Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Saga of the Stuffed Squid

Nearly a month ago I pestered my mom’s sister for this recipe for stuffed squid, which my grandmother used to make. My grandmother died 26 years ago, and had oral cancer for 7 years prior to that, and towards the last 3 years (thereabouts) of her life, she was no longer eating solid food, so it’s been roughly 30 years since I last ate this.

My grandmother (Irish) married my grandfather (Italian, first-generation born here in the US) when she was 17. When they married, she didn’t even know how to scramble an egg. He taught her everything she knew. And when my aunt replied back and gave the “recipe,” she informed me that grandpa showed grandma how to make this, as it was something HIS mother (my great-grandmother) used to make.

Now back to the “recipe.” Well it was effing vague. All the ingredients for the stuffing, but no proportions or measurements, or additional information on what exactly to do with the ingredients. So essentially, it’s pretty much a shopping list, rather than a recipe. My aunt told me that’s all she had on the dish in question.

So three weeks elapses, and I’m still jonesing to know about this dish, and well, my grandfather passed in 2012, and isn’t here for me to pester for it.

When my grandfather passed away in 2012, at his wake and funeral, I was in a veritable OCEAN of first and second cousins. My grandfather was one of seven siblings. And due to some grudge between my grandmother and great-grandmother (daughter-in-law and mother-in-law, respectively), which is now nearing 54 years long (great grandmother died in 1976, and my grandmother passed in 1990), we have nothing to do with my grandfather’s family—which, as I said, IS EXTENSIVE.

So, I was told by my mother to seek out my great-aunt E. So I schmoozed her up and she was as pleasant as could be. And I became acquainted with her son, my first cousin once-removed. The last time I saw any of these people I was roughly 7 years old. ROUGHLY.  Sadly, all, strangers to me. 

I decided I needed to find out more about this recipe, so I zapped off an email to my cousin, and asked if his mom (great-aunt E.) knew anything about this elusive stuffed squid recipe. He emailed me back, informing me that not only did he know what it was, but that they eat it every Christmas eve. Ah! At last, I’m going to get the Rosetta Stone and DECODE THE RECIPE!!!

He photographed the recipe card and sent it along to me—and hilariously enough, it was EQUALLY VAGUE as my mom’s sister’s version of the recipe she sent me. 

In addition to the recipe card photo, he sent as an attachment in that first email, a photo of my great grandparents at what I suspect was either their 40th or 50th wedding anniversary. Emails with attached photos continued to pour in that first day. What a delight:) 

The final email the cousin sent that day, quite literally, yet temporarily, took my breath away. It was the formal portrait of my great-grandparents’ wedding day (which I thought was in Italy, but I could be mistaken).
So while I am not really any closer to my family’s particular version of this recipe, I ended up getting some great photos of my great-grandparents. Every other day or so, the cousin continues to send me photos he thinks I might enjoy seeing. 

Now about that recipe? I think I'll use the ingredients that were on those "shopping lists," and apply the ratios listed in this recipe I found online, and doctor the tomato sauce with a bit of anchovy, and I think between the two, I have a winner.   

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