February 29, 2016
(updated April 21, 2021)
Does a meal every bring back fond memories for you? Remembering things like when you first ate it… how you came to love it, who made it for you and who you enjoyed it with? The smells, tastes, textures – you could close your eyes and it’s a little hint of time travel through your senses. Well, this meal didn’t just bring back memories for me… I specifically cooked it to remember.
A month ago, I had to say goodbye to someone very special to me. To one of the most important men in my life, someone I will always admire, smile when I think of and was lucky enough to have such a strong and loving connection with. This man was my Grandfather.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Thinking of him mostly. Fond memories that I’m so thankful for. One of the last last real sit-down breakfasts I had with him was funny. It was probably spring last year, a few months into us coming to terms with the diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer. I was working with him to optimize his diet. I was adamant about keeping him strong if he was to undergo chemo especially, and wanted to ensure he didn’t eat anything that could weaken him. So he was letting me introduce a lot of new foods and ingredients into his everyday.
My Grandmother loved to make him cream of wheat a lot… but I had them try my new concoction… cream of buckwheat. He very clearly didn’t like the taste at all initially, we added more cinnamon and coconut milk though, and it got better. We joked about it. He smiled and ate it all for me, he reassured me, “no no it’s good, mamita” – I was so proud of him for trying. For taking everything a group of women frantically trying to take care threw at him. For trying all the other “creams of buckwheats” I asked him to eat. And for always keeping his sense of humor, he had the most beautiful smile. In turn, I know he was so proud of me too. For prioritizing a healthy lifestyle and for being too stubborn to give up.
That breakfast memory isn’t what this post is for. This post is for a different breakfast memory that happened way before all of the recent heartache. When we were all naive to what was about to come.
It happened Christmas Eve morning a couple of years back. After I spent the night with my grandparents and sister, we spent most of the time laughing like we were kids staying over their house again for the summer.
We woke up and he knew exactly what I wanted… his coffee. He made it the best… didn’t matter the brand or machine he used, just that he made it. No New York City cafe can even compete.
Then came the fried eggs and sweet plantains (maduros). My favorite. The eggs over medium done to perfection with a side of lightly crisp and caramelized plantains that taste like candy.
This was the last dish my Grandfather made for me.
The food was perfect, the happy mood and laughter was perfect, the old random pjs they had laying around for me that I sat there eating it in– perfect.
The fact that I had that man in my life at all was perfect.
And here I sit, I made it myself this time, with him on my shoulder. Of course I can never recreate it exactly, and in knowing so, figured I may as well do it my way. So I made the plantains healthier in the oven vs. frying it…HAHA! I can hear him teasing me– he would be laughing and loving it.
While I’ve done a lot of crying lately, today I’m smiling, because I’m eating breakfast with my Grandfather.
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