April 29, 2013

Italian Comfort Food and My Grandma

Meatballs, sauce, bread and shaved Parmesan.

Living so far away from family means that you sometimes miss the big stuff - birthdays, new babies, graduations, weddings and funerals. And sometimes you know that you just have to be there.

I spent a good amount of time with my grandma when I was visiting my family in February. She got sick shortly after I left, and after several weeks in and out of the hospital, she passed away on April 15 at the age of 96.
It was a huge shock.
As poorly as she was, I think we all expected her to bounce back, don her blue apron and head back into her kitchen. We all thought we would have more time to spend with her.

At first I debated going to her funeral. A last minute ticket meant that the cost was astronomical and due to a work commitment that I couldn't get out of, it would take me about as long to travel to Spokane as I would actually be able to spend in Spokane.
I went anyway. I knew I would regret it if I didn't.

It was a whirlwind weekend full of tears and laughter and hugs and family I haven't seen in years. And on the day of my departure, my dad got up extra early and started cooking in her honor. He spent several hours that morning making meatballs and marinara sauce, using her recipes. After indulging in a few for breakfast, dipped in sauce and enjoyed with little shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano, I left for the airport with a drippy, well wrapped sandwich stuffed full of garlic and parsley studded meatballs and smothered in sauce.
I sat in the airport in Minneapolis on one of my layovers and thought of her, all I had learned from her and all that she meant to our family, while I savored every single bite.

I know it would have made her smile.

Grandma


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27 comments:

Caroline said...

My grandfather died the first year I was in France, and I couldn't make it back for the funeral... I've regretted terribly. But what is so lovely is that you were just back in February, and got to spend time with her. And now I want meatballs for dinner !

Veronica said...

What a lovely smile! And every time you make those meatballs and sauce, she will live in you. It's a comforting thought.

Ann Mah said...

She was beautiful, Jen. And I know she must have been so proud of you. xo

Sharon said...

She looks as though she was great fun , isn't it often food that brings back memories of loved ones?

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

A beautiful tribute .. and bless your dad for getting up early to cook in her honour :-)

Patricia Conover said...

Una vita ben vissuta!

Your grandmother's beauty and intelligence is written all over her lovely face...How proud she must have been of you, her adventurous grand-daughter!

Your tribute is expressed with so much love and exquisite sympathy...it brought both smiles and tears.

Wishing you well as you move forward in life, carrying your grandmother's treasured legacy in your heart.

Anne said...

So pleased you managed to make the trip Jen. I have missed a few farewells to family members and besides the guilt of not being there..I think it helps for that "closure".

Rambling Tart said...

She is so beautiful - her smile just glows!! I'm so sorry for the pain and loss you must feel, and wish you peace and comfort. I'm so glad you were able to be with your family and build such beautiful memories with them.

martina said...

Jen, my sympathies to you and your family. Grandmas are just THE BEST! I miss mine every day and feel blessed to have been her grand daughter.

Navigating Northward said...

Sorry for your loss. She looks lovely! You will miss her.

*cho said...

Your grandmother was beautiful! Your memories of your time together and food will always be precious. God bless her.

H.Peter said...


Heaven has become a better place to dine at.

Susan said...

First, I'm sorry for your loss. Grandmas are especially dear. I still miss mine these 20 years later.

I'm so glad you went, even with all the circumstances and cost, these are the choices you never regret.

I love the comment above ... about heaven being a better place to dine ... beautiful!

croquecamille said...

So sorry to hear about your loss. But her legacy lives on in the best way possible - delicious, lovingly cooked food always brings a smile.

The Beaver said...

Loulou

Sorry for your loss. My condolences and it must be comforting that you spent some good time with her not too long ago.

What a beautiful smile.

btw: don't the airlines have special fares in such circumstances ( I believe that you must show a death certificate or a proof of some sort)

prestose said...

She will always be with you. There'll be times when you'll hear her voice in your head making you miss her all that much more.

Anonymous said...

what a wonderful thing you did ,your Grandmother would have been very proud of you.

I have the reverse problem I am a french woman living in the States, and have missed a lot of family celebrations, but it is what it is....

Love to read your blog

Annie v.

Dvora said...

This is a lovely tribute to your grandmother.

Kathy-O said...

My condolences, but what a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. Coincidentally, I just got back from the funeral of a family friend who was like an uncle to me. It's never easy, but you will never regret making the trip back.

Jennifer- The Adventuresome Kitchen said...

My sincerest condolences. My grandmothers were immense forces in my life and their passings were incredibly difficult for me.I'm in Paris right now researching a book that I plan on dedicating to one of them. I'm so glad you were able to attend her funeral. I wouldn't have missed my grandmothers' for the world. She looked like a lovely lady, and how nice you got such a great sandwich to take home with you. So funny you're from Spokane- that's where my first boyfriend was from. Went to Mead. It's a great town! My thoughts are with you this week.= Jennifer

Emm said...

So glad you got to make the trip back, you'll be glad of it later. You are so lucky to have had her for so long, and to have her wonderful legacy of love and food and joy. And what a beautiful grandmother. If any of us looks half that good as we age, we'll be doing well.

caroline said...

What a gorgeous photo - Her face portrays a very happy and fulfilled life!

Michel said...

A beautiful post and tribute to your grandma. She was a very beautiful lady. That was really sweet of your dad to get up and cook in her memory before you left.

Bradford said...

A simple and touching tribute to your wonderful grand-mère. And a reminder that the sharing of lovingly prepared food is one of those universal acts that reinforces the family.

My own mother kept this act going for most of her life. We lost her last September.

Loulou in France said...

Thank you all for your lovely comments! She was a very special woman and I was lucky to have had her as my grandmother!

jweich said...

Today I found your blog for the first time. Your Grandmother looks like someone I wish I had known!

Also, on a lighter note, your Dad and I have the same granite in our kitchen!

I will continue to read your posts -- I am really enjoying them.

Julia Weich

La Torontoise said...

Loulou, my warmest condolences!
May your heart and soul find peace and comfort. Your posting is very touching.
I also remember your touching note about your French teacher...