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Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

One of the things that Wingman and I use to enjoy doing was cook...although we were not good cooks together.  I am a "follow the recipe to the tee" type of gal, while Wingman liked to experiment with ingredients.  Sometimes they were a hit, and other times, like honoring our Korean daughter-in-law with kimchee-stuffed Stromboli bread, left a lot to be desired.

When we first met, he was amazed by the type of magazines I subscribed to. I read Bon Apetit like most women read Cosmo, and Food and Wine was my Vogue bible. Wingman's first Christmas gift to me was a set of frying pans (and no, at 21, they were not well received). But the cooking magazines opened doors to amazing meals.

One summer weekend after our honeymoon in Italy, we went to a farm and picked our own basil to make a pesto pasta dinner for friends. They admitted that they stopped at Mickey D's for burgers before arriving since they had no idea what pesto was or if they would like it. Like them, there was a lot we needed to learn over time as well: like that duck was extremely fatty and that you should add water to the roasting pan while cooking.  A lot of smoke and a small fire one Easter Sunday had everyone shivering in the early spring weather while we tried to air out the house, screaming at each other "why didn't you know that???"

Our mistakes inspired our passion to learn the difference between dry rubs and barbecue sauces, how to make a roux and how to butcher beef for individual Beef Wellingtons. Useful knowledge from when we owned our catering business and catered for a crowd as diverse as an Academy-Award nominated actor, a pitcher for the 1986 World Series winning New York Mets, a defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the entire heavy metal band Skid Row.

And, because of the many varied types of food we made, we owned a big variety of spices.  Everything from Allspice to Vanilla Beans.  We had Furikake for sushi, saffron for paella, and more varieties of salts and peppers than one could ever think of owning. As the years progressed and we had less and less home parties and reasons to try new recipes, the spices stayed in the closet. It took the year following Wingman's death and Superstorm Sandy to get in there and decide what stayed and what goes.

There was a huge can of Old Bay which was bought for Crab-fests we co-hosted for years with a couple who enjoyed cooking as much as we did.  The last time it was used was the summer before son #2's senior year of high school. I know that because he got a phone call from a baseball coach at a college who wanted to recruit him.  Wingman was asleep, so I got to share that moment with him alone. Old Bay only has a three-year shelf life and the son graduated from high school long before that.  Into the trash it went.

The same with all of the Bobby Flay spice mixes and dried peppers purchased for Super Bowl Sunday chili parties we no longer got invited to.  The ancho peppers were saved for the rum sauce for filet mignon at Christmas. The rest got chucked.

Into the trash went the outdated spices; into recycling went the jars.  Well, most of them.  I realized that they made great containers for when I wanted to take Wingman on a trip. Like Yankee Stadium. The family vacation to Hawaii.  Even a friend got into it and took him to his high school baseball field, Babe Ruth's house in Baltimore and Camden Yards. Wingman was traveling more places dead than alive. I had little filled spice bottles everywhere.

This January, I started my annual clean-up and clean-out winter therapy. Working retail through the holidays meant that things sometimes got dropped in strange places and needed to be returned to their rightful homes. Needles and thread piled on a dresser went back in the sewing kit in the hall closet. Tools in the kitchen went back to the garage. Lemon Pepper under the bathroom sink went back into the spice cabinet.

Son #3 came in one night last week to find me purging the kitchen pantry. He helped me decide what to keep and what to toss, and I moved onto the spice cabinet. "Why do I have three bottles of garlic powder?" I queried. I had multiple bottles of others which always happens when I shop without a list. "And look at this: TWO full bottles of Lemon Pepper! This is crazy! Why would I buy more of this?"

I looked at the bottles.  One was filled with bright yellow and black lemon zest and pepper.  The other was a white pebbly mixture.  I opened that jar...and then it hit me. I looked at him wide-eyed, and he asked "WHAT IS THAT???"  As I ran down the hall towards the spare bedroom, he asked "Is that what I think that is? Is that Dad?" And it was-the bottle that I found under the bathroom sink was from a trip he never got to go on. My bad. Real bad. The bottle went back into "that box".

And with that mix up, it's time to finally plan that final resting spot for the man.  The mausoleum where my Dad and Father-in-Law are has an area with glass niches that seem right. Time to put this whole thing to bed.

But maybe I'll have to add an ancho pepper to the box before we seal it up.  So he'll remember the hot times we had.


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