My father liked to cook, but he did so infrequently, probably because when I was growing up in the 1940s and 50s men were the designated breadwinners and women prepared the meals. Besides, my mom was an excellent cook, so there was no need. However, Daddy had his specialities, and, when he did cook , it was with great fanfare and mouth-watering results.
He was a complex person, my father, famously hot-tempered and warm-hearted. When I was very young, I was plagued by frequent earaches. My earliest memories are of him holding me against his chest and soothing me as I wailed and took comfort in the coziness of his wooly sweater. On my seventh birthday, he took me to Boston on the subway. We walked hand-in-hand through the winding streets of Beacon Hill, where he pointed out historic buildings and marveled at the purple glass window panes in the old brownstones. Later, when I was commuting to college, he would drive me to class on winter mornings in one of his patented run-down sedans to save me from waiting in the cold for the unpredictable neighborhood bus. More often than not, the heater didn’t work, but, no matter, I had his conversation to help me forget that I was shivering. I have my father to thank for my love of learning, history, politics, and baseball (the Red Sox, of course), as well as my pride in my Italian heritage.
My dad died in October, 1968, from the ravages of emphysema, brought on by a life of chain-smoking – three packs a day, every day. Working with asbestos in a shipyard during World War II didn’t help either. He was only sixty-two, quite young by today’s standards, when he passed away quietly at home. I still miss him and wish that he had lived to see his grandchildren and had more time to enjoy the comfortable two-family home that he and my mom bought after they were finally able to sell the crumbling old Victorian house he had inherited from my grandfather. Despite its impressive pedigree, storied history, and the many memories it housed of his large extended family growing up there, the landmark had become a millstone, dragging down my father’s spirit and weighing heavily on his peace of mind.
I made myself a pepper and egg sandwich last night, forty-eight years almost to the day after my dad’s passing. I have no recipe, but my mom instructed me as to how he used to make them. She is gone too, but as I ate my sandwich, I thought of them both and was grateful for all the gifts they had lovingly passed on to their children.
Pepper and Egg Sandwich (recipe is easily doubled, tripled, etc., to serve more than one)
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a saute` or frying pan. Add one minced clove of garlic and cook over medium heat for a minute or two until soft. Add about 2/3s cup of coarsely chopped green bell pepper or a mix of red and green and fry until soft and beginning to brown. While the peppers are cooking beat two eggs, one tablespoon of water, two teaspoons of grated Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. When the peppers are ready, pour the egg mixture over them and scramble until almost dry or to your liking. Serve in a warmed split sub roll or between two slices of Italian bread. Mangia!