They divorced in the 1970s, so my memories of Poppi are vague: a mixture of stubbly five o’clock shadow, the pasta e fagioli he made, him singing about the pasta e fagioli he made, and how he pretty much was always singing (including Sinatra's song, Tangerine, which was his pet name for me). The singing gene, I’m pretty sure, hasn’t skipped any generations since.
Over the years, many a colorful word has been used to describe him, which I won’t repeat because I’m a lady. But, this is my favorite story, probably because the embellishment is mostly mine (embellished, but still largely true). Here’s a recipe for his most memorable culinary contribution.
On your way out the door to gamble away your family’s meager food budget, take note of strewn acorn shells on the front stoop. Complain loudly about your wife’s annoying habit of feeding a particular neighborhood squirrel.
Wait until the wife is away, preferably working her arthritic fingers to the bone at a low-wage dress shop. Locate a large rock. In your ample free time between dead-end jobs, stake out behind bushes. Identify tame and peckish squirrel. With your good arm, hurl rock squarely at the head of the rodent. Swagger toward your prize, wondering why your pitching career never went anywhere. Skin the bushy-tailed rat, and then spit-roast over an open fire (preferably in the front yard). Or stew with a variety of dubious wild mushrooms from the backyard. Or grind into one tiny sausage.
Enjoy – then hide the evidence. Wait until wife wonders aloud why the squirrel hasn’t shown up for meals, lately. Then proudly detail your exploits.
Note: Any suburban animal will do, but choose wisely. Deliciousness corresponds directly to the amount of affection between the animal and the person you wish to spite. Well-groomed pets tend to be plumper than strays, but consider moving spit to backyard.
Albert Victor Donroe
New Haven, Connecticut
1913 - 2007
Next Recipe: Stuffed Mushrooms
(Previously: Making Pasta)