It has been a pretty tough and sad week around here.
Jimmy, my grandmother’s “boyfriend” of 50 years passed away on Tuesday after a two week hospital stay. Jimmy was 86 and his health had been slowly declining over the past few years but it still came as a shock to see him get so sick and pass away so quickly.
My Baba (Grandmother in Ukrainian) met Jimmy in the fall of 1959 at the Pender Auditorium Dance Hall here in Vancouver. Baba’s husband had died of a heart attack two years earlier and she hadn’t done much socializing when a work friend insisted that she come along one evening to listen to the amazing band that played at The Pender and maybe do a bit of dancing. It was on that fateful night that my Baba met Jimmy who had recently escaped from Communist Hungary and had come to Canada to find a better life. Jimmy’s real name was Istvan but he changed it to Jimmy when he hit the Canadian shores.
After a year and half of weekly meetings at the dance hall and a handful of dinner dates (often with her sister, Olga, in tow) Jimmy was being evicted from his apartment and so Baba invited her new friend to move into the basement bedroom of her house and so Jimmy became known to our family as “Jimmy the boarder”. Amazingly, I was well into my teens before I realized that Jimmy was more than just the tenant who lived in the basement. He was more than my Baba’s “friend” but a bigger, though very quiet, part of her life and mine too. Over the many years he became my grandfather. Not by blood, but through the connection of time spent and kindness and love. He was always very gentle and cared about all of us grandkids deeply and without reservation. He was quick with a hug and a smile and some pocket change to go over and get some treats from the corner store.
And as I got older I realized he was the love of my Baba’s life.
They never had a lot of money but they lived well. They travelled the world and cooked good meals and took some great road trips and kept a beautiful garden. Jimmy loved to cut the edges of the lawn with a very sharp pair of scissors.
When my own son was old enough Jimmy was quick to slip him a five dollar bill for any achievement, real or imagined.
As much as I miss Jimmy, I know that my Baba misses him a thousand times more. My Baba, at 97 years old, has just a couple of friends left in her circle and Jimmy, in all of the years he lived here, had only one friend who ended up moving back to Hungary. They were a couple, a team and best friends for 50 years. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to lose that kind of life partner.
Even in the middle of such a bleak week there have still been a few bright spots. I am always amazed by the way life works.
My sister flew up to say goodbye to Jimmy and be here with our family. She drove my Baba and Mom wherever they needed to go, she stayed calm in the middle of some high stress moments and she worked with Max on a stop-motion animation project featuring some very treasured Lego set-ups.
We also, amazingly, had some very sweet moments at the hospital during Jimmy’s last days. We talked about how he took such pride in his polished leather shoes and well-cut suits. How he valued hard work and loved to use the phrase “take it easy” and how he never lost his very thick Hungarian accent. We also marvelled at the attentive and respectful care he received at the hospital, a real blessing for this man who hated hospitals and doctors and pills and medical machines.
I have been okay these last few days with lots to get done and plans to make and family conversations to have. Today, however, was a bit of a sad or perhaps sadder day. Not much got accomplished. Max was home from school for the long weekend and I felt so happy to have him nearby.
I made this breakfast pizza this morning, probably more as a way to keep busy than anything else. But Max liked it (although he did pick off the scallions) and there is the second pie in the fridge for Glen when he gets home from work.
For today that is more than enough.
Bacon and Egg Breakfast Pizza
For the dough:
1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour (I have used all purpose with decent results) plus more for dusting
Fine grain sea salt
For the pizza toppings:
8 strips of bacon, fried until crisp, cooled on paper towel and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups of Mozzarella cheese, grated
8 large eggs
Fine grain sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons minced chives
3 scallions, thinly sliced
For the pizza peel:
Coarse cornmeal to keep the pizza from sticking to the peel
The night before prepare the dough by placing 3/4 of a cup of warm water in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Sprinkle in the yeast, stir with a fork and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
Add the flour and 1 teaspoon of salt and mix on low for 1 minute. Increase speed to high and mix until a smooth dough forms, about 2 more minutes.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough in two and knead each into a ball and set on a floured sheet pan. Cover with ample plastic wrap, or a clean plastic garbage bag and place in the fridge overnight.
An hour (or two if you have the time) remove the dough from the fridge and place it in a warmish spot. Place your pizza stone on the lowest oven rack and preheat your oven to 500 degrees F.
Roll out each ball of dough on a lightly floured surface using a floured rolling pin or our hands. Roll or stretch the dough into a 12 inch circle.
Using cornmeal, generously cover a pizza peel and place the stretched dough on top of the cornmeal. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan and half of the Mozzarella on top of the dough. Place the crisped bacon atop of the cheese and then crack the four eggs on top. Season with salt and pepper.
Shake the pizza peel slightly to ensure that it is not sticking. If it is carefully lift each corner and sprinkle a bit more of the cornmeal underneath.
Slide the pizza directly onto a baking stone and bake for 10 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted. The egg yolks should be pretty much cooked but not rock hard. There is a bit of a judgement call here as to how brown you want the crust and how hard you want your yolks to be.
When the crust is golden and the cheese is melted and the yolks are cooked transfer the pizza to a cutting board or surface. Sprinkle with half of the parsley, chives and sliced scallions. Allow to cool for 2 minutes and slice and serve right away.
Repeat with the second pizza dough.
Makes 2 12 inch pizzas.