An Italian Without Garlic

My grandfather is 90 years old and in pretty damn good health.  He came to New York from Italy when he was young, changed his name from Guiseppe to Joseph and lead a good life.  He still does.

He has lived in a retirement village in Florida for about 30 years, dates women much much younger than him, and until remarrying three years ago (to a woman about 5 years older than my dad), he used his oven for storage.  He ate out three meals a day.

Poppin, as we grandkids call him, eats butter and mayo on everything, sprinkles salt on every dish, and drinks Coke and coffee.  Until recently, he played golf almost every day.  He has back problems now, so is pretty much sidelined from most activity.  After his girlfriend of 15 years (who was only a few years older than my dad) died of a brain tumor about 12 years ago, I went to visit him.  I watched him and his buddies chase each other around the golf course on their golf carts!  He had a great life and even though he is in physical pain, the old man is a feisty old curmudgeon as my mom would call him!  (I’ll never forget the day my mom and dad got in an argument and my mom started taunting my dad by calling him Joe LaCascia, Joe LaCascia and the next thing I hear is my dad’s book whizzing through the air towards my mom- I have never laughed so hard in my life- don’t worry- he missed!)  I don’t know how many years he has left, but there is a lot of old age on that side of the family, so I am hoping my kids get to meet him before he travels on.

There is one strange thing about Poppin.  The Italian man can’t handle garlic.  It gives him a headache.  WTF?  How can an Italian not handle garlic?  That’s like a Frenchman not liking croissants, or a German not liking beer.  I’ve always found it ironic that he can’t handle the garlic, yet can stomach the acid from Coke and coffee!

I love garlic!  I make a mean white trash garlic bread (bread, butter and garlic salt- toast in toaster oven) and the garlicier the better.  I sometimes use too much garlic and am sucking down water the rest of the night.  I thought they used to hang Italians on fences to ward off vampires!  How can an Italian not handle garlic?

6 Responses to “An Italian Without Garlic”

  1. 1 John Erickson September 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Is he from Northern or Southern Italy? What Americans think of as “Italian food” is predominantly southern (and especially Sicilian) cuisine. Northern Italy uses a different spice palate (so I’m told – I have no idea what that means :D ) and uses FAR less red tomato paste/sauce/juice. There was a restaurant not far from my work in northern Illinois that emphasised its’ northern-based cuisine – it closed after less than a year, because people thought it wasn’t authentic ’cause there wasn’t tomato sauce slathered on everything!
    And do me a favour. Get what you can out of the “old curmudgeon” about any military service of his, as well as his insights on 90 years of general history. He’s a walking treasure chest of memories! (And yes, he’s also your grandad. Treasure that – I never knew any of my grandparents.)

  2. 3 Kathryn McCullough September 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    How is that possible, indeed? I adore garlic–totally adore it. Couldn’t exist without it, I don’t think.

  3. 4 Booksphotographsandartwork September 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    My dad had a friend in a retirement village in Florida who had girlfriend die of a brain tumor. But his name was Horace.

    Why do you call it White Trash Garlic Bread?

    • 5 thelifeofjamie September 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      Century Village in Deerfield Beach?

      It’s white trash because it’s usually on a slice of sandwich bread and I use can’t believe it’t not butter spray and garlic salt instead of fresh baked bread with real butter and garlic, baked in the oven.

      • 6 John Erickson September 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm

        We get pizza from Papa John’s from time to time, and they include (in the pizza box) some packages of “garlic flavourings”. My wife uses them for both sandwich bread based and hamburger bun based versions. Hamburger buns that have gotten a little dried out can be easily resurrected with just a bit more butter/margarine/whatever. And that’s as close to a cooking lesson as you will EVER get out of me! :D
        Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go see if my concrete has dried…… ;)

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