So my Dad, or Papa Bear, as I’ll call him from now on- he liked to reference our family as The Clan of The Cave Bear, after a novel in the 70s or 80s that I haven’t read but have heard of, and he being the Patriarch used to refer to himself as the The Head of The Clan of the Cave Bear. Anyway, Papa Bear wasn’t quite the cook that The Mom is. Yes, whatever he did in life he did with passion, flair and gusto but he was far from a gourmet chef.
However, there are a few culinary legacies he’s left me—1, the belief that it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, 2, the love of a good chicken or turkey club sandwich, 3, how to marinade a steak- trust me he put things into the marinade that Nigella would NEVER dream of, and 4, spaghetti with meat sauce (Bolognese). Not a recipe for spaghetti Bolognese but memories of him making it and us eating it together on the weekends- is a food memory that will always stay with me. I suppose part of the reason this is such a strong memory is that The Mom never makes spaghetti with meat sauce, ever- it was just never in the rotation at her house. But at Papa Bear’s- even the last time I saw him in Atlanta with my siblings and their families- spaghetti with meat sauce was always on the menu.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve been thinking about all the things that Papa Bear will miss and all the things that I’ll never get to do with him again. It’s a long list ranging from the mundane things like watch a Redskins game on TV to the more serious like dancing with him at my wedding, I didn’t think about the spaghetti until The Mom said that her boyfriend wanted spaghetti with spicy meat sauce for dinner tonight and that she was going to make it. Ever since, it’s like there’s been a tidal wave of sadness washing over me. Silly I know, because it’s just pasta, meat, onion, garlic and chili in a pot but somehow when Papa Bear used to make it, it was more. It was our special father –daughter time together. Part of the precious weekends that we shared, when Papa Bear would pick me up and we’d hang out. Some people would call it spending “quality time” together, but I think both of us were just happy to spend time together. And that’s what I’m going to miss most now that Papa Bear’s gone, not the walk down the aisle or the advice on buying my first house or even talking trash about the Redskins on the phone, I’ll miss just spending time with him. That’s it, just the time hanging out with him, and the time being his daughter and time on the phone, and time in the car and time just knowing he’s there. It’s the one thing, I’ll never have again.
So tonight, I’m going to make spaghetti with meat sauce—not quite the way Papa Bear would, but I’ll be thinking of him and wishing I could eat spaghetti with him just one more time.