As we all tried to figure out what we would contribute to the memorial service at the point when the minister (my brother-in-law, actually) would ask us to speak about my grandad and our memories of him, there was a bit of a stumbling block. There are plenty of stories that he told to us, and we have many more about spending time with him in his house in a small Midwestern town. Chief among these tales are ones about food, well, and great stories about my dad. Not all of them would be relevant to the larger audience, but they composed our picture of him.
See, he was of the "meat and two veg" generation, as my father put it. My dad recalled that was always the meal put on the table when he was growing up. He was also fond of salad, so they had that with mealtime, too. I remember going out with him to a French restaurant located near the White House when I was working in Washington, DC after graduating from college. He handed the menu (written in both English and French) back to me, asking me to pick something out to order for him. Despite the fact that he'd served overseas during World War II and had lived in DC for a period of time, his tastes still remained the same. Having multiple meat, poultry, seafood, and fish choices, especially in a foreign cuisine, was just a bit daunting for him and his palate.
When you went to stay with him, the meal was always pretty standard. I really didn't know how to tell him that the canned fruit cup that was often on offer at breakfast was something that had actually haunted me in elementary school. I had to fake it and just tell him that I would only eat the banana that was on the side. White bread was also a staple in his cabinet, as was luncheon meat, neither of which I eat willingly. Vegetables were basically limited to salad.
Dinner could be a steak, not often the greatest cut either, but something that he could have and feel like he'd indulged a bit. Another brother-in-law talks of watching him cook it in butter. I guess he felt like he needed to bring out more of the flavor in the meat that way. Then, there was dessert. This is really the area that sent all of us into fits of giggles and is something all of us could relate to from our visits to see him.
Remember elementary school when you were sometimes allowed to purchase the ice cream that came in those waxed paper cups? The ones that had the peel-off tops and came with a wooden paddle-type spoon packaged in paper? If you ever wondered where those went, somehow they stayed in the Midwest only to end up in my grandfather's freezer where they were offered to us after dinner. The vanilla tasted the same way as I'd remembered it, kind of pale and chemical-y (I was big fan, frankly, of the extremely-rare peppermint version.). We all joked that we should hunt those down and bring them to the memorial, but a. we talk more than we carry things out and b. we really did stop to think whether this would be appropriate.
So, in addition to all the other memories of my grandfather's generosity and support of all of my personal endeavors, although sadly he wasn't able to follow the development of this blog or my interest in pursuing more of a food-related career, I will always remember his dietary preferences, which were so much different and of another era than his East Coast-reared grandchildren. I hope that one day I have grandkids (or great-nieces and -nephews) whom I can leave with their own food memories of me and my time here, just as my grandfather did for me and my family.