If you are a regular to my endeavors you should have noticed a reasonably significant change in the quantity and diversity of my latest writings. Yes, things have been going on. Just before Christmas of 2013, I had just graduated with some degree I was told came with a piece of paper. Shit, 3 months later and I think they may have reconsidered.
Just before the holidays began last year, my father (91) took, what all of the family thought to be nothing, a small spill. Turns out weeks later developed into a pulmonary embolism. That, combined with his previous 3 open-heart surgeries, had finally taken their course for the big guy. My father passed away just a few days ago.
You see, my father was an older-day culinarian. Why do I say that. Older days . . . , if I may call it that, didn’t recognize that word . . . culinarian. Yes, I’m sure it was a word, a life, a habit . . . whatever; but, was “culinarian” as universally recognized as it is today?
My father, whom I share the same name . . . , yes, I’m a Jr., also shared many things. First, I now have immediate possession of everything with his name on it. Do you know how much shit that is? Half of it, is not discernible without his “D.D.S.” or something like that to identify it as being specifically his. So now I have all of these engraved pens, placards and awards from just about every conceivable place of volunteer or history that his life brought forward. His legacy rests with me. I too, have his name. I too share similar passions about food. My father helped me create and perfect my signature “Sea Monster Ceviche”. He would like textures and extreme flavors. He would pick out the raw (now cooked from the citrus) garlic and the Serrano slices. He would back away from some stuff with his characteristic “uuah . . . huh . . . huh”, indicating that bite was a bit hot . . . or? Then he’d go back in for another sample.
He used to love going to the beach to meet us every time we went . . . then the years started catching up to both Mom and he, . . . and he would still go . . . he and Mom would just leave earlier because of the cool air settling in along the beach sand. Often times he would hear that I had a campsite on the beach and he was there waiting for me to arrive. Dad loved being in the sun . . . the outdoors; but especially warming himself in the sun. If you knew my dad, you would have probably witnessed his afternoon nap on the patio, asleep in the sun. Dad!
My father found out we were making paella on the beach one day; and, . . . as in Dad’s spirit . . . was always at the campsite, stubbornly working his way into whatever we were cooking . . . and would reach in and grab a taste as he welcomed your hug. Raw, frozen or cooked . . . he would be the first to sneak tastes of everything. He was one of my biggest CritDicks. My dad used to eat and cook. I watched him over the years. I grabbed ideas, techniques and ingredients, . . . because he too, could not follow recipes. He too would grab ideas and techniques, but the ingredients always took a velocity of their own. Read my previous blog to learn more about velocity.
My dad chewed my ass, hugged me and kissed me as Italians do. He looked to me for car repair advice. He often times would help me work on the cars . . . but only after retirement. You see, he was a Dentist. He practiced for years and I was also his Guiney pig. Since I was the youngest, I always got to be the experiment of his latest oral rejuvenative equipment; whether it was the Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas) or the shockingly cauterizing machine. I was the one that was available. I was the kid that hung out in his office and played (broke) with all of the equipment. There are a lot of memories about my father. I remember him breaking his pinkie finger once while riding dirt bikes with us when my sibling brother and I were transitioning through that phase. That was the last time Dad did anything that could ruin his fingers . . . those were his livelihood as a Dentist.
I say he was a culinarian. I say that because he would eat everything. I don’t care if it’s an eyeball or a tail. . . earwax to toe jam . . . my dad was gnawing on it. He grew up old school, eating every part of the animal . . . because that’s what they did, or their families did to get through depressions and wars. Speaking of which; he too was a veteran. Another WWII vet and Korean War vet has been piped over the side. My father served in both the Navy and the Air Force. It wasn’t until just a few short years ago, he was convinced by me to sign up for benefits from the Veteran’s Administration (VA). I had tried for years, but that wasn’t in his plan . . . so it threw him off. Dad was stubborn like that . . .
Dad’s final days were tough for him. He was very active with his mind and body. When he fell ill, I witnessed his frustration with being unable to not do what he used to. I have said recently, “the most pain he was in, was when he was not in pain”. Meaning, the various hard times he had with his recent health, were mostly masked by the various narcotics that were being used to keep him comfortable. When he was alert and not being sedated, was when that frustration came out and he would again writhe in pain . . . mentally. Luckily, his time confined to a bed only lasted about 4 months.
Over the years my mom and dad had moved next door to me, then we moved slightly across town, then they moved to a smaller, more carefree facility. The food was always prepared and my father was officially out of the cooking business. He tasted all of my food as I attended culinary school, the good, the bad and the ugly. From Dad’s bed, he smiled when I told him I had finally graduated from school. While in bed watching the 2013 Super Bowl (played January 2014) he ate more of my Sea Monster Ceviche. The characteristic “uuah . . . huh . . . huh”, came out and he said, “enough”. He just didn’t enjoy food anymore. That frustrated him even greater. He would be able to smell things, but couldn’t taste them anymore. He gave up trying. It made him weaker . . . Well, I’ll never get to show him my graduation paper.
Dad is missed. He will long be missed by the countless people he has touched. They all say he was special . . . he was! Dad was Awesome!