Gazpacho and Le Nozze Di Figaro

Pretentious title, yes? I can already hear my bubbe saying, ‘Oh, look at you with the fancy shmancy.’  

Gazpacho and The Marriage of Figaro – two things I never encountered until age 42. The three of us met late one Spring when my brother and I were taking care of my dad.

My dad and his lovely wife had been dealing with symptoms and emotional repercussions from a diagnosis received almost a year prior. My step mother had been dedicating every day to caring for my dad who, in all his years of parenting me and teaching me to be resilient, competent and strong, was a terrible patient! Do as I say, not as I do became a strong message in his Florida condo as he refused help, denied there were needs for specific safety and health instructions and snuck gin every time he could even though his walker could not be trusted to balance pride, stubbornness and liquored-up loose limbs! His wife needed a break and time with her Midwest roots so my brother and I swooped in, put trust in Spirit Airlines, and took on Naples!

My father did not want or need a babysitter so for the first few hours of our arrival his emotions bounced between and within sarcasm, eye rolling and utter joy; complicated is a mediocre adjective to describe this man.

The next day my brother’s main job was to convince our father that kale would not kill him nor was it green garbage AND make absolutely sure that the PBS live streaming of The Met’s performance of Le Nozze Di Figaro was ready to be recorded at least 10 minutes prior to curtain call. 

“Are you sure it is recorded?”

“Yes dad I am sure.”

“No you’re not.”

“Dad, it is all ready to go.”

“How do you know?”

“Dad, I know.”

“No you don’t……” and things of that nature.

While my patient brother continued to convince our father that he was technologically capable my job was to make Gazpacho. During my visits to Florida after his diagnosis my father always made grocery lists and slid them to me on the sly – as if we were in cahoots over something big. One of my favorite notes he passed me was for more butterscotch candy; he was given specific instructions to lay low on the sugar though he continued to order pounds and pounds of this Brachs delight taking up all the room in almost every cabinet. To the chagrin of medical practitioners everywhere I got him the butterscotch; after going to four different Publix locations I returned with his bounty! On this particular day however, his focus was on a high maintenance vegetable soup.

My dad, while journeying through life alongside the unwanted guest of mortality, had a craving for foods from his past. I had been asked to make numerous items over the course of two years, but this request was my biggest challenge. There were about a trillion recipes for gazpacho and my father wanted it the way his mother made it; pureed just so with perfectly shaped chunks of specific vegetables in order to give it the perfect “crunch” and texture. 

I was sweating over this savory solicitation for quite a while and my thoughts kept being interrupted by, “Jessie, when are you going to go to the store already?!” Finally I emailed my father’s specific requests to my genius, quick-witted cook of a neighbor and she sent me the perfect recipe. 

The rest of the day played out a little bit like this,

“What is all the goddamn chopping?”

“Dad I am slicing the tomatoes.”

“Now what is that noise?”

“I am blending the cucumbers and garlic and lemon juice.”

“How long are you going to keep making that racket?”

“Until the soup is ready.”

“Goddammit, “….

Finally the soup was ready and it was curtain time. My brother, dad and I chewed, swallowed, chomped and slurped our way through the live streaming of this funny, gorgeous and LONG Opera. My brother went to sleep after round one and my dad and I proceeded to watch the recorded production two more times (because my brother was absolutely technologically capable) and we went to bed finally at 3 a.m.

The next morning my dad got up, came into the kitchen, smiled at me and said, “The soup was good. I am going to have some for breakfast.”

The tables began to turn that year; my siblings and I became the adults. Love is complicated; love is deep; love is confusing, phenomenal and fantastic and parenting is 3-4 handfuls of butterscotch.

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