Green Peppers

September 3, 2012

Every time I walk into a grocery store and pass by the bell peppers (specifically green) I get a whiff of my grandmother. Not really known as a great cook, as her mother – my great-grandmother – was brought over from Hungary back in the early 1930s and took over the housekeeping duties. This way, my grandmother could work – joining my grandfather in running the bakery that they owned for many years. Imagine what a dream that was for a small grandchild? To be able to walk in and choose whatever cookie you’d like!

My grandmother made a scant few signature dishes  – one of which she called “Meat with the Red Sauce.” I would learn in later years that this was called Stuffed Green Peppers by most people….and recipe books. She always served it to us kids with a sprinkling of white sugar on it ( to cut the acid in the tomato sauce) and today – the faintest smell of green peppers brings my grandmother back to me in an instant.

She has been gone for 10 years – passing at the ripe old age of 96 and still, I  think of her almost daily…we were very close. I was the first grandchild in the family (the next one didn’t come along for 4 years) and the only one who knew my grandfather…my Grandpa Joe.           She could be difficult to get along with (for other people) and certainly had her opinions but my friends all loved her for it – especially how she would always use the word “crazy” in describing anything remotely ridiculous and rolling the “r” in her Hungarian accent (“Nah! Crrrazy!). We would sit together at her arborite kitchen table for hours and she would tell me stories of growing up in Hungary and the changes that occurred in the war with  Romania  (which of course, the Hungarians ultimately lost – and that is how she ended up emigrating to Canada). Her private dreams and antics as a school girl in a convent in Transylvania (my friends LOVED the fact that she went to school in Transylvania!) and her adventures as a young wife and mother in her new country.

As a young girl in a boarding school/convent – she puts Madeline to shame. Sliding down the long banisters to breakfast and landing on Mother Superior; at stocking-inspection time – instead of repairing the holes in her stocking like a “good little girl” – she used shoe polish on her legs to conceal the holes – and the pranks – oh the pranks! She surely would have been expelled today.

She made a few dishes – ones that I loved. Meat with the Red Sauce (which I make today for my own children), Dumplings made with flour and brick-style cottage cheese and served with browned bread crumbs,(a favorite with the kids!) plum dumplings, apple pancakes, and I even liked the creamed spinach. She also made a chocolate cake with the most amazing chocolate butter cream – often I would request that as my birthday gift.

Sadly – her little black recipe book went strangely missing when family was packing up her things and it never re-surfaced…what a shame for us all, not to be able to share those delights with our families now.

It has been 10 years since my grandmother passed away – I think of her almost daily…..and sometimes when I’m at the grocery store, I stop by the green peppers  on purpose – I stop….. and just inhale the memory.

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