – inspired my reverence for Nature and Creation....


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!”


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!

BUTTER!Butter was my number one most hated food!  Butter – that time honored accessory to toast; that adornment to virtu...


Butter was my number one most hated food!

Butter – that time honored accessory to toast; that adornment to virtually everything from asparagus to zucchini; that stuff seemingly integral to all food groups for just about everyone but me.

Butter, according to my Uncle “Bright Eyes,” was an accidental discovery. It had to be! A sheep herder, he said, while herding sheep up a mountain, forgot that he had milk in his sheepskin sack. The sack, rocking back and forth with every step up the steep incline, turned the milk into butter. This fully delighted the sheep herder despite his wanting liquid, not goop, to quench his thirst.

I couldn’t break even break a smile. You see, throughout my childhood, butter tormented me. Just the smell of it repelled me. Often, even in the dead of winter, upon hearing, seeing or smelling butter sizzling in the kitchen, I, as if shot from a cannon, blasted out the door . . . and almost always dry-heaved.

I refused to eat anything, or even touch something, with the word “butter” in it. Peanut butter. Butter beans. Butterfingers. Buttercups. Butterscotch. Buttermilk. Buttercream. I read the ingredients on apple butter jars for years, always looking for butter’s synonyms. Cloves, perhaps? No, I bet it’s apple cider vinegar! Yes, it was that bad.

And people lied to me, too!
“No, Joey, there’s no butter in buttercream.”
“Really?! Okay!!!”

“So, Joey, butter, like bread, is the staff of life. If you don’t eat it, you’ll die.”
“Uh. Okay.”

“See, Sweetie, you love butternut squash. Butternut squash doesn’t grow in the ground. You listen to Aunt Connie now. It, um, it, well grows from butter. Actually, it was born from butter! See? You’ve been eating buttery butternut squash every time you come to my house and never even knew that butter was its mother! Yeah. Yeah!”
“Okay?” I didn’t believe any of them!

But the topper was this. I, on the evening before Thanksgiving, was attempting to memorize the Gettysburg Address for Mrs. Corleone’s 4th grade class. My sweet PapPap, in the living room, was reveling in an opera on the stereo. And Nanny, in the kitchen, was making apple pies. I paced between the two rooms.

“Four score and seven years ago (what’s a score) our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that – AAAGH!”

It wasn’t a scream, more like a screech, for I saw something that appeared to be a crime against nature. That, or Nanny was losing her mind. She, while humming along with Lawrence Welk, put pats of butter onto the unbaked and yet to be top-crusted apple pie!

“Nanny, what are you doing?!?”

She screamed (for real)! I apparently shocked her out of a blissful musing.

“Nanny, you’re putting butter in the pie! On the pie! What’s wrong? That just ain’t right?!”

Nanny had had enough.

“Joey, whether you want to know it or not, you have been eating butter pretty much since I put solid food in your mouth.”

I wanted her to lie to me. But that was not the case. Nanny was a straight shooter from the get-go.

“One morning, PapPap, you and me were sitting around the kitchen table eating breakfast. Soft eggs and buttered toast. You were about 18 months or so. And you kept reaching for my toast. And PapPap kept laughing and encouraging you to grab it. And throw it. At me! And you listened. You grabbed and threw. And I would make another. And he would tell you to grab and throw that one, too. Toast that morning was your toy and you had about ten of them spread all across the table! Butter on your fingers. Butter on your face. In your hair. Butter everywhere! And we couldn’t stop laughing, none of us. Even you. Howling, Joey, like hyenas! Tears streaming and everything! And then, out of nowhere, you threw up. Bang. Just like that. Like a geyser, honey. Toast and all. And ever since then, you’ve been acting like butter was the worst thing in this world.”
“But it is, Nanny.”
“Honey, enough.”
“But I don’t want butter in my pie. Or in anything!”
“You gotta march on from this, Joey! The parade’s not gonna wait for you.”
“I’m not marching nowhere! I hate butter!”
“It’s milk, Sweetheart. Milk. And you love milk.”
“Not anymore!”
“Well,” Nanny said. “That’s up to you.” She went back to preparing the pies.

“Um. Is there butter in apple butter?”
“Is there butter in butternut squash?”
“Is there butter in a buttercup?”
“Is there butter in buttercream?”
“Yes. And in mashed potatoes. On the turkey. In the stuffing. In the pie crust. In chocolate. And you like all of them. They’re your favorites.”
“Not anymore, Nanny! You just wait!”
“Well, let’s see if you say ‘no’ to all of these foods tomorrow.” And with that, she put the pies into the oven.

I did say “no” to some of them for a long, long time! Years later, as I approached the entrance to culinary school, I made a pact with myself: 1) That I would conquer my revulsion to butter once and for all; and 2) That I would not tell my chef instructors or classmates about such an aversion. It was time to, as my grandmother told me, to “march on.”

And march I did! I am happy to report that, since then, I have initiated and maintained a new relationship with butter. I have touched it without recoiling, smelled it without heaving, scooped it, shaved it, sliced it, and even talked to it.

I have made all-butter biscuits, butter-basted eggs, ravioli with sage and brown butter, all kinds of buttercream, butter cookies, butter cakes, butter tarts, butter pies (who knew?!), garlic butter, honey butter, even walnut cranberry butter, clarified butter, compound butter, not to mention croissants, brioche and butter-based fudge! Throughout all of this, I sensed my grandmother’s spirit, felt her embrace, and remembered the love that so sweetly glistened in her eyes.

And if, from another realm, Nanny could see me now, she would find me marching happily into that most special place she inspired – a place we call My Grandmother’s Table.

Here are photos of items that you might find there. Some with butter! It was a joy making every one of them!

115 Bridge Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720


Dinner Entrée Menu on its way!

AT SECOND GLANCEJozef Zebediah◘◘◘Mrs. Smith can’t stand me.  Won’t allow me in her yard.  Says I’m “clutterin’ up the en...

Jozef Zebediah
Mrs. Smith can’t stand me. Won’t allow me in her yard. Says I’m “clutterin’ up the entire neighborhood.” Mr. Jones, now, well he just about has a heart attack every time he spots one of us. Always concoctin’ a new plan to “ship us where we came from,” he says! And Miss Carter often remarks, upon sipping tea, that our “virtues will never be discovered for there are none!”

It gets downright abusive even: Cussin’ at us, pulling at this one, spitting on that one. Non-stop! Saying: We’re all the same: Just plopping ourselves down anywhere and bringing more with us each time.

Truth is, most feel the same way, to one degree or another except for the little children. How could there be so much disdain? What did we ever do?

At first glance, I may not be everybody’s idea of something precious, or beautiful even, especially if the standard is Miss America or an English Rose. But if you look more closely, maybe you’d see that I do count for something. That I do have a story to tell. We all do.

I and mine are survivors. We bloom where we’re planted. Where others fail, we thrive. It’s our history. Our legacy! We pave a way for many, just like first responders – toiling and tilling – creating a softer place, a more loving space, for things to take root. And we persevere, despite the climate. Undeterred by the environment you create. Just look at me. Yes, get a good one. I’m not like all the others. We’re all a bit different. You’ll see.

My beginning was less than humble. Probability of survival? Slighter than none. But I live neither by statistics nor snowball’s chance.

See, shunned and cursed and lonely as I once was, and born under nothin’ but a slab of concrete and dirt, I so wanted to live. Wanted to be a part of this great-big-fat-wondrous world! So I pushed and I prayed – day after day, dawn to dusk and back again, season upon season, year after year, until I saw the tiniest bit of light shining through a most seemingly insignificant crack, and I made my way – shoving, nudging, barreling, boring a hole – until I could feel the sun shining on me.

If I could have, I would have done a happy dance, just like Miss Simpson does after Mr. Johnson drops her off and steals a kiss but before she walks in the door past her sleepin’ Mama! But I did one in my own way. My happy dance!

That’s my story. I wanted to be here. I found a way to do it. And I belong. Just like you. And my children do, too. They’re about ready to go off on their own now. Summer’s gone, and all my babies will fly away, gently riding on the wind, not quite knowing where they’ll land. Oh, but with the seed of Divinity in them, they will grow, grow and develop, without trying even, as they blossom wherever they show up, and as they become more and more of who they were created to be. That’s life! That’s the real gift!

So what do you think? Will you take another look at me?

Yes. Yes, I am a dandelion. The kind you find in your yard every summer. But I’m not in the grass. No, No! At second glance, you’ll find me, standing tall, in the middle of your driveway. Or on your sidewalk.

Or maybe on that steppingstone just before your next dream.


Dandelions have been around for more than 30,000,000 years! Isn’t it about time we said, “Happy Birthday?!”

Even though dandelions are herbs, we see them as invasive weeds, and miss discovering their nutritional, medicinal and practical contributions. (You just might find some in our Native American Three Sisters Stew)! We also miss the beauty these vibrant yellow flowers bestow on Nature.

My Grandparents encouraged me to find lessons in Nature. Dandelions teach us to look beyond the surface of people, places and things and, in doing so, discover the beauty that may not be apparent, or even visible, at first glance. Dandelions have much to teach us about perseverance, usefulness and boldness – and I am grateful to have such reminders in my backyard! How about you?

Looking Forward to Seeing You at My Grandmother’s Table,
115 Bridge Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720


ENTRÉE MENU coming next week!

PICTURED: A Dandelion for Grandmother. Norwegian French Toast Casserole. NYC Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich. Polish Latkes.

The BEST SEAT in the HOUSEOn the Monday before Thanksgiving, Mrs. Khatari, our third-grade teacher, asked each of us to ...


On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Mrs. Khatari, our third-grade teacher, asked each of us to answer this question: What does love look like? We were to spend the entire week finding it, describing it and then writing about it. Our report was due the following Monday after Thanksgiving break.

MONDAY AFTER SCHOOL. From the moment Mrs. Khatari mentioned the topic, I sat stumped. Love, hmmmm. What does it look like? Maybe it’s red like a valentine. Then I remembered the game that we play at Cub Scouts: Twenty Questions! So I asked myself: Is love an animal, mineral or vegetable? I even laughed at that one when it crossed my mind!

TUESDAY MORNING BEFORE SCHOOL. I wondered if love was visible or invisible. If it’s visible, you can see it. Suddenly, for some reason, I thought of my Grandmother’s Sunday Sauce. I can smell it before I enter the kitchen. I can see it cooking on the stove with tiny bubbles on the surface. I can hear PapPap say “oooh” and “aaah” when he eats it. I can taste it when Nanny layers it on her lasagna. And I can feel it in my belly when I’m full. Is love visible like that? I fell back asleep wondering so.

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON. I asked PapPap to take me to the library because I had a question for Gladys, the lady at the desk. “Gladys, what does love look like?” She giggled, pinched my cheek and mentioned something about a boy with a bow and arrow. Clearly, Gladys didn’t know what love looked like! On top of that, I was feeling a bit anxious because I hadn’t really begun the written portion of the assignment. Heck, I hadn’t even gotten to the describing part yet!

THANKSGIVING MORNING. I woke up with a brilliant idea bouncing in my head! Nanny and PapPap were expecting 30-some people for dinner and I, with a tape recorder, pencil, and pad, was going to interview them. I felt like I had hit the jackpot – just like Nanny did when she won one hundred dollars at bingo!

THANKSGIVING AFTERNOON and EVENING. Aunt Clara wouldn’t stop eating long enough to speak. Nooshun Elu, the Algonquin Medicine Man, said all I had to do was see the world with my heart and the answer would follow. Sister Mary Robert told me to pray for the answer – and to throw salt over my left shoulder. And Pebbles, the Poodle, kept trying to dance on my leg . . . so I put the tape recorder away with a big wish for Friday.

FRIDAY MORNING. PapPap asked me what I had so far. All I could show was a blank piece of paper . . . and an embarrassed face. He said: “Joey, sometimes the answer is right in front of you. How many times have you heard Nanny say that she was looking for her glasses when they, in fact, were sitting on her head all along?!”

SATURDAY AFTERNOON. I asked Nanny for the answer. She said: “Remember Mugsy, your favorite stuffed animal? You tried to feed him every day. You tucked him in every night. You even wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking for more bananas for Mugsy. Just remember all of that and you will have your answer!” I remembered – but when it came to the report, my mind remained as blank as the paper.

SATURDAY NIGHT. After pleading and making promises I clearly couldn’t keep, my PapPap said that he couldn’t answer the question for me. He, instead, suggested that I simply see that blank piece of paper filled with thoughts that came from my heart. I visualized as best I could – so good that I fell asleep with my box of candy ci******es as a pillow.

SUNDAY MORNING. I woke up and felt as if I had already written my assignment! Was I dreaming?! I had to look even though I knew that the paper was still blank. However, with pencil in hand, I answered the question, words flowing more quickly than I could write them down.


What Does Love Look Like?

Love lives in my house. Love looks like my Grandmother and Grandfather. You can see love, but sometimes you can’t. But it is always there. Love lives in my grandmother’s hands when she kneads the dough, scales a fish, or stirs the pot of Sunday Sauce. Love lives in my Grandfather’s eyes when he says, “Good Morning,” pets our cats, or welcomes people into our home. Love lives everywhere even where it’s dark. Love is alive! It wants to flow from people’s hearts to their hands and into the world to help other people who may not know what love looks like. Or even where it lives. Love lives in my house. And I’m so happy that I get to look at love every day.


MONDAY. After each student read their answers aloud in class, Mrs. Khatari asked if I had “indeed written it or did [I] get help from someone else?” I told her the truth. Perhaps not believing me, she called my Grandparents. When I got home that day after playing football with my friends, my paper was taped to the refrigerator. Nanny’s eyes were wet. PapPap’s, too. There were no words – just a hug that seemed to go on forever with nobody letting go.

PapPap read that paper every day, always acting as if he were reading it for the first time. Even when the refrigerator stopped working, Nanny had it moved down to the basement, unplugged and empty, but with my paper intact. And, at no time since then have I asked myself: What does love look like? I never had to – not even once – for I had the best seat in the house.

Love still lives at My Grandmother’s Table. We look forward to seeing and serving you.

115 Bridge Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

KITCHEN OPEN This Week FRIDAY thru MONDAY. ENTRÉES Coming in September!

PICTURED: Loving Hands. Making Pierogi. Making Gnocchi. Making Sausage.

WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR . . .Nanny and PapPap packed me, six at the time, into the old Chrysler with Mugsy, my toy mon...


Nanny and PapPap packed me, six at the time, into the old Chrysler with Mugsy, my toy monkey, and said: “Get ready for a surprise!” I squealed with delight! I loved surprises!

But it was Sunday. A school night. I had no clue as to what the surprise could be. I wanted a hint.

“Nanny, is it too big to hold in my hands?”
“PapPap, can I eat it?”

No response. I kept asking! “Have I seen one before? Is it a toy? Can I take it to school? Will Mugsy like it?”

Their lips were locked! Soon, though, I heard the sounds of gravel crunching beneath the car. Oh, boy, oh, boy! We were pulling into the drive-in theatre, Nanny, PapPap and me. And I couldn’t wish for a better place to be.

I was simply on top of the world, nestled between the two people I loved most in this world. They kept the name of the movie a secret from me, too. Maybe the Flintstones! Or Huckleberry Finn! In truth, it didn’t matter. I would have been happy just living in that moment forever. PapPap attached the movie speaker to the window while Nanny unloaded her wicker picnic basket.

I loved picnics – indoors, outdoors, summertime, wintertime, day or night, in the car, on the grass, any place, anywhere. And Nanny’s picnic baskets were filled with everything you would expect to find at a park on a sunlit Sunday afternoon: grilled hotdogs and hamburgers, all individually wrapped in foil, potato salad, already divvied up into paper cups with lids, and pie, lots of apple pie and peach pie baked to perfection, all homemade, including the ice-cold lemonade awaiting us in my grandfather’s red thermos.

As we ate under the stars, that undeniable image of a white castle appeared on the silver screen – Cinderella’s castle – and we were going to watch Pinocchio!

Jiminy Cricket popped into view and sang a song about wishes. I loved that song! I seemed to know it by heart from the start. And he asked us: Do we believe in wishes?

“I do! I do!” Without a doubt I did! Wishes were one of the best things I knew about this world.

Once home, and for quite some time after, Nanny, PapPap and I talked a lot about Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket.

“Listen to your conscience!” they would say.
“Where do I find it?” I would ask. “Does it talk?”

A question like that often led to Pap putting me on his lap. And I always had a question for him! “Can I see it in the dark?” “Is it a color?” “Does everybody have one?” “Can you lose it?” “Does it ever go to sleep?” “Will it eat a banana?”

“Well,” Nanny would say, “You were born with one already in you.”
“And,” PapPap would explain, “It’s your job to be its friend.”

PapPap always had the perfect answer. “When you’re playing football in the yard with your friends, some of them tease Claudio because he shakes. Sometimes they laugh. But you don’t.”
Why, Joey?”
“Cause it’s wrong. Cause it hurts. And I don’t want Claudio to cry.”
“So what did you do when Bobby and Dino and Rondell were teasing Claudio?”
“I told them to stop.”
“I told them the game’s gonna be over if they keep it up.”
“Who told you to say that?”
“It came from somewhere,” he would say.
“Somewhere inside of you,” she would say.
And I, with a bit of a mischievous grin, would blurt: “I think Jiminy Cricket told me!”

PapPap would laugh. Nanny would shake her finger at me. And I would revel in the love I felt for and from them.

But that wasn’t the only thing about Jiminy Cricket that swirled in my little mind. His song stayed with me, too.

When you wish upon a star,
Makes no difference who you are;
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you.

Often, in the nighttime sky, I would look out my window wondering about those words. I sang them in my heart every day, on the way to school, even during my prayers at night. Sometimes silently, sometimes aloud. I knew them like I knew my name. And my secret wish was this: That Nanny and PapPap would live forever.

And they will. They do. That wish is still coming true . . . with every beat of my heart.


My Grandmother’s Table
115 Bridge Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720


BREAKFAST Served This Week: FRIDAY through MONDAY.


Pictured: Polish Kielbasa. Portuguese Rice Pudding. Persian Meat Pie.

LOVE Is Not LOVE Unless It Is Used“Love is not love unless it is used.  Love is not love unless you are living in it.  L...

LOVE Is Not LOVE Unless It Is Used

“Love is not love unless it is used. Love is not love unless you are living in it. Love is, and will always be, the greatest gift we can give or receive.” These were lessons I learned from the actions of my grandparents.

During my years at Columbia University studying psychology and psychoanalytic psychotherapy, I would often visit my Grandmother during breaks. Our conversations ran the gamut from world events to personal histories, from politics to the medicinal properties of dandelions, and to and from just about everything! During my first hospital-based internship, a number of our discussions centered around love. That she could love so easily, without conditions or expectations, left such an impression on me. I wanted to know how she did it. Loving, for her, was as easy as her current breath.

I was particularly interested in learning how love and loving would fit into my budding career as a developmental psychologist and clinical psychotherapist. Some professors believed that love must remain in one’s personal life and that it had no place in the professional arena. Others, perhaps a bit more philosophical or spiritual, thought that love and loving had a place but only secondarily so. So I wondered: How do I, like my grandparents, live from a loving place across all aspects of my life? Must I turn love off, like some suggested, when in a professional setting? And besides, I thought that love was the wellspring from which a number of actions arose: listening, respecting, accepting, understanding, empathizing, encouraging and so on. I wanted to do the “right” thing – but what was that?

This pondering deepened when I rotated to a pediatric ward in a New York City hospital. With respect to interactions with infants and toddlers, one professor encouraged physical touch; another forbade it. One supervisor referred to the patients by name; another used designations such as “252 Window” or “289 Pneumonia” during case conferences. I treasured wisdom across a number of academic domains – science, statistics, theories, books and teachers. But it was the wisdom of my grandparents that illuminated the way of my first case. The year was 1988.

I introduced myself to the very first patient assigned to me. Not a sound, let alone a word. Not a nod, let alone a smile. That was Veronica, 28-month-old baby abandoned in the emergency room and, after a weekend of being tossed about, placed on an overcrowded ward of bellowing babies and toddlers.

Veronica: a child with AIDS. Veronica: a patient that other doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers simply dismissed as “diseased,” “deadly,” and “one of those.” Veronica: a girl who sat staring into a place that was beyond my reach – the reach of an intern.

During this first decade of the AIDS crisis, people living with the disease were viewed as lepers. Veronica was no exception. Despite the fact that we were overworked and understaffed, every child in that pea green paint-chipped room was given at least a modicum of attention, be it a cradled feeding, a walk down the hall, even a game or two of “This Little Piggy” and “Where is Thumbkin?” But not Veronica.

Essentially, the staff gave up on her. “If she’s not gonna react, I don’t got the time to keep trying.” One nurse, who did make an attempt, waddled her way to Veronica’s crib dressed in multiple layers of protective gear from head to toe, including three face masks and five pairs of gloves. “Veronica?” No response. “Girl?” No response. Gone.

Why they had placed Veronica in a steel crib, I don’t know. The bars were so wide leaving no space through which to reach. You couldn’t touch or hug Veronica had you wanted to do so. Believe me, I tried – even though that was dissuaded.

Each and every day, before and after my time with patients on other floors, I would shuffle back to Veronica’s crib. And each and every day I sang, made faces, blew bubbles, told stories – virtually anything and everything that I knew to do. And nothing. Not a peep. Not a glance. Just a blank expression. But I refused to give up even though my strategies were depleting, and fast!

I even resorted to this. When no other professionals were around, I would pucker my lips in the form of a kiss. Was I desperate? You bet! I wanted to make a connection with this baby girl. I wanted her to know that she mattered. Weeks turned into months. And still nothing.

On this one frigid Wednesday, the eve of a major Nor’easter, I, like so many others, rushed to leave. Yet something stopped me. A voice. A quiet voice within simply whispered: “Veronica. Go.”

And I did. A number of patients had already been discharged leaving the hospital room near empty – but for this little girl with giant brunette curls and walnut-shaped eyes. I performed the same routine as I had so many times before. She just sat there, like a stone, one lying in a faraway place.

Looking out the window and feeling helpless, I thought of my grandparents – Nanny and PapPap – and the love they so freely showered upon me. And I knew what I had to do.

“Veronica. I hope you can hear me. Veronica, I want you to know something. Veronica, I love you. And you’re worth more than all of the love in this world.”

I just repeated over and over: “Veronica, I love you. I love you. I do.”

After a while, I said my usual “good-byes” and walked toward the door. As I was about to exit, I heard a sound. It startled me! A rattle? I was almost afraid to turn around. Yes, a rattle – and a hearty one, too!

Veronica was up on her feet. Shaking the bars. And I experienced a moment I will treasure forever. This little girl – this precious baby with AIDS, who seemed lost to any sense of consciousness of this world – puckered her lips. And as softly as a whisper, she made the sounds of a kiss. “Muah! Muah! Muah!”

Stunned, I walked over to her. She maneuvered her chubby little arms through the bars, as if to say, hold me. And I did. I found a way to lift her from the crib. I held her. Our eyes locked. And I simply told her how much she was loved.

I didn’t want to walk away. So I just rocked Veronica. Back and forth. Here and there. Across the room. Until she fell asleep in my arms.

That night, as a quiet snow blanketed the city on Thanksgiving Eve, Veronica died. I called my Grandmother and simply cried. For the Girl who, in her desire for love and nurturing, found abandonment and disease. For the Girl who patiently waited for someone to unlock the hope in her heart. And for my Grandmother and the Girl who, though miles apart, showed me in one swift moment, a moment etched forever in my soul, the healing power of love – a love that lights the way at My Grandmother’s Table.

115 Bridge Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720


PICTURED: A Painting of My Remembrance of Veronica. Polish Latkes or Potato Pancakes. New York City Eggs Benedict. Michigan Whole Grain Tomato Galette.



115 Bridge Street
Charlevoix, MI

Opening Hours

Monday 8am - 7pm
Tuesday 8am - 7pm
Wednesday 8am - 7pm
Thursday 8am - 7pm
Friday 8am - 7pm
Saturday 8am - 7pm
Sunday 8am - 7pm




Be the first to know and let us send you an email when My Grandmother's Table posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.




Joe & Nick Thanks again for running the 2 for dinner promotion.
It really made our day when you notified us that we had won one of the days. My wife Marie's Lentil tacos were outstanding & the Ravioli sausage was delicious.
Thanks again for another Great meal!
Tony Blake
My wife and I had a wonderful dinner tonight at My Grandmother's Table; I kid you not: When I was eating my Polish stuffed cabbage, I exclaimed to my wife, "This is jUST like my grandmother used to make!" and she replied, "Umm, that's why it's called My Grandmother's Table. She had the Vegan Chili. We highly recommend you check out their multi-national menu and order anything you see. We'll be back.
Great breakfast, friendly service and beautiful views from the outside patio.
The Italian meal for 4 courtesy of My Grandmother's Table was so very delicious....with Artisanal Pasta and Meatballs in a Vegetable-Packed Tomato Sauce, Dinner Rolls, and a Fruit-Topped Upside-Down Cake. It was amazing! It made it extra special celebrating our "Grand Mothers" on Mother's Day! Thank you so much for your generosity!
Thank you for the delicious Mother’s Day dinner you provided for our family! We thought it was really good and can’t wait to try more food from your business. Thank you again for your generosity!
THANK YOU to My Grandmother's Table for a wonderful meal!! Happy (grand)Mother's Day!!
I had breakfast at this cute brrakfast bistro. The pancakes were delicious. The place is pretty stunning with the mirro walls. The food and service sure will bring us back. My wife loves it, she stops and gets coffee 2 or 3 times a week just because she loves the ombeiance.
The food is delicious and very authentic. It was quite a different experience, but once we figured out the different kinds of polish food to choose from, it was outstanding.
Sorry to see this restaurant closed for the winter. Visited several times for breakfast and dinner and always was impressed with the unique spice blend and good nutrition. I thought the coffee was the best in Charlevoix. My husband and I look forward to the reopening in the spring. I know there are many people in Charlevoix who are supportive and want to see a new restaurant in the area. Also thank you for giving me an insider's view as a "grandmother" at the restaurant. I was treated so well by all you both and all the staff.
wow what a great compliment to an awesome town,the food,coffee and service was the best.Cant wait to go back
Is there a menu available on line? Do you accept call in orders?