She never moved far from the place she was born in Long Branch, New Jersey. A wonderful wife to Uncle Joe, mother of twin girls Gina and Jodi, amazing grandmother and successful business owner, who was taken from this life too soon – and a wit that was infectious and memorable.
Since I have lived in California most of my life I did not spend a lot time with her till I became an adult.
My first favorite memory was at her house 13 years ago after the death of my grandmother. I had to leave early to catch a plane home and as I was leaving she said, “Can I make you a sandwich, Susan?” Not wanting to bother her I declined but she still made me 2 small Italian sandwiches to go. As I was half way across the country eating one of the sandwiches I wondered why I had not asked her to make me a dozen of those tasty sandwiches.
Aunt Lydia could make a full Italian meal complete with sauce in a white suit without a speck on her clothes when she was finished. She could also make anything taste good.
Six years ago Jeffrey and I were in NY for a diabetes conference and asked Aunt Lydia if we could come visit and get some cooking lessons in preparation for writing A Recipe for Life. As we were on the train from NY to NJ I was worried that we had not had time for lunch before we left and would be arriving at an odd time after lunch.
Somehow I “forgot” we were going to Aunt Lydia’s house since the minute we got there she asked very sweetly “are you hungry?” Music to my ears she quickly made us the most amazing lunch – Zucchini and Eggs (AKA Goo Gooze) which is one of the recipes in our book. It tasted wonderful and hit the spot. You never had to worry about going hungry or wanting for tasty food staying with Aunt Lydia. No matter how many times we recreate this dish we never fully capture that epicurean delight we had that afternoon.
Later that night we had chicken cutlets and eggplant Parmesan. It was quite a feast. We had stopped at the bakery to pick up Italian bread. About 10 pm she asked me to toast some bread. Being the carbohydrate sensitive person that I am, I made 2-3 slices for the 4 of us. She said, “Susan, that is not enough toast” so I was instructed to make half the loaf, complete with butter. How I relish in that evening now.
Jeffrey spent the next 2 days in the kitchen learning a variety of cooking techniques, which he still employs today when cooking or creating a recipe. When cooking I know he is channeling his inner Aunt Lydia.
Farewell Aunt Lydia – long live your beautiful spirit and thank you for all your lessons – in the kitchen, and in life.
I can hear your voice saying :Susan, don’t take life so seriously. Now go make yourself a piece of toast.” Oh to be in her presence again but guess I will have to wait to see her in heaven!