'Tis the gift to be simple, Its a gift to be free,
Simple Gifts- Elder Joseph Brackett 1848
Happy Foodie Sunday my friends and Happy Fathers Day ……Two weeks ago on Memorial Day , my own father finally succumbed to a ripe old age of 93 and a horrific bout of pneumonia. I miss him terribly, but I do not miss the last 10 years of his life, a period of time where the complications of nursing home living began to shape his life and ours. They do not call this period of time “The long goodbye “ for nothing, for it truly is the longest goodbye that you’ll ever experience. That being said, the strangest thing has happened in my life. I have the feeling of being shot from a cannon , of relaxation that I didn’t know could exist anymore. My time is once again mine and so are my memories and as I look back over my life, I realized that it was my father as much as my mother who I need to thank for this ever passionate, totally consuming interest that I have always had in food and organic gardening!
My father taught me many things that I have found useful throughout my life. One of my earliest memories of my dad was a trip that we took to Seattle where every morning my mother would eat oysters but daddy and I would gorge ourselves on huge, warm , just baked oozy runny pieces of the local fresh blackberry pie. Now I don’t think anyone would find this unusual, but my mother (always the definition of appropriate!) was perturbed. It actually wasn’t the pie that she objected to, it was our choice of the dark chocolate ice cream that topped that pie. It was absolutely delicious, a combination of fruit and flower and earthy chocolate yumminess. I missed that taste for what seemed like centuries until 7 years ago when one of our wonderful local ice cream companies created a flavor called Black Raspberry Chip. Daddy and I were completely entranced. If you’ve never tried this combination, it is the essence of alchemy.
My father taught me many other good things, such as how to make May Wine when the Sweet Woodruff has flowered, what healthy soil smelled like (his gardens were always gorgeous!) , that cheese wasn’t ready to eat until it smelled like the bottom of my horses hooves and that Laphroaig was the only single malt that I’d ever find worth drinking. He loved fancy restaurants and continental service. I think that was one of the things that drew him to my mother because she’d been raised in family where white gloves and polished silver were the standards, unlike his family where his father ate the same thing every day of his life (broiled lamb chops and melba toast with mint jelly) because my grandmother was an absolutely terrible cook.
My mother was an exceptional cook as were her mother and grandmother before her. My father was crazy about that grandmother to the point of really irritating his own wife. Who could blame him? I’m to understand that her floating island pudding was the stuff of gossamer dreams and her leg of lamb stuffed with garlic and rubbedwith curry and mustard is a recipe that I use to this day as well as the stuffed peppers that I make in her enormous stock pot…a pot that’s been well seasoned for over a hundred years.
Daddy ate sweetbreads and tripe and truffles and all kinds of things that would make the normal man run panicked towards the nearest barbecue, coincidentally a type of cooking that he gave up over 40 years ago when he read that charcoal grilling produced fumes which were carcinogenic. He did live to a ripe old age, ate red meat meat like a hound, fromage like a Frenchman, enjoyed steak and kidney pie with plenty of ale and never had one day in his life except when he was hospitalized without some form of sugar, most always something chocolate.
The day that he died I found myself with one more memory from long ago, quite a precious one. On a trip over 40 years ago through the English countryside, we left my mother reading her Gourmet in the hotel while we went off in search of my father’s afternoon sugar fix . The streets were cobblestone and my father held my hand the entire time as I skipped down the twisting lanes. We found a bakery full of warmth , sugar and chocolate. We bought two lacey burnt sugar covered cookie cones that were filled with chocolate ganache (way before it was even popular to know what that was let alone how to spell it!) and covered with sweetened dark chocolate. Hand in hand we walked slowly back, quietly munching and just enjoying the soft sounds and luscious smells of the British countryside. Just me and my dad and chocolate….. this little girls Holy Trinity.
Godspeed daddy…if there’s great food in heaven I’m sure that you’ve found it. Kiss mom for me and by the way thanks…my gardens are gorgeous this year and my vegetables are abundant even with the lack of rain. I could swear that I see you in them everyday pruning and watering with an ice cream cone in your other hand and your dog by your side. Happy fathers day…I love you....Thank you for all the simple gifts.
This was originally printed on Fathers Day in my favorite perfume blog Perfume Smellin Things!