I've had many homecomings over the years. This time the trip to my father's place in Amherst, Massachusetts was more taxing both physically and emotionally. The realizations upon re-entry, this time more profound, feeling like we've been gone maybe a little too long. We're settling in, learning new rhythms, adjusting to a more peaceful existence. There are stories to be told, meals to be shared, songs to be sung.
Growing up with a Franco-American father, I was introduced early on to his love of French foods, culture, and songs. I may have been a bit embarrassed about his singing as a kid, but now I find I'm the one singing those same French-Canadian ditties constantly and Roman loves them, nodding his head in rhythm to our voices.
My father first ate crêpes as a young boy, made by his grandfather "Pépère Georges." As one of seven boys in the 40's and 50's times were hard. He recalls his Pépère's crêpes as "rubbery" maybe for lack of sufficient eggs, and served with molasses. But they were still a treat when sweets were few and far between. As a young adult, my dad bought himself a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and soon perfected his own crêpes.
Although my mother was the primary cook in our house, every once in a while my dad would get a hankering and whip up one of his specialties, much to our delight. His répertoire at the time was mainly baguettes, gougères (cheese puffs), coq au vin, omelettes, really fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches and of course, crêpes.
I asked him to make me some in his beautiful old De Buyer pan which is so perfectly seasoned after 48 years of use. We tasted one with molasses just for old-times sake but we settled on the simple pleasure of white sugar and a spritz of lemon juice.
Vive les bons vieux temps (Long live the good old days!).
Tous les soirs, dans la cuisine, quand sont assis les voisins
On apporte la farine, fine fleur de sarazin
Et l'on fait sauter des crêpes
A la mode de chez nous
Grand maman pour se distraire
En grignote tout le temps
"Comment faites vous grand mère
Vous qui n'avez plus de dents?"
-"ça descend tout seul, les crêpes!"
Each night in our kitchen with the neighbors gathered 'round
We bring out the flour, fine buckwheat flour
and we make crêpes
the way we like them
Grandma nibbles them all the time
To distract herself
"How do you do it, Grandma, without any teeth?"
-"Crêpes go down on their own!")
From "La Bonne Chanson"(1939) one of the song books from my father's youth.