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We had a fantastic Sunday night.  Dennis wanted to make dinner.  When he wants to cook, I have to force myself out of head chef mode, and accept instead the title of sous chef.  Or just cheerleader sometimes.  (Cue glass of wine.)

Dennis was working on some appetizer recipes for Thanksgiving on Sunday.  We tasted a Buffalo Chicken Dip, sinfully, cream-cheesefully good.  We also had a  hot spinach dip that was not your standard mayo-based version.  Instead, this dip worked off the basis of a roux.  I liked watching Dennis on the frying pan.  Your first roux is a turning point in cooking, if you don’t completely destroy it and have to start over.

As I got ready for bed Sunday night, I could not help but think about my Italian grandmother.  I have written about her often.  (Click here and here.)  If I could arrange time travel, I would schedule a day for Dennis and Grandma in the kitchen.  Dennis knows when to watch and learn.  He does that often with our friend, Greg, although when Greg’s back is turned, he should know that Dennis is adding either red pepper flakes or sriracha sauce (or both) to the pan.

I can just hear Grandma, sweetly asking Dennis to go get one item or another, either from the basement or some place she doesn’t want to go.  I can also hear the laughter as they work together, alternately teasing and tasting.  Grandma loved kids, and she loved feeding kids.  She would have given Dennis enormous hugs that would have eclipsed his 6 foot frame.  She would have relished his appetite.  And she would have shared with him her ability to mix and modify and come up with masterpieces.

Grandma’s kitchen was small, so they would constantly bump into each other.  If Dennis were really lucky, Aunt Virginia might join them.  She wouldn’t necessarily take over the kitchen from her sister, but she would sit at the kitchen table, at the formica, chrome table with vinyl covered chairs.  That is where the dough would be rolled out, and memories of growing up in Clyde, NY would flow – who locked who in the basement, who got pushed into the pile of manure.  I can see Dennis’ eyes pop open wide, (“Did she really just say that???”), then split into laughter with the sisters.  Dennis would probably go home with a pair or two of Aunt Virginia’s signature crocheted slippers, and maybe a crocheted hangar or two.

Dennis would also go home with Grandma’s leftovers, including the ever present knot cookies as well as a soup made from previous leftovers.

And Dennis would know to cherish that time.

Wouldn’t it be great to connect past with present like that…

If I were to do just that with wine, I would need to make my own, as Grandpa did.  Instead I am marrying my individual past with the present: 2012 La Val Albariño, available at Empire Wines.  This wine takes me back to my first study abroad experience in Spain, as well as my most recent travels on the Camino de Santiago.  Past and present.  In my glass and in my dreams.

la val

About Claire Ziamandanis

Claire Ziamandanis is Professor of Spanish at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. Over her 20 years at the college, she has been a champion for study abroad, establishing the first affiliation for Spanish students, and then working with the Study Abroad office to open the doors to students from other majors. Claire loves travel, food, wine and Spanish but not necessarily in that order!


  1. I’m going to mail this post to Aunt Dolores – she’d love it. It really took me back. I had to laugh at the image of Gramma (5′ nothing and bulky) hugging Dennis (6’+++ and a lean mean machine).


  2. I love this post Claire! And what a gift you’ve given your children – teaching them how to cook, creating memories and giving them skills for life.

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