Are you sure you're not french?
Feb. 5, 2010 11:46 am
Updated: Mar. 5, 2010 4:14 pm
Well guys, it's been a couple of days so I thought I'd hit you with another blog. There are many many stories to share, but right now I'd like to focus on one that I've always particularly enjoyed. You see, this is a story of love, scandal, and ratatouille.
It all started at a 1980 political rally right here in the nation's capitol. My father, a die hard democrat, had been invited to help support Dukakis in his failing presidential campaign. Little did he know that here he was to meet his soul mate and wife of 18 years; my mother.
My parents couldn't have been more different. He was of a solidly middle class family; eastern European Jews, emigrated during World War 2. She was a roman catholic, born in France, raised in an Africa, and spent so much time in Mexico that "Gringa" was her middle name. Her parents had settled in DC and she had just moved to be closer to them.
As they continued dating, it became clear that food was something of a disaster between the two. When he was introduced to her parents for the first time, they cooked him the best food in season. Unfortunately for the practicing jew, this happened to be a big, juicy lobster. When they attempted to eat out, more than once did they agree on "the chinese place at the corner of 18th st." And more than once did they manage to find themselves at two different restaurants.
After they got engaged, my father decided it was time to set things right. Dad was never famous for his cooking. He's the guy who walks into a grocery store looking for pasta, and if asked to specify, will ask quite earnestly "there's more than one kind?" However, he was madly in love and determined to impress. Snagging a second hand copy of The Joy of Cooking from a friend, he rolled up his sleeves and set to work preparing a dish he could bring to a pot luck my grandmother was hosting.
He made her favorite; good old fashioned ratatouille. It was perfect, and my grandmother raved about it the entire party. Mom couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised. It did, however, come as a shock the next day when she received a phone call from her mother, insisting she reveal where the dish had been bought. The more she was assured that it was cooking from scratch, not bought, the more persistent and annoyed she became. Fuming, she demanded to speak with my father. When it came into light that on top of it all, the recipe had come from an American cookbook and not a French one, all hell broke lose. She was convinced they were lying.
The following day, my father rushed over to her house, unannounced, grocery bags in hand. He gave no explanation, and none was needed. There, under her watchful gaze, he replicated the ratatouille as best he could. Whenever he would reach this point in his story, my dad would always smile at the thought of what his mother in law said after tasting the equally delicious replica: "Are you sure you're not French?"