Monday, March 11, 2013

Pasta Memories

I was making dinner tonight, chicken stuffed with ricotta and pasta, and I thought of my maternal grandfather. He passed away last May after Alzheimer's got the better of him.

I try not to think of those last couple of years and the times it was so much more apparent that he was slowly slipping away. I like to think of him and my memories of him. And we have memories, we spent a lot of time with him and for a long while, we, my siblings and I, were his only grandchildren.

When my parents got divorced and my mom had to start working, she decided to follow her dream of becoming a nurse, something my dad did not support, and she went back to school.

I was 14 when she started an RN program at a local hospital, and even though I was the 2nd mother in our house, I was still too young to stay home with my sister and brothers at night while my mom went to her classes. So, to keep us company, feed us dinner, and generally make sure we didn't kill each other or burn the house down, my grandfather or my great Aunt Iris (his sister) would take turns and come up to our house and give my mom some peace of mind while she got educated.

Most of the time Aunt Iris would take us out to dinner, or my mom would have something cooked before hand that just had to be heated up. But my grandfather didn't mind cooking. One of our favorites (and still is) is what we call Grandpa's chicken. It was a meal he learned to make from his 3rd wife, Kumiko, the most wonderful Japanese lady that died far too early from lung cancer when I was 12.

Granpa's chicken is a simple dish. Cut skinless, boneless chicken breasts up into cubes, brown in a wok with oil. Add Soy and Teriyaki sauces and maybe some broccoli. Let it cook for 10-15 minutes and then serve over rice. So good. So easy.

One of the nights that my grandfather was there, I decided it would be nice to make him dinner, since he was always doing it for us. I decided to make spaghetti. Couldn't be that hard, right?

I can make some mean mashed potatoes. And a pan of brownies. But pasta? Not my best.

My grandfather let me do my thing in the kitchen, most likely assuming I knew what I was doing.

I did not.

When I deemed the angel hair spaghetti al dente, I dumped it in the colander and got the rest of the meal together. I went back to put the spaghetti on the plates and when I dipped the noodle spoon into the bowl, expecting to pull a serving's worth of noodles up, the entire bowl of noodles came up. They were all stuck together. It was at this exact moment my grandfather walked into the kitchen to see how I was doing.

I will always remember the look on his face when he saw that glob of over cooked pasta. I will remember seeing the thought cross his mind of, "Great, now what am I going to feed these kids?"

That night we ate pizza for dinner.

Tonight, I when I dropped the handful of spaghetti into the boiling water, adding a dash of olive oil and some sea salt, I thought of Grandfather. And when I drained it in the colander and scooped each serving onto our dishes, not one noodle stuck together.

My brothers: Eric and Zach, Auntie Iris, and my Grandfather. This was taken Thanksgiving 2011.


Laura said...

How sweet! Now I want to make Grandpa's Chicken!

kerwin said...

So sweet. Grandpas are the best. My great grandmother lived next door to us and would always let me make cream cheese frosting with her. And she made the most amazing chocolate sheet cake. I have her to thank for my sweet tooth.