Deb: Today, as is our habit, I was grocery shopping with my dad. Several times during our shop together he said, “You should write about this,” making a joke, of course, but kinda meaning it too. So....
Shopping with my dad.
My dad is 85-years-old. He likes to go shopping. When he was younger he was a gourmet chef. He would prepare wonderful meals for us all the time. I grew up enjoying baked Alaska flamed at the table. We had large profiterole trees at Christmas, filled with fresh cream, caramel dripping from its rounded branches. Beef Wellington adorned with pastry autumnal leaves would appear at a dinner party or Dad would cook an entire pig on a spit for a neighbour’s bbq. Gourmet Magazine was his bible. Dad actually guested on many local cooking shows.
Dad is in the chef's cap with my Uncle Don!
Dad is on the right. Our friend Murray is on the left looking on.
He does not love to cook anymore. Cooking, his lifetime hobby, is now a chore.
I can remember watching him sit with my baby brother on his lap while he read cookbooks to him, putting so much expression and passion into them, you would have thought he was reading Robert Munch or Huckleberry Finn.
Cooking, next to my Mom, has been his lifelong passion and hobby. So despite what a painful and empty chore it has become of late, old habits die hard, and when Dad is in the market he loves looking at the beautiful foods. My favourite moments are spent watching him stand at the meat counter and reminiscing. Actually bloody well reminiscing about meals gone by and cuts of beef my mother used to eat and now doesn’t!!! He loves to describe what he would do with a pork loin or a beef tenderloin and what the side dishes would be. And of course, no weekly shopping trip would be complete without our ritual of talking about the mustards and how they only come in squeeze bottles and how he sprayed the entire kitchen when he was trying to get mustard out of the squeezy bottle. He also falls into despair when considering the new liquid detergent! “Why? Why?” says my dad. And my favourite of all, uttered every five minutes is, “This store is starting to tick me off!” sprinkled with a few, “Boy, that’s gone up!” as he scans the prices. My dad can forgive anything except bad overpriced produce!
But he loves it. Loves the outing. Loves the connection to his old life. He may not want to cook it when he gets home, but he sure wants to step into the nucleus of it again. He wants to go back to a time when shopping and golf were his exquisite passions. The grocery store can take him there in an instant and he comes alive savoring every second. I swear to you, I watch him as we shop and I can only compare him to a retired athlete running onto the field again for another toss of the pigskin. The difference is, my dad is wondering how to turn the pigskin into a savoury appetizer. In his day he would get up on a Saturday and go to the St. Lawrence Market and he would know and chat with every vendor about their wares. He would choose his cheeses and meats and breads with loving care.
And he still is. He is doing it as much as he can. Every aisle we go down he says, “I need to find a nibble for your mother, something she might love to have.” Although it is a packaged bag of caramels or muffins, he is still putting the thought into it. He is still playing out that role. He is doing the best with his skills and, even if the menu is wieners and beans, he is still trying to impress my mother, still trying to make her happy. And when he cooks for her, she still tells him she loves it, wieners, beans and all.
Today when we wound our way to our parking spot, slowly but surely, Dad said, “My pants are falling down,” and damned if they weren’t. I hitched up the back of Dad’s pants as we pushed the cart to the car door. He laughed and said, “You should write about this.”
Barbara: I knew this was going to be a killer post, Deb, and it is. In every sense of the word: kills with its sentiment, with the nostalgia of something lost (or going), kills with the sheer and utter love. As many of you might know, I’m not around right now—off on holiday with my husband—and I haven’t had a chance to read all your amazing comments and thoughts and dreams. I am looking forward to a quiet moment when I get home to really savour them. But this post, Deb, took me to another place, both for the memories it evoked in my own experience, and for the tenacity and spirit with which you guys navigate this new world of “different”. Chef’s hat off to you and your dad.