Thursday, October 29, 2009

Parental Guidance

As I continue to delve further into the world of cooking, I have been seeking to create family history through food. I want to find out more about what the specialties of my grandparents and their parents were. I grew up among some outstanding cooks so I know the stories are out there so I plan to research my family's life in food. I have found old recipes of my Mom's and have spoken with Aunt Bonnie and other relatives about gathering old recipes and possibly creating a family cookbook. The extended family has given me overwhelmingly positive feedback. My own parents are a different story.

My mother and father's ages are 85 and 89, respectively. They still live in their small but cozy home in St. Marys, WV. My father has grown alarmingly more frail in the past few years and my mother suffers from Alzheimer's disease. My Mom has no recollection of her abilities as a cook. I have extremely fond memories of her baking amazing warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies. She was fantastic at coming home from a meal elsewhere and soon display her uncanny ability to duplicate it. If I ask her about it now though, she doesn't remember and sometimes becomes combative about the subject.

My dad was a cook on a ship in the Navy during World War II. The man can make chili and hot dog sauce that won raves from his fellow Navy boys and continued to earn him kudos through the years from Men's Fellowship picnics at church to his own family. Dad is not only a great cook but oh my, can the man eat! Even today in his fragile state he can put away a bigger, badder plate of food than I ever could and believe me, I'm no slouch.

I asked Dad recently for his takes on hot dog sauce as well as his awesome potato soup. He very carefully told me his methods of preparation while working them out in his head. Mom made this very difficult as she argued with every statement he made. Her disease causes her to be increasingly difficult but my Dad just lets it pass and loves her just the same. I managed to write down all of his instructions in the end.

When I return home on Nov. 12, I will be telling my Dad he can no longer drive as he is a danger to himself and others and will take the keys away from him. I will be telling a former Navy man who worked dangerous jobs in construction and raised three children and walked up frozen hills in winter to deliver food baskets to families in need that he is no longer competent to drive. I know it's for his welfare but it still feels disrespectful.

I want to learn to be a fine cook like my Dad. I want to cook his specialties to help me always feel close to him. If that also helps me become even half the man he is, I could not ask for more.

Click on the title of this post for a music video of Rufus Wainright singing his take on the Beatles song "Across the Universe". It was the song I was listening to when I wrote this post and I wanted to capture the moment, so to speak.


Kristy said...

Greg, not only was your mother a fabulous cook but I have such fond memories of Sunday afternoons riding in the back of the truck, your dad at the wheel, taking us to mysterious destinations only to whip out a grill and some of those very hot dogs for a spur of the moment cookout. Catching crawfish and lightening bugs only to go the next weekend and set them free. Roasting our hot dogs to a glorious shade of charbroiled ebony, slathering them in sauce and wolfing them down. Always followed up by some sweet treat your mom had tucked in the cooler.

I understand your feelings with respect to your Dad and although I know it might not make your task any easier, please remember that I am right across the alley from them and will see to it that they get wherever they need to go. I will see you on the 12th. Safe travels my friend. I love ya.

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