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The One That’s Left by Paul V. Leone

The One That’s Left

I don’t think about these things. I don’t have to make a grocery list, I don’t have to wonder about what goes where, when, or how much of any one thing. The olive oil goes in the bottom of the pot with some marrow bones and garlic on a very low heat, that’s how the sauce starts. I spend the whole day making it, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all hunks of torn bread dipped in its progression to being done. That’s the way it always was, my grandmother would pass off the saucy pieces of bread to my little hands. I put equal amounts of the white parts of leeks, very well cleaned, along with peeled russet potatoes in a pot, cover it with fresh water and put it on the stove to simmer. This is the beginning of vichyssoise, it will be chilled for at least 12 hours. I chop the stems off the broccoli rabe, then cut them into 2- to 3-inch chunks, wash them well in cold water, drain. It’s easy from there, just a cup of water in a pot, some garlic, salt, pepper, bring to a boil, toss in the rabe, cover, keep the heat on high, and shake the pot for a minute then remove from heat. Pour off the liquid and drink it hot. This will make you strong. ‘Here, Paullie, drink this, it’ll make you strong.’ I hate removing the waxy outside off the rutabagas but it’s worth it after they’re mashed with a lot of butter and seasoned, the best part here is that not many people like rutabagas, it’s like a secret, but we do. We did, I mean. I do. You don’t have to constantly stir the polenta for too long if you soak the corn meal in water overnight. I keep cleaned radishes and black olives in the refrigerator for snacks. I know how to prepare artichokes in a variety of ways. I eat at least one eggplant every week. I used to pack a bag for mom, with a thermos and containers, alternating these things, her favorite foods. I’d bring a pepper mill, chives, and a scissors (to snip them) into the vichyssoise. When food became unbearable for her, even these things were greeted with a refusal, and an apology. Thankfully, these foods materialize without me thinking about them. I’m not lonely for being the one that’s left. The food is all three of us.

Dorothy Leone | 9/9/1927 – 10/31/2022

Paul V. Leone’s mother Dottie died last month after living for 32 months in a care facility. This piece evokes the poignant details of relationship between grandmother, mother, and son. It’s a perfect example of legacy memoir, of honoring the departed, of acknowledging who you are because of having come from them.