Thursday, November 27, 2008

Best He Ever Had

First of all, I have to tell you my Grandpa Cecil was actually my step-Grandpa. I didn't know that when I was a little boy, didn't matter when I was a man.

Grandpa Cecil was half German. He married my Grandma when my Mama was an older teen. For that reason there were times when Grandma mixed down home in the hills cookin' with German foods. Most of the time it was a pretty good combination... both were a lot of comfort foods.

Holidays were wonderful times for my Mama's family. She has two brothers and one sister. Add to that some Aunts, Uncles and in laws and we had some pretty big to-dos. Christmas was filled with wonderful food and Grandma's aluminum tree. It was in a revolving stand, covered with different colored ornaments each year. There was a spotlight that had wheel with 4 colors that revolved, making the tree red, then blue, green and yellow. We lived only a block away, so little brother Mike and I got to see it more than any of our cousins.

The tree went up on the Sunday before Thanksgiving so all the family could admire it.

Now, Mama never did drink - don't think she ever took a sip even. Before Daddy settled his account with God he had a beer or two. Grandpa Cecil's family probably grew up on beer, part of their German heritage and all. The could put it away.

Grandpa was small, lean and dark. His brothers were big, meaty but dark like Grandpa. They could outdrink anyone. Holidays were always a party for them. Thanksgiving was filled with drinks, roast turkey and tons of food.

One of Grandpa Cecil's favorite holiday treats was chopped chicken liver spread. Many of my Jewish friends make this also and it is wonderful on rye bread. It is made of cooked chicken livers, mayonaisse, chopped onions and seasoning to taste. Chop well and mix it together and you have a wonderful spread.

One Thanksgiving in particular comes to my mind today. Grandpa's brother Ralph was quite heavy, bigger than all the other brothers. After we ate he sat in the kitchen drinking a Schlitz beer and picking at the leftovers. He picked around till he tasted the chopped chicken liver spread. He loved it after one bite and sat there with crackers and ate that spread off and on through the afternoon and into the evening.

I remember seeing him sitting there, cigarette in hand, beer on the table, his full face and round nose red, I'd say he was probably a little likkered up. He took them round crackers and scraped around the small bowl one last time.

Afterward, he rose, headed for the bathroom, pausing for a moment to tell my Grandma; "Alma, that was some of the best chopped chicken livers I have ever eat. I cleaned the bowl."

Grandma laughed, patted him on the arm and told him there was a good bit more in a Tupperware bowl in the fridge; "help yourself, Ralph".

When he came back to the table, he did just that. He opened the fridge, looked around, grabbed one of the many Tupperware bowls, peeked inside and sat down with a smile on his face.

We snacked through the evening. Ralph never offered anyone even a cracker full of that spread. He laughed about it, covered it with his hand, threatened to beat his brother's tail if he even looked at that fine chopped chicken liver spread.

He again cleaned the bowl. Grandma smiled when he patted her on the back, kissed her cheek and told her that was all he wanted for Christmas.

Friday after Thanksgiving Grandma got up, cleaned up a little more... after a dinner for 30 or more it could get pretty messy. She started breakfast and let her Bobo, a beautiful standard sized black poodle out of the garage.

She filled his water dish and grabbed his food bowl. When she went in, she opened the fridge to get his Alpo. "Cecil, I thought you opened a new can of Alpo yesterday... where is it?"

Grandpa looked up for only a second from the paper. "I did open one, it is in one of them Tupperware bowls in the fridge."

Yep, you know the rest, she found a full Tupperware bowl of chopped chicken liver spread but no Alpo. I was there. As I said, we just lived a block away. They made me promise to never tell anyone. I never did. I think Grandma told Mama. After Ralph died Grandpa Cecil told it to his brothers. They all laughed hard.

You see, Ralph bragged on that chopped chicken liver spread for the rest of his life. Best he ever had.

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