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There is still a light that shines on me

I miss her fried chicken.
I miss her lasagna.
I miss her dessert inventions.


The fried chicken was brined overnight, battered by hand, and crisped in an ancient cast iron skillet greased with lard. I usually only got such a treat once a year as my birthday supper request. Mary spent the bulk of an afternoon working on it, flour spread about the kitchen, grease splatters near the stove. The results were ethereal: crispy, tasty outside, juicy, tender inside. Heaven.

The lasagna featured a sauce often made at least a day (or a few weeks) before, which gave it time to blossom into bountiful flavor. She made it ten pounds at a time, it seemed. It didn’t come out of the oven so much as it emerged, bubbling with ricotta and mozzarella goodness. When Kelly and I had kids, and when we decided to leave out grains and pasta from our kids’ diets, Mary reinvented the lasagna to include mandolin-thin sliced zucchini, which to our astonishment improved the recipe. She made Dad slice the zucchini.

Ronnie

On the legend of a man who had more stories than any single person could remember.


Ron Kraybill was there when the Yankees won the 1977 World Series in the sixth game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and after they won, he joined a mob of people who jumped over the outfield wall in celebration. When he made it to the field, Ronnie tore up a roll of sod from the outfield, and brought it back to New Jersey, where he planted it in my grandparents’ back yard.

There was the time at a different baseball game that a player was injured, and Ronnie’s instinctive response was to jump the wall (again) and help the man himself. He realized when he saw security chasing him that it was a bad decision. He was arrested.

Ronnie occasionally brushed up against the law, sometimes quite literally. There was the time that he was so distracted at a police check-point, what with trying to quickly summon his driver’s license and registration, that he inadvertently nudged his car against the officer.

Bourdain and Sunday Supper

IN MEMORIAM

Anthony Bourdain visits the Build Series to discuss “Raw Craft” at AOL HQ on November 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/WireImage)

Anthony Bourdain taught me to look deeper into what I eat, what it says about me, and how to find empathy at the dinner table.


AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post originally appeared on an earlier iteration of this blog and was published on June 3, 2012. Today (June 8, 2018), news broke that Anthony Bourdain was found dead in France of an apparent suicide. 

Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations has long been a favorite show of mine. It’s one of the few television series that has earned the “season pass” setting on my DVR, which means I’ve instructed the Great TV Wizard who lives in the satellite box below my wide screen to seek out every new episode he can find and bring it back for my own viewing pleasure. I love the Great TV Wizard.

All of that’s about to change, though. Bourdain, who has been the darling child of the Travel Channel since his show broke out in 2005, has been poached by (of all channels) CNN. Travel didn’t renew No Reservations. Anderson Cooper snagged him. Even good things come to an end.

What I have long appreciated about Bourdain’s show is his thesis statement that food is a cornerstone of humanity. I saw it in the very first episode I stumbled upon, in which Tony toured Jamaica. What we eat, how we eat it, where we eat it, and with whom we eat it speaks volumes about who we are.

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