Thursday, June 4, 2009

Grandpa

One year ago today, my grandpa died. And while I thought I was over his passing, I'm guessing that I'm not.

My grandpa was my first real epicurean inspiration. He grew up at a time in our country's food history where there were no convenience products. Sure, people were self-canning their own produce, but there was no access to the vast quantity of processed foods we are buried under at today's supermarket. He used to talk fondly of the sheer quality and quantity of food that his mother used to make on a regular basis. Apparently to make ends meet, his mother took on borders and would cook meals family-style. Unfortunately, I only knew my great-grandmother as a very young child before I had a chance to develop any sense of a food palate, so I was never able to experience the awesome amount of cooking knowledge she must have possessed.

The memories I hold most dear regarding my grandpa always seemed to center around food. I remember being grateful in high school and college when he treated me to a good restaurant meal. Having no money at the time, I always vowed that someday I would return the favor. Finally, after graduating and landing that first job, I was thrilled for the first time to be able to treat him to a good meal.

My grandpa was a bit of a card and loved to interact with other people. This sometimes led to some embarrassment of myself, but in general, he was just a guy who loved to socialize. One particularly poignant moment is the first time I took him to the Baricelli Inn located in Cleveland. At the time, the Baricelli Inn was what one would consider "uppity", "snooty" if you will. We had ordered our meal, an appetizer, salad, and entree and a wonderful bottle of wine. About half-way through our first glass of wine, the waiter brought out the appetizers. I don't remember what we ordered, but it was decadent and delicious (as was the entire meal, actually).

Shortly thereafter, our persnickety waiter returned to check on the progress of our appetizer course. It was at this moment my grandpa gleefully exclaimed that it was "'Raat good!" and then proceeded to explain that he was from West Virgina and that was how they say it down there. Another time he responded that his meal was "Deee-wicious!", just like the little boy from the French's mustard commercial had done on the television. I would've been mortified had it not been so funny to see our waiter's reaction. I realized at that moment that my grandpa's outlook on life was the same whether he was sitting in a four star restaurant or the diner at the end of the block. From then on, his comments never bothered me anymore. (As a side note, the Baricelli Inn has since completely revamped it's menu and style and become much more accessible to a wider variety of customers.)

During the late 1990's in the midst of the Internet boon, I was fortunate enough to discover an upscale Mediterranean restaurant named Grappa's. Led by Chef Scot Jones (currently Executive Chef for The Vegiterranean in Akron), we would dine there about twice a month, the check always being picked up by me (those were some good years, consulting-wise). One of the servers there became our most requested server because of how well she took care of my grandfather and doted on him. After a number of months of visits, I finally had the chance to speak to her while my grandpa was in the restroom. I thanked her for the tremendous job she had always done taking care of us, especially taking the extra time I know she didn't have to talk with my grandpa. She simply looked at me and said, "You know, I have a grandpa, too. And that's how I'd want him to be treated if our roles were reversed." I shed a tear even now thinking about her kindness.

And although I didn't start my food blog until after his death, I would like to think that what I've done up to this point would make him happy. I share in his love of eating good food and engaging in good conversation. I've even discovered his love of Manhattans through my good friends at the Velvet Tango Room where they make a delicious Tango Manhattan. I wish I had discovered VTR a little earlier in my life when he was still around. As a cocktail drinker all his life, I think he would've appreciated the artistry and commitment that the entire staff has for an excellent cocktail.

So, while I can't bring you back, grandpa, I can raise my Tango Manhattan to your memory and spirit tomorrow night when I meet up with friends to help celebrate life, happiness, and a love for good food.

6 comments:

drumNchick said...

I second Grandpa's comment of a "Raat Good" job on this wonderful blog, Tom!

Kathy said...

Loved this blog! You probably know (or may not) I have written about my beloved Grandma on my blog several times. We just lost her this past October but I don't expect to get over losing her ever, and I suspect you won't get over losing your Grandpa either. Accepting, well that's something else entirely.

Thanks for sharing this part of you.

(As an aside, in the crazy days of my youth, my first apartment was on Random Rd, Cleveland... aka Little Italy. The Baricelli Inn is at the end of that street. I was always way too poor to go there though ha)

Amy said...

i heart you :)

lovely work, as always

DianeS said...

I heart you too.

When your Grandfather passed away I enjoyed hearing you recount the stories of your experiences having dinners out with him. I am glad that you have put those stories and your thoughts down on paper or blog as it were.

I am also glad that you got to have those experiences with him. I never met your Grandfather but there is no doubt in my mind that those dinners together meant just as much to him as they did to you. I can imagine how much he used to look forward your dinners together.

I wish that your Granddad was around to see your blog. I am sure he would be tickled by it. I also wish that you had had a chance to take him to VTR. We will say a toast for him tomorrow.

Becky said...

My wonderful son, I know how you are hurting as I am at losing my wonderful father one year ago June 4th. I know how much your Grandpa loved you and cherished each moment he had with you. My wish is that he were still here to enjoy life the way he did...but am so happy that you have inherited the traits that made Grandpa what he was...witty, smart, fun loving, and able to enjoy his food and the people around him. What a tribute to Grandpa for you to write about him on your blog! I love you...Mom

Tino said...

Thanks everyone for your kind words. I don't know if I've known what I wanted to say all along or the inspiration just came to me as I sat down to write this, but this was one of the few cases where the words just sort of flowed from my brain to the keyboard, already edited.

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