Let’s Eat — A Writer’s Guide to Cooking

When it came to dessert, no one could compete with my grandfather. No matter how much he had eaten at mealtime, he always had room for a big piece of cake and a bowl of ice cream, or pie and ice cream, or cookies, or brownies. His appetite for sugary things stayed with him all his life, even into his nineties, even after a stroke. He liked sweets so much that he used to laugh like a kid when they appeared on the table. This is one reason my mother loved baking for him. For years, his birthday favorite was her chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and whipped cream between the layers. He didn’t demand it, but he expected it. And yet when my mother brought it to the table, he always seemed surprised — and he laughed.

During the Depression, Gramp used to buy honey in five-gallon buckets from a neighbor who was a beekeeper. According to my father, he also bought huge bags of old pastry from the bakery in town. This was in addition to the homemade candies he and my grandmother made from recipes they brought with them from the Old Country. One of these, called bastegh, known these days as “fruit leather,” was made of grape juice. My grandparents used a fifty-fifty blend of Muscat juice and Thompson juice. They used the same blend when they made rojig, which involved stringing walnut halves and dipping them again and again in hot, sweetened grape juice. With each dipping, another layer of the mixture was added, until the desired diameter of about an inch and a half was reached. These candies were stored, then eaten during the winter.

It’s interesting to note that the son of the beekeeper my grandfather bought honey from was also a beekeeper, and that his son, born in 1930, carried on the tradition. In fact, he was our honey source for many years until we moved to Oregon. At one point, he took care of 2,000 hives with no outside help. Thanks to him, we enjoyed pure sage honey, alfalfa honey, and orange honey. Eating orange honey was like taking a walk in an orange grove during full bloom. The flavor and aroma were overwhelming, like a powerful reminiscence capable of reducing one to tears.

It’s also interesting to note that Gramp’s hunger for sweets coincided with his personality. While he was as tough and hard-headed as he needed to be in order to survive, he couldn’t hide his tender heart. I remember working with him in the vineyard, along with my father and two brothers, and how when we least expected it, he would sneak up behind us and smash a grape against the back of our necks and laugh. I also remember his manner of greeting, and how it always included a kiss and a hug, whatever our age.

Gramp died at the age of ninety-three in 1990. It hurts to remember I will never see him again, and that neither will his great-grandchildren. And I feel the same way about my grandmother and my father, and my wife’s parents, and so many of the relatives who have gone on. It is a lot like a having a sweet tooth, except for this there is no cure.

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

Main Page
Author’s Note
A Listening Thing
Among the Living
No Time to Cut My Hair
One Hand Clapping
Songs and Letters
Collected Poems
Early Short Stories
Armenian Translations
Cosmopsis Print Editions
News and Reviews
Highly Recommended
Favorite Books & Authors
Useless Information
Flippantly Answered Questions
E-mail & Parting Thoughts

Top of Page
Current Entry
Old Eats