Laura and Carmen are my grandmothers, and this blog is dedicated to them. Laura, my mother’s mother, was the party-hostess extraordinaire of St. Louis throughout most of the 1950s and ’60s, throwing lavish parties for all occasions. Her biggest fear in life was that there wouldn’t be enough food, but inevitably there were leftovers for months… all of which she stored in the freezer. She set her tables with china, fine linens and elegant silver; her set of Francis I had more than nine pieces per place setting, including a tined spoon designed specifically for eating ice cream sundaes. (Picture a very elegant spork.) A practical woman devoted to feeding her family, she once carried a frozen beef brisket and jar of gravy in her suitcase from St. Louis to San Francisco–along with eight pairs of shoes for a three-day visit.
Carmen, my father’s mother, never packed an entree cross-country and didn’t have nearly the shoe collection, but a fine cook she was. At the age of 85 and nearly blind, she once cooked me a Spanish paella from scratch with no recipe. She made two things better than anyone else: a stiff martini and a buttery chocolate cake. It was the same cake she had made my father for his birthdays when he was growing up in Venezuela and Santa Fe. She also baked bread weekly, bread so good that my father’s classmates competed for the privilege of driving him home from school, hoping they might get a crusty, steamy slice of a freshly-baked loaf. It was Carmen who taught my father to cook, and he who taught me.
This blog is inpired by my grandmothers, both of whom cooked, laughed, traveled and entertained well into their 70s and 80s. They imprinted upon me a unique zest for life for which I will be forever grateful.
June 22, 2009