My maternal grandpa is the most important person in my life. He and my grandmother raised me in elementary school while my parents worked full time and often went on long business trips. They visited twice weekly even when my mom started telecommuting and working part time, picking us up from school and going to every single school function K through 12. My grandparents even gave my brother and I the money for our college educations.
Now, I know everyone claims their grandfathers were the strongest, smartest, coolest person they knew, walking 5 miles uphill both ways in the snow to school every day.
No bullshit, my grandpa is the strongest, smartest, coolest person I know.
First, he was in the navy as an airplane mechanic, then he was a nuclear engineer(!) here in California, often traveling up the coast to northern California. To say he was good with electronics and other mechanical stuff would be an understatement.
An example of my grandfather's ingenuity that comes to mind is when my first car's starter died. My first car was a 1989 Volvo station wagon so ancient my parents bought it right after I was born and had 300,000 miles on the original engine by the time I took the wheel. It would refuse to start for no apparent reason. My brother and I were the fastest pair of jump starters I know, with efficiency rivaled only by NASCAR. It was so infamous at my high school it was referred to as "The Volvo," a single name moniker like Madonna or Sting. It was considered an honor to ride in it, to admire the lack of ceiling upholstery, the inability to get up to freeway speed without a mile head start and several hail Marys, or the judicious use of duct tape.
It was the perfect car for a high schooler. I couldn't speed if I wanted to, and the lack of air conditioning made my brother and I appreciate the finer things in life. But when it finally refused to even click over, we planned a small intimate funeral.
My grandfather had other ideas. He showed my brother how to hot wire it, bypassing the dead starter.
"Look see here, you just rub the wires together now and then it will be fine!"
Unlike most left-brained engineers, he was also amazingly creative too. He could make awesome cornbread, as well as fried green tomatoes and mouth watering hash browns. He grew tomatoes and peas and all sorts in his backyard, and would feed me pickles and radishes and fresh tomatoes every day in the summer.
|He was also very brave to marry a Japanese American at the time.|
"Your mom sure is a hard ass, almost as bad as her mother!"
Into his 70's, he would help with the horse shows. Amazingly strong, he could leap up onto a horse bareback without a fence or mounting block (something I could never do). He built two storage sheds on my parent's property, and in his 60's replaced all the carpet with wood flooring with my grandmother's help. No one could beat him in an arm wrestle, even in his retirement.
He is also very stoic. He once stepped on a nail, which punctured straight up through his foot and never said a thing. Like something straight out of a Hemingway book, he was strong and stoic and unbreakable.
Until he developed Parkinson's disease.
Usually diagnosed after 50, he didn't start showing symptoms until his 70s. Its been very hard on my family, not being able to stop it. It is a disease that you can slow, but you can't reverse or stop. He can no longer tinker or garden or cook or play pool. When I tell stories about my amazing grandfather to my boyfriend, he is sad he never got to know this amazing life force before he got sick. And it kills me that no matter how long my grandfather continues to live, he won't ever get better.
This post is a celebration of my grandfather and everything I love about him. One of the things he loves the most were pickles, and I definitely inherited that trait from him. He used to always have a huge jar of very nice deli pickles stored in the fridge, and if I was lucky he would spear one on a fork, fish it out of the briny depths, and hand it over to me. Another type of pickle he loves is pickled beet eggs, where pickled beets turn hard boiled eggs a beautiful fuchsia and impart a wonderful sour tang. Common as pub food (jeez I guess he did spend a lot of time in bars... pool, poker, and pickled eggs) they are delicious served in salads, made into showstopping deviled eggs, or simply popped into the mouth in between a round of beer or pool.
|the eggs and spices waiting for brine|
Grandpa's Pickled Beet Eggs
8 hardboiled eggs
1/2 can of sliced pickled beets with juice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tbs sugar
1/2 white onion, sliced into rings
1 cinnamon stick
You can use one quart jar or two pint jars. I used two pint jars. Peel the eggs and pack them into the jars. Break the cinnamon stick in half and divide the two halves and the cloves evenly among the two jars, or place all in one big jar. Heat the rest of the ingredients over medium heat until it boils and the onions are softened. Divide the beets and onions among the two jars and ladle the liquid into both jars. Remove any large air bubbles, make sure nothing is poking out of the brine, and let cool to room temperature before refrigerating. These taste best after letting the eggs absorb the brine for about 2-3 days and will keep in the fridge for months. Unlike most canning recipes, this recipe can be easily doubled, and I encourage you to play around with the ingredients. For example, try brown sugar and apple cider vinegar for a wonderful variation, or try fiddling with the spices.
Watch out, because hard boiling some eggs, then heating up a mixture of vinegar, beets and onions might make your kitchen smell like a science experiment gone wrong. Don't worry, the smells mellow out in the finished product.
Habanero Gold Jelly
Chocolate Berry Jam