Thinking back, my Grandpa Stetson smelled like an antique, and I mean that in the kindest of ways. He always wore a tweed wool blazer when joining us for Sunday lunch or a holiday dinner and the blazer was undoubtedly stored in a cedar closet in his ancient home in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He was very fond of that strange old-folks candy consisting of sugary pastel peppermints shaped in round disks. He also smoked a pipe. That faint bit of mint and tobacco added to his aura when I greeted his visits with a bird-like kiss to his faintly whiskered and perfumed cheek.
His wife, my Grandmother, died when I was seven, but I remember her just as vividly, albeit without any kind of smell, other than, perhaps, her most outstanding preparation of Scalloped Potatoes flecked with tiny bits of onion and ham. Grandpa and Grandma played Scrabble a great deal and it’s probably just as well that they never came to know how much money I’ve made at the game.
Grandpa Stetson was fluent in the ancient languages, Latin and Greek, and often shared the comparative rhythms in common with those languages when translating classic epics with titles too big for us children to wrap our tongues around. He insisted on perfect English from his three offspring, and his youngest child, my father, kept up that tradition with his unwitting four.
There’s a suitcase amongst all my possessions still residing in California that is chock full of hand-written recipe cards from Grandma Stetson, Great Aunts Gertrude and Lillie, and a score of other Stetson women kindred. It pops in my mind now and then, and now with greater frequency, and I want to hold those cards embossed with fountain-pen script, imparting great practice and procedure for cooks of all ages, once it’s all translated.