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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Saturday In The Kitchen With Big Mar

Okay, so once or twice a year, I gather mass quantities of fresh vegetables, olives, pickles and tinned tuna, and head over to Big Mar's house to can our Northern Italian family's version of antipasto. Unlike more traditional fare, there are no lunch meats or cheeses, just the above ingredients in a tomato base that is a magical treat to the taste buds.

my beloved Big Mar: kitchen warrior

and now she's had enough of my
interwebs nonsense

The chopping and par-cooking and canning takes all goddamn day, but seeing the rows of jars stacked neatly on the shelf leaves me with a sense of satisfaction, not only for the yummy snack we'll devour throughout the winter months on the days I don't feel like cooking (read: nearly every damn day because I'm a LAZY SHIT), but also for the satisfaction of keeping this tradition alive another generation.

Besides the obvious consumable end-game, my favorite thing about this long-ass process is I get to spend quality one-on-one time with the woman who brought me aboard this roller coaster we call life. She may be 93, but she is full of élan.


i may not have inherited her elegance,
but i like to think i have her irreverence down pat

In spite of her physical trials, her spirit remains light, buoyant and a wee bit bawdy. She's an absolute joy to be around. Warm and welcoming, she thrives in social settings. Her big, full heart and infinite kindness envelopes everyone in her path. (Except for Uncle Fred who was a right-royal mean mother-scratcher asshole, but that's a story for another time.) There is literally ALWAYS room at her table for another place setting.

And fuck YEAH, can she cook. Unbelievable.

Big Mar is a shining example of how to enjoy the time one has on this spinning orb. She looks that bad boy in the face and says, "bring it, MoFo!"

And Holy CATS is she smart!! A voracious reader, she keeps up with ALL current events local, national or global. She puts me to shame. Had she been born in my generation, she could have been anything she wanted to be. And what she wanted to be was a Chemist. Sadly, her accident of birth placed her in a generation and financial circumstance that kept her goal out of reach. And yet, she is not the least bit bitter.

Nope. Not. One. Bit.

Instead, she chooses to focus on that which brings her happiness, namely her family, her friends and Steve Harvey. I am not even kidding about that last one. She LOOOOOVES Steve Harvey. That little fact cracks me the hell up. My sister, Toni and I aspire to be her when we grow up. We should be so lucky. She kicks ass at this living thang.

                   She bought this for Geo, because, C'MON! Even at 93, fart machines are fucking funny!

But I digress...

So, Saturday I go over to her homestead for Canning-Fest and find her in the kitchen, mixing up fruit cakes, a CD of 40s music cranked to 11, doing her little old lady shuffle dance, and singing like a boss.

Throughout the afternoon while we waited for the veggies to cook, she told me stories of my Dad's antics including the one in which he fleeced four grand from fellow soldiers on the boat home from the war. He later blew it all on a bus trip across the country to see his brother in San Diego. A trip which included a couple days dalliance with a little filly he met in Indiana.

soldier boy

This all happened before they met. He had seen horrible things during his three years abroad. I get that all he wanted was to distance himself from the war with a little comfort from the embrace of the open road, a bottle of whiskey and a random, healthy female. It's so crazy to think of your parents as 20-somethings, adrift and acting like, well … 20-somethings.

Big Mar's musical heartthrob 

lighten the eyes to blue, add a little scruff and a mole…

At one point we put Jack Jones on the player, and I wrapped my arms around her shrunken little frame while we danced to her favorite song. Jack is totally her Rhett Miller. She likes to tease me about my obsession with the blue-eyed lovely one, but guess what?

I said... GUESS WHAT?

(this is where you say, WHAT, muthafucka?)

I FINALLY got her to admit that SHE would have followed Mr. Jones around the country, too if she had the chance.


I know my time with my beloved Big Mar is limited, although not so limited that she can't buy green bananas, if you get my drift. There's still a lot of life left in her, but it's more tangibly finite with each passing year. I know someday her Energizer Bunny battery is just going to wear out, which makes these afternoons all the more precious. I'll take days like this as long as I can.

And who knows, maybe one day when my 5'8" frame has shrunken with age and my hearing is diminished, I'll be in my kitchen, elbow-deep in antipasto, Rhett Miller and Old 97's cranked to 11, singing and dancing with my niece, telling scandalous stories and passing on this tradition to the next generation just like my Mum.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I LOVE THIS STORY!!! And much love to you and Big Mar! I hope your family's Thanksgiving is a great celebration of togetherness and food!!! - Yoko -