This is the story behind some banged up measuring spoons and dusty spice bottles, and why I refuse to replace them with something new and trendy. Pictures of the real persons at the bottom.
I hope you enjoy.
Spice Meets Spoon: A Love Story Across the Ages
“I bet you twenty bucks you can’t get a date with that girl. The blonde in the red bathing suit,” said the sailor to his friend, Lee. The year was 1944, and the sailors were disembarking from their ship in the Panama Canal Zone during World War II.
“Oh yeah? Well, that’s the girl I’m going to marry,” my grandfather Lee, said. And then, he did.
This was absolutely astounding.
Not because this flippant remark would lead to a passionate love that transcended the death of my grandfather, many years later, but because the spirited Grace Wilson of red bathing suit fame had already been engaged 6 times… to 6 different men.
My grandmother Gracie, with her effervescent laugh, love of martinis and dancing, and her free-thinking ways, was not the sort to let you call her Grammy or Nana or Mammoo.
This was a woman who wrote pages upon pages of poetry both sweet and sad, who sketched exquisite illustrations without a second thought, who went on to raise seven children with that sailor who bet so wisely.
A neighbor once chastised Gracie that her dress was transparent in the sun. This was a woman who smiled and retorted,
“So, they’ll know my legs meet in the middle.”
This was a woman who, despite being an alarmingly devout Catholic, adored men and once greeted myself and a then-boyfriend by shouting down the hallway of the assisted living facility, “HOT DAMN, YOU BROUGHT ME A MAN!”
Her language could be salty, but her love was rich and thick. She adored men, but she only loved Lee.
The fiery Gracie loved the Illinois-born Lee so much she begrudgingly traded her exotic home of mango and papaya for a foreign land of pantyhose and casseroles. The pantyhose never quite felt comfortable, and she ruined just about every meal she ever tried to make, not just the casseroles.
And that sailor Lee? Lee loved her anyway.
He loved her when she got caught drawing faux pantyhose lines down the backs of her legs in eyeliner, and he loved her when their seven artistic children repainted the walls of their home. He loved her so much, he ate her abominable cooking for forty-odd years, and believe me, it really was that bad.
While I still cringe at the remembrance of lasagna served up both mysteriously charred and simultaneously frozen, my father still reels at the memory of Gracie pouring tomato juice into her pasta sauce, and my mother regales neighbors with descriptions of butter, ketchup, and bologna sandwiches.
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Fortunately, the way to Lee’s heart was not through his stomach, and theirs was a love not built in the kitchen. It was a love built through laughter and tears, forged through feast and famine.
Lee passed well before his time, and Gracie never dated again, though she lived to be 92. She would savor and share the memories of their love over and over, serving up these tender, remembered snippets of time like the most delectable of dishes.
These are the recipes passed down through my family.
Gracie’s battered and scarred measuring spoons, her co-conspirators in oven-defying-lasagna and vegetable juice pasta sauces, recently came to me, along with a crate of glass soda bottles that once belonged to Lee. I keep spices in them now.
When I lightly tap those glass bottles, measuring out fragrant spices into those scored spoons, I hear Gracie’s laughter and know that heaven, for Gracie and Lee, is a martini and dancing in the sky and a decadent three-course meal… prepared by somebody else.
And that makes these unremarkable antiques absolutely priceless.
...and damn the pantyhose.
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