Men I Met After Him Were Never Good With Garlic


   Men I Met After Him Were Never Good With Garlic


Perched on a kitchen chair, I heard the oil sizzling beside me on the stove. A few drops leaped to my hand. Welts rose, stinging and hot. My impulse was to cry, but my grandfather kissed my hand, pressed it to his cheek while whispering something comforting in Italian. He wrapped a cool rag around the burns and slid my chair to the counter to watch him.

 He lined up a dozen cloves of garlic on his cutting board, smooth golden teardrops that he chopped and scraped into a bowl with even strokes and dramatic flourish. Pop cared for me with elegant nonchalance, reminded me that if I were “coraggiosa,” the pain would disappear like magic.  He tossed the rag in the sink and placed both my hands in the bowl.

Everything squished luxuriously between my fingers; the cold ingredients numbed my  hand. I wiggled my nose and tried to scratch it with the inside of my elbow because my hands were coated with ingredients. He watched me and laughed, humming “You are My Sunshine.”  Ground beef, Romano cheese, garlic, bread crumbs, eggs, oil, parsley, salt, and pepper slowly transformed into a meatball mixture. His gravy sputtered happily against its jostling lid as oregano and basil from his garden shimmied in to fuse with the sweet tomatoes. Nothing resisted his powers.   

We cooked like this each week. Sundays. 

Next we rolled the meatballs, small disks, uniform in size, and stacked them on a dish creating circular layers. The familiar pattern emerged. He went off to make salad and left me to complete this step. Soon my pyramid of meatballs grew, enough to feed our family. He tugged the silk ribbon at the bottom of my braid to let me know I was finished and could wash my hands for our snack.

He placed a slice of fresh ciabatta and a small glass of Lambrusco on the table. He pulled out my chair with a low bow, a grin, and a grand gesture for me to sit. I knew the ritual. I curtsied, lifting the corners of my flowery skirt, and sat down as gracefully as I could, remembering not to swing my sandals even though they were a foot off the ground.   

The bread crunched loudly when I bit into it. The dough inside was warm and soft, rich and airy. The fizzy wine took some getting used to, but it made me feel grown up, so I sipped it gleefully, savoring each burgundy drop while he stirred the gravy at the stove.

Eventually, he sat down, broke his bread, and moved his wine to mine for a toast. 


Dana Kinsey

Dana Kinsey is a writer, actor, and teacher published in Writers Resist, One Art, Broadkill Review, Fledgling Rag, Silver Needle Press, Porcupine Literary, Sledgehammer Lit, On the Seawall, West Trestle Review, Prose Online, and Teaching Theatre. Dana's play, WaterRise, was produced at the Gene Frankel Theatre. Her chapbook Mixtape Venus is forthcoming in February 2022 from Iris G. Press. Visit


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