My assignment in class last week was to write a personal food essay and immediately I knew there was only one story for me write. It’s been a few years since this epiphany of sorts happened, but it’s just as fresh as ever in my mind. Writing this was pretty tough; I found myself tearing up just explaining the story to friends. It may have taken me a few days to put finger to key but in the end I am happy with result.
This is for my grandpa, who gave me my pretty blue eyes. xo
The Thanksgiving of 2006 can only be remembered for one thing…biscuit-gate. Just days after I had declared my intention of attending culinary school I attempted to make buttermilk sage biscuits from scratch to
serve as at our Thanksgiving meal and in doing so made my family seriously question my aspirations of being a Chef. I did absolutely nothing to help my culinary cause in serving up a platter of dense hockey puck-like flour and baking soda mounds that after cooking resembled exactly what they had looked like before they went in. So in 2007 I made it my mission to redeem myself and show them that the past year I had spent at The French Culinary Institute had transformed me into the 26-year old equivalent of Julia Child.
So the next year, in 2007, with weeks to go before graduation and days before Thanksgiving I called my beloved 89-year-old grandfather (who is now 92) and inquired as to what he wanted me to make. This
guy is nothing but consistent in his daily meal of half and half and Special K for breakfast, a Stouffers microwaveable meal of some sort for lunch, and his regular meal at the few restaurants he frequented which included the neighborhood bistro, home kitchen and country club. The Mahoney’s have never
been picky in regards to meal time or snacking but grandpa Al’s preferences are always accommodated and put first. So when he asked for me to make cod fish, that is what I would make.
His presence in a room is obvious even though he is quiet and reserved. He is the kind of man who rarely speaks, but when he does you know you should be listening. In my 27 years of life I have never heard him
say,” I love you,” even though I know he does. His conservative and emotion-less demeanor isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I think he adopted it because being the sole male in a family full of strong-willed and opinionated
girls required it. He is the voice of reason and is the man I compare all of my would-be suitors to. Finding someone like him in this day and age is nearly impossible; they simply don’t make men like they used to anymore (right grandma?).
Thanksgiving is the only time we all get together and is by far my favorite holiday; the Mahoney house is filled with a ragtag bunch of close family friends and orphans who don’t go home for the holiday and so much
food and alcohol that we should be ashamed of ourselves. But the night before (Wednesday) was just the immediate family minus my sister Mallory who hadn’t arrived home yet. The anxiety in the air was blatant as my family hovered over the kitchen island watching my every move like a pack of vultures on a freshly killed antelope in the African plains, well everyone except my grandfather who quietly sat at the table sipping on his much-loved scotch. As I stood painstakingly chopping every mushroom and prepping each plate I heard whispers of my culinary demise and a question of whether the country club was still open for dinner or not. As my stress levels peaked I had to remind myself that not only was I currently at the top of my class but I could bang out tasty plates in my sleep back at school.
The oven timer rang and my family headed to their seats as I carefully plated the baked cod en papillote I had prepared. With a snip of scissors I pierced the top of the parchment where the cod lay wrapped allowing the steam to flow out and flavorful aroma to engulf their faces. As each person surveyed the meal in front of them, I heard quiet exhalations of excitement and glee. In an instant I had become the family chef! As the plates cleared and enthusiasm for my moment of redemption subsided, my grandpa spoke what were probably his first words of the evening…”McKenzie, that was the best fish I’ve ever had!” Well I’ll be damned, there was my I love you!