At the age of ninety my maternal grandmother had a minor stroke that left her without the sense of smell or taste. At that age she no longer cooked for herself, but instead had a lovely lady, a minister’s widow from New Brunswick, who lived in and handled that end of the program. For a renowned cook and closet foodie, this must have been a difficult pill to swallow. However, she was of the “if life hands you lemons, make lemonade” group so remained in our midst for another six years, and was fully aware she was there. Taste buds be damned, once a week, blizzard, tsunami or swarm of locusts, she satisfied her guilty pleasure and enjoyed a cheeseburger with the works and a large order of fries at a local hamburger establishment (her words).
An R.N. in her early years, and a mother of four in the middle of her life, she spent the later years of a very long life enjoying the fruit of her children’s loins. My grandfather departed this world thirty-one years prior to my grandmother’s last inhalation. As his legacy, he left the good life he had arranged for her should he be the first to exit. In truth, other than the loss of my grandfather, which was a huge loss, she enjoyed a pleasantly worry-free life, or as worry-free as life in general will allow you to do.
She was my second mother growing up, as we shared her home until my mother remarried when I was nine. With my grandfather already gone, our moving from Nova Scotia to California was a huge change for my grandmother, and certainly one for me. As I’ve written many times, I spent a good deal of time as a little girl in my grandmother’s kitchen watching her cook. These are some of my most cherished childhood memories.
Although probably 80% of our meals were prepared in that kitchen, she also enjoyed going out for a meal, and we did so quite often. Every night but Sunday we ate at the dining room table. Sunday nights it was supper in the upstairs family room. Supper was served on TV trays so my grandfather could watch I Love Lucy, which was his favorite show. Yes, prime time, and, yes again, I am putting on some miles by relating that fact. On his way back from his rounds at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax, he would often stop on Sunday’s and order out fish and chips. I can still smell them. They would arrive wrapped in newspaper that was slightly stained with spots of oil and vinegar. The fish, as I learned later, was halibut, cooked to perfection with a lightly browned crispy batter on the outside and tender filets when you bit through the surface. Somehow they cooked the fries so that they arrived home salty and crisp and not soggy with oil. Yum. It’s funny how tastes and smells can be stored in your memory bank and be retrieved later to be enjoyed once again. Excuse me, I’m salivating on my shirt.
In her mid-eighties, and failing somewhat, my grandmother made the difficult decision to sell our family home on the hill overlooking the Halifax harbor. Residing in the large house alone with her memories and family visits, the time had come to let it pass on to a new generation. It was sold, and a condo on the ninth floor of a high-rise on Spring Garden Road was purchased for her where she would remain until she joined my grandfather.
Two years after she’d relocated and on the downhill slope of her eighties, murmuring had begun throughout the clan that she shouldn’t be living alone. It was decided that for the time being my mother’s oldest sister would keep an eye on the situation from her condo two floors below. My grandmother, in truth, never really needed anyone to keep one or both eyes on her, but allowed those who loved her to do what they were wont to do anyhow for the good of the whole. This just prior to the addition of the widow to her household.
A doorman guarded the front door in the building, but from time to time was called away to deliver a package or help a tenant. On this particular day something of that nature had come up. My grandmother had taken her shower and was headed toward the kitchen to make lunch. As long as I can remember she kept my grandfather’s cane in a silver umbrella stand by the coat closet, and it was in it’s proper place that morning.
As she made her way down the hall she saw the figure of a young man reflected in the full length mirror. Despite the fact that she weighed under a hundred pounds if holding a ten pound baby, without hesitation she picked up my grandfather’s cane and ordered him to leave. When he came towards her instead, she asked him once again to get out and then began waving the cane over her head. As the story goes, she then charged this kid and delivered a number of good blows about his body before the terrified teen flung open the door, sprinted down nine flights of stairs, and was apprehended in the lobby on his way out. As it turned out he was wanted for several burglaries in the building. My grandmother got a commendation for her bravery which she always kept in the china cabinet on display. I, most probably, would have just puddled where I was standing.
My girlfriend served this recipe at her home one night and shared it. Can’t give you a background on it other than that I could eat avocados every day, and these twice a day. Sounds strange, tastes amazing.
Avocado Fries with Chipotle Lime Dip
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. lemon pepper
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled and sliced in 1/2″ wedges
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In medium skillet, heat 1 1/2″ oil to 375 degrees on deep fry thermometer.
Mix flour with 1/4 tsp. salt, lemon pepper, and garlic powder in a shallow dish. In two other shallow dishes put eggs in one and bread crumbs in the other.
Dip avocado wedges in flour mixture, shaking off excess, then in egg, and then in bread crumbs to coat. Set on plates in a single layer.
Fry a quarter of the wedges at a time until they turn a deep golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper. Serve with sauce.
Chipotle Lime Dip
2 cups sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chipotle pepper powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Whisk together all ingredients and refrigerate to marry flavors until ready to serve. Serve with lime slices as garnish.