I never knew much about the Day of the Dead. I understood that it was a Mexican holiday, that it was the day after Halloween, and that it involved kind of creepy skeletons decorated with bright colors. I recently discovered it’s actually a three-day celebration (October 31 – November 2) and it’s a time to honor the dead, particularly by cooking their favorite foods.
It makes me think of Tom, of course, but not because he recently died. Rather, Tom was a great lover of food. He was always open to trying something different and frequently ordered foods I would never consider. I remember a time when we were teens and he tried escargot and shark at a restaurant. I was completely disgusted. Tom was always more adventurous than me, and not just with food.
He also loved to cook, especially for others. He hosted Thanksgiving once when we were in our 20’s, and was looking forward to doing so again this year at his rental on Long Island. He was in charge of the popovers at Christmas. He baked cupcakes for his staff. He also loved to entertain and would pour over recipe books planning a great menu. He got that from our mom.
For most of us food is closely related to family memories – holiday meals, family recipes passed down, conversations around the dinner table, and special celebrations at favorite restaurants. The last meal he cooked for me was pasta – ravioli two ways – at his apartment in New York during my visit last year. It was delicious; the best ravioli I’ll ever have.
Tom encouraged me to be a little more adventurous with food. Because of him I now love sushi, I found out I’m allergic to oysters, and I’ve grown to enjoy roasted Brussels sprouts. One favorite food memory was just a few years ago. We went to a French bistro with my parents and the special appetizer was pork belly. Although I love bacon, I had never tried pork belly (it’s the name that kept me away). We both ordered it – crispy pork belly with fresh corn salad and tomato marmalade. I’ll never forget it: it was amazing.
If I had known that the Day of the Dead was about celebrating loved ones through food and drink, I might have planned something special for today. But there always will be plenty of opportunities to remember and celebrate Tom’s love for food.