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A Brief Family 'Visit'

A Brief Family 'Visit'

Gaga's Kitchen. Worcester, 1954-2005.

By the time you read this, our new company, Henry Provisions, exists. Presently, Allie and Henry are off in California for a brief family visit in Oakland. And, I woke up here in the house beside the dog. Over some black coffee, I reviewed some incoming phone messages and approved our final draft for the new logo, now adorning this page (so I can only imagine)…

Today, Monday, is my “day off”…or rather, day at home. Looking out at this chilly, drizzly April morning, a thought occurred to me, a desire. I felt the need to go home, a home from my past. Because my grandfather and grandmother have long since passed away, they never knew that someday I would be married and have a son named Henry, and, that we would live here in West Hartford, just 61 miles from their house in Worcester. I decided to ignore this missed opportunity, this chance separated by time, era, space, preventing me from heading home today, and do it anyway.

First stop, their house: 33 Scenic Drive, a home my grandfather built with his good friend. Daringly modern in 1957, the house sits atop a hill in a very modest neighborhood on the outskirts of Worcester. The home was once surrounded by an adjacent wooded lot and some other growth that shielded the façade from the street. The big glass windows once peeked out above these treetops. There was a pool in the back, a private oasis. By contrast, the house looked tired today…worn out. The wooded lot has been cleared and a boat is ‘docked’ there now, on its trailer. The pool has been filled in. The surrounding trees have been cleared, or are sick and should be...time.

…But, next, I pulled my car into their driveway just to remember how it felt to come home, to arrive there at Gaga and Papa Si’s house. When I nosed the car up the steep pitch, and parked for a moment in front of the double garage door, everything came back… the smells of my grandmother’s kitchen. The dried mint, flat leaf parsley, chicken stock, fresh cracked pepper, roasted lamb, feta cheese, ground sumac berry…everything flooded. When we would arrive in Worcester as children, the smells from that kitchen filled the house just as they filled my heart today…and, welled in that place right behind your eyes where I think tears come from…

I headed to Ed Hyder’s Market on Pleasant Street. I have always loved shopping for ingredients, groceries, and flavors. As a child, Gaga always let me accompany her to Ed’s grocery store; Ed would help us gather French feta, olives, oils, spices, lentils, and freshly baked Syrian bread. Ed opened this treasure in 1975; and, Ed passed away last year.  Today, though, as if nothing had changed, I walked in for the first time since my childhood.  A young lady named Miriam helped bag my items after shopping their wonderful market. In response to hearing why I had just driven an hour-and-a-half to go grocery shopping, she introduced herself as Ed’s daughter.  She and I reconnected.  She was the young girl who would often be there when we had shopped so many years ago.  Lifelong friends, her dad and my Gaga aren’t around anymore…but, can you even imagine how they might feel if they knew that someday soon Miriam and I may collaborate on a pop-up dinner…can you even imagine?

Tonight’s dinner: a salad of cucumbers and tomatoes and olives and onion with what my wife has helped me to figure out is most likely my grandmother’s dressing recipe…(like many kitchen secrets, this remained a secret…never written down). Replete with French feta and other treasures from Ed’s market, tonight, in my house, I’m headed back to Worcester…to Gaga’s kitchen…to where all of this deliciousness comes from. Tonight, I’m going home.

Jacob for 'Henry Provisions'
22nd April, West Hartford.