I spent a lot of time this week getting ready for the presentation I did last night for the Beyond Bubbie performance, at the 92Y Tribeca. It was a great night of intense stories about grandmothers and food, and I was honored to have shared the stage with David Sax (Save the Deli), Mo Rocca ("My Grandmother’s Ravioli"),Carla Hall ("The Chew"), Joan Nathan (a New York Times contributor and cookbook author), Jake Dell (of Katz’s Deli), Alan Richman (a GQ food correspondent), Judy Batalion, and Cantor Shira Ginsburg (of Bubby's Kitchen.)
My grandmother was someone who became a widow at a somewhat young age, in her late forties (the age, as I put it last night, that women these days are just first starting to think about becoming mothers). She died when I was just out of high school, and I didn’t remember much about her, other than that she found it hard to cook for one person. I didn’t know what that meant when she told me that—I was just a kid back then, after all—but I came to realize, in talking to my brothers and sisters and mother about what they remembered about her, that she was lonely, and she could have used a good meal, some good company, and a good conversation, along with, perhaps, a good cry, and certainly a good laugh.
I wish I could have given that to her. The best I can do is do that for my wife, my girls, my family, and my friends. Cooking is about so much more than just the food. It’s about the meal, the company, and the good times and bad times. Food is not just the fuel of love, it’s the fuel of conversation, communication, and intimacy. Give yourself the luxury of sitting around the table for a while. You don’t have to make anything fancy. You just have to be there, and listen.
Of course, it helps if you make something like a pot of gumbo and a loaf of fresh cornbread, which is what I did the other night for a little dinner party. And I served a bottle of Bodegas Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon Reserva, from 2006. The bottle was sent to me by a publicist, and I’m happy to say that it was quite tasty. It had a rich feel and a balanced depth that belied its low, circa $15 price. But don’t take my word for it, take the Wine Guys word. Here’s their little video about the bottle.