Rest in Pink
I make my Grandma’s Potato Salad every year for Easter.
As a child I loved watching her peel potatoes. She used a KNIFE – not a peeler. A peeler wasted too much potato. Grandma was very into not wasting. “We didn’t waste nuthin’,” she would say, shaking her head and clicking her tongue at my peeler suggestion. Her parents left Czechoslovakia for Ohio to work in the coal mines. She was born in 1918 and remembered The Depression.
She made nutroll, or Slovak kolachi, which was my favorite thing on earth.
It took hours and cost her a fortune (“Nuts! Butter! You wouldn’t believe how much the A&P is charging for butter!”) but she made it. I liked to unroll my piece and eat it slowly, layer by layer. My Dad, already finished with his piece – or not – would distract me and then snatch my hard-earned gooey, butter/sugar-soaked center right off my plate and pop it in to his mouth. Just like that! Seeing me gutted and probably near tears every time, my Grandma would scold him and usher me off to the safety of the living room with another piece.
Grandma also made hrudka or Easter cheese.
This was a true delicacy because unlike the potato salad or nutroll she only made Easter cheese on Easter. It would hang drying in her basement just like – or probably even next to – her laundry. Her cheese was of the sweet variety, like solid custard. Imagine that — custard you can eat with your fingers. I made it one year for our Easter meal and only one other person liked it. She happened to be German. She and I ate a lot of cheese that day.
When Grandma was little she had a jar of buttons she shared with her sisters. She told me how she would place a small yellow button on top of a larger white button and pretend it was an egg. Grandma always had butter mints in her purse and a tissue up her sleeve. Once I smelled something spoiled in her refrigerator. A fastidious housekeeper, she was aghast and even offended by the accusation, but upon a brief investigation, there lay the culprit in the furthest corner of the vegetable tray – a rotted orange. She would recollect this story for several years, embarrassment turned into grandmotherly pride.
We played penny poker at the kitchen table. She drank instant coffee and was the only person I ever knew who used a butter dish. Her bathroom contained a treasure trove of golden tubes of pink lipstick, creamy pink bottles of Oil of Olay and sparkly cans of pink Aqua Net. She reused Q-tips by winding fresh pieces of cotton around the sticks, cotton probably squandered from her bottles of medication. “I don’t waste nuthin’!” She always smelled good.
Grandma, nearly 92, met Arlo when he was 4 months old. She held him for just a moment and then afraid I think of his wobbling and her weakness, she asked my uncle to take him away. I gave him a toy and laid him on the floor next to all of us and as Grandma gazed down upon my giggly baby she laughed and said, “I could just look at him all day.” That was the last time I saw her and it is a pleasing, happy memory.
We’ll be sending pink flowers to her service. She loved pink. Lipstick. Butter mints. Aqua Net. Easter. She always smelled good. Rest in pink, Grandma. I love you.