Sunday, November 2, 2008

Iron Chef: Dia de Los Muertos

Whenever people talk about their grandparents I get kind of jealous. The thing is...I never really knew mine. My maternal grandfather died before I was born. My maternal grandmother died when I was seven. My paternal grandfather died when I was thirteen. And my only surviving grandparent is somebody I'm still not sure I want to know. There are issues dealing with my father's childhood and the way she treats my sister. But this isn't about her.
fried seitan, greens, macaroni and cheeze
This is about Grandmommy Peoples and Granddaddy Henry. My mom tells the story of how I first met my grandmother when we were coming back into the states from England. I had an accent then, so my grandmother found me to be quite hilarious. The classic story I've heard again and again is how I looked at her and said "Can I have a biscuit?" Her response was, "Baby, breakfast has been over for a few hours."

There are two memories that I have of my grandmother. The first one happened when I was about five. My sister was still a baby and I was so used to imaginary friends that I loved having other people around. Sometimes I'd ask my mom to play with me, but she thought it was funny to make my Barbies curse and fight each other. This annoyed me. Yes, even as a five year old. When my grandmother came to visit for a week I asked her to play tea party with me. And she did. We sat at the top of the stairs drinking imaginary tea. And I don't know how I knew it, but I felt how happy it made her to be sitting there with me.

The next memory I have is seeing her in the hospital. We moved to Abilene, TX when I was seven because my mom knew her mother was sick. And I remember waiting and watching her die of cancer. It was the first funeral I attended where I had actually seen and talked to the person. It was my first realization of what death truly meant. I have vivid memories of sobbing uncontrollably on the way to the cemetary. So much so that my father and uncle were brought to tears.
kale with sauteed onions and red bell pepper
My granddaddy is a man I didn't know too well. I know that I met him on that same trip back into the country. My dad never really told me stories so I don't know much of who he was. There's this picture that sits in my parents living room of my granddaddy in uniform saluting. I like to think of him like that. What I do remember is that not one birthday or Christmas went by without a card from him. I vaguely remember talking to him on the phone a few times when I was younger. He died of complications from gangrene after undergoing multiple amputations. I don't think my dad has ever gotten over his death.

Both of my grandparents had these long, drawn out deaths. I don't wish it on anybody. When I go, I don't want it to be a slow burn. I want it to be quick and quiet. I suppose I'm digressing. This was a hard entry to write. I cried even as I was thinking about what to make. And I cried again as I conjured up these memories to type them here. The loss never goes away. It gets easier to deal with, but it doesn't cease to exist.
macaroni and cheeze
Today is about remembering who these people were. They were magnificent people and lover's of soul food. Now, soul food can be whatever you want it to be. For me, it's traditionally Black southern cuisine. I think soul food, as a general rule, must start from nothing. Soul food is about barely scraping by and turning your food into a healing salve. Old spirituals, oral traditions and soul food is what gave hope to my ancestors. So I dedicate this to them. And most of all to my grandmother and grandfather. I hope you're both tearing it up in the next plane of existence.

12 comments:

Jenn said...

Wow, what beautiful and complex memories. The soul food you created looks fantastic also, but I can hardly talk about the food. I'm tearing up...I too miss grandparents, and I'm down a parent.
Thanks for sharing the tea party story. It's nice to know that kind of unconditional love even if it's only a memory of a moment.

Jen said...

what a beautiful entry. both sets of my grandparents have passed on as well, and i came from such a disfunky white trash family where we were always fighting and never knew each other. i'll have to think of making a dish to remember them by. hamburger gravy n' biscuits?(((thinking))) oh, i know what i'll make....mayonaise cake. it's a chocolate cake made with mayo and it's super tangy and moist. i'm sure it can be easily veganized.

Destiny's Vegan Kitchen said...

Lovely. Your macaroni is a thing of beauty!

Amey said...

Such a poignant post, Mo. I love it. The food is lovely, but the thoughts and memories are especially lovely. I was lucky enough to know 3 of my grandparents, and yet I still feel the loss of the one I never met. Everyone says she was just so wonderful. I wonder what her favorite foods were? Thanks for sharing from the heart.

BellaTrixx said...

you inspire me, both with amazing culinary art and with words.

theveganfoodie said...

This was such a beautiful post. The food you created in memory of your grandparents is really nice and that's a very good thing you did in memory of them!

River said...

You have a beautiful way of putting your feelings down into words. This is a lovely post indeed!

erica said...

Lovely entry - you've really captured something intangible. I associate food memories with family too. sometimes so strongly, it's like they're in the kitchen with me, though they may be thousands of miles away or long since passed.

shellyfish said...

This is a really beautiful post, Mo. You brought tears to my eyes, especially that last paragraph. I miss my grandparents terribly and not a day goes by that I don't literally ache to hear their voices. I am thrilled when I can prepare foods that are inspired by those of my childhood, I feel it brings me closer to them.

Jenn said...

You have been tagged.

http://vegandance.blogspot.com/2008/11/ive-been-tagged.html

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprouts) said...

What a great blog you have here! I just now ran across it in a Google search for vegan devilled eggs... I saw your post below on those - they look pretty impressive!! Love the whole blog, I'll have to visit frequently...

twoveganboys said...

Wow. This meal looks delicious.