Monday, April 09, 2007

Grandma Food

Three seventy-something-year-old men break into a chorus of “Daddy’s Little Girl” as they cradle their vodka tonics in their hands reverently. In the pastel light of the retirement community-style living room, full of white-washed oak furniture and sea green carpet, the Master’s tournament glows on the television and murmurs in the background. A tan woman with squinty eyes and a brusque Long Island accent bastes a massive ham covered in dried fruit: apricots, pineapple, cherries, and – appropriately – prunes. The smell is almost as overwhelming as the rousing baritone coming from the trio; we are all laughing through our tears.

“Did you bring your Tupperware, Veronica?” Grandma asks. Our care package is already being planned, the remnants of the feast are already being packaged up in our minds eye, ready for the three-hour trip back to Tallahassee. There will be creamy peas and mushrooms, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, au gratin potatoes, slices of the massive ham, and an incredible sweet potato pie with golden raisins and spicy ginger (“I’ve never made it before. I hope it’s good,” Grandma says furtively of the delectably transcendental and utterly perfect pie).

The dinner begins with the pouring of wine, of course. White Zinfandel for the older ladies, Merlot for the rest of us. After appetizers, none of us are willing to wait very long. Along with the customary chips and salsa and crudités, buttery crackers accompanied an unusual layering of cream cheese, cayenne pepper, apricot preserves, and sliced almonds. Unexpected, crunchy, creamy, sweet, and spicy. After that, our appetites are ready – we need Grandma Food.

We pass the bread around as the virtues of Jonathan Winters are extolled, John Travolta’s home is admired, and more wine is poured. We laugh, we pray for rain, we talk about Passover dinner, and the old times in New York. We pass the pie. We drink from our wine glasses with palm trees etched in the frosted glass. We talk about the Clintons, Obama, McCain, Edwards, and the Kennedys. We pontificate over Frangelico, Kahlua, and a three-layer sorbet bombe.

Grandma Food is always the same – comforting, homemade, unmarketable, and perfect. It always fits in the Tupperware. It always tastes the same when you heat it up. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter are all Grandma Food holidays. After the egg hunt, we all sit down in at the lace-covered table and pray that allergy season will be over soon. But it’s Florida, and there will always be pollen. And there will always be Grandma Food.

No comments: