We call it “onion pie”. Those who have never had the experience of this delectable taste eye us incredulously. “What exactly is it?” I’m often asked. It’s a calzone, an appetizer. Pie is misleading as it conjures up images of sweetness. Guests at our table would often hesitate. “Don’t force yourself”, we would jokingly remark. “More for us”, we would selfishly retort. But the ones who dared – were never disappointed. This recipe has traveled from the hills of Torritto, Italy where my beloved Father was born to here in the U.S. It has been an Italian holiday tradition from Thanksgiving to Christmas for as long as I can remember. When we would visit my Italian relatives at the holidays, there would be onion pie. Discussion would often ensue about the process. The relatives would examine the brush strokes of the pie crust and its filling like a Monet masterpiece. All the ingredients were savored. As a child, I saw it as a complicated endeavor. One would need to devote much time and love to ensure its culinary success. My family and I always looked forward to my Dad’s delicious creation each holiday. Now, the recipe handed down from one generation to the next- suddenly rests with my sisters and me.
As this Thanksgiving approached, I decided I would try my hand at the onion pie. I had mixed emotions, but I thought it was important. – actually necessary. When a torch is passed, the light goes out if it is not carried. I understand this responsibility. I have come to appreciate it like the art of a skillfully crafted pie. How many times had I watched Dad make the onion pie – too many to count? But, now, I wondered, how did he combine the flour and oil into such a perfect pyramid each time without a mess? How did he ever slice all those onions without the tears? Somehow, I managed. The tears came later.
Dad has been gone for over a year. Mom – 4 years. How do I make sense of time? My heart doesn’t keep pace with the ticking of the clock. I try to conceptualize this idea of being without parents. I’ve searched the aisles of Barnes and Noble. But no one writes about the grief of adult children loosing their elderly parents. So, I remember. I remember their words, their love, the meaning behind the words, their ideals and even their recipes. It is an effort to be close to them. And it does seem to work – a bit anyway, ironically. It doesn’t replace what was, but it brings me to them. And I believe. I believe this is the way to stay connected. It may seem odd, uncomfortable even to those who haven’t felt this kind of loss. I understand that too. It is part of the circle of life as cliché as that may be. Inevitable, natural? Yes, but the heart doesn’t understand this logic. Intellectually, it’s understood. However, the emotions of reconciling this kind of loss are usually unspoken and hidden from view. Found within the lines of a recipe filled with simple unexpected ingredients and love.
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