My husband’s grandma died a few weeks ago. She escaped Germany in 1938 with a fur hat, a determination to survive, an ugly teapot, and money hidden in her vagina. True. In the interview my husband conducted with her and her husband (“Opie”), she recalled stashing “up zer, in ze woo-hoo”. She lived a long time, and amassed not only a large family but many, many tins of buttons, old bits of tinfoil, cat-eye glasses and spools of thread my daughter is using on her sewing machine. Despite being the size of a cupcake and the thickness of a windowpane, Nana loved to eat. She did not love to cook. Yet the two best items left us are her old German cookbooks and a tiny, well-loved skillet. The skillet is the perfect size for one or two fried eggs. Also for a brother to use as a paddle to whack his older brother’s butt for no reason. Also for the mom to take away and clean and re-season and use to make Brown Sugared Plums.
What we leave behind is probably not what we think we will. Maybe there’s a house or some money or love letters or records of family lost in concentration camps or thousands of goddamn buttons that spill out on the wooden floor. Or maybe it’s great-great-grandma’s cookbooks with actual handwritten recipes in script no one uses anymore but remind everyone of who came before us; tastes that will linger long after we are gone.
Have you ever seen less appealing food? I believe the directions translate into: boil the shit out of every potato you have. Now let your peas gather mold.
But Nana would have enjoyed this with some vanilla ice cream:
Brown Sugar Plums
1 plum for each person, split in half, stone removed
few drops vanilla
dark brown sugar
bit of butter for pan
Oven to 450. Place plums cut-side up in buttered small skillet. Dab plums with vanilla and sprinkle with dark brown sugar. Place in oven for 8-10 minutes until sugar is bubbling and fruit has begun to soften and brown. Remove from pan, lightly sprinkle lemon juice on top, and serve as is or with vanilla ice cream. Buttons on the side make a lovely tablescape.