A Tale of Holiday Cooking

Bathroom Graffiti: How to Cook an Egg

How to cook an egg, according to bathroom graffiti at Babette in Minneapolis.

My maternal grandmother was an interesting woman. Most of her decisions fell into one of two categories: badass and downright strange. In days when many grandmothers were still of the traditional sort that baked cookies and stuff, grandma was a businesswoman, a do-it-yourselfer, and a bit on the wild side. She’s the person who taught me how to use power tools. She would take me on massive, endurance-testing road trips when I was a child, just her and me, where we’d start in Minneapolis one day and be in Sacramento two days later. I don’t think I ever saw her wear a dress, because I think she just preferred to be forever ready for anything. She could alsobake a mean batch of cookies.

She had a strange streak, though. Sometimes, she did some very odd things. I recall one family vacation where we asked grandma to watch the house and our dog; we returned home to find that the front door of our house had been painted fire-engine red, and that our dog (a collie) had been shaved. I’m sure those decisions made sense in her head somehow.

In that vein, I have an enduring holiday memory of grandma. It involves liver pâté.

As I recall, my mom and my grandma were hosting a holiday party, sometime in the early 1980s. Grandma had just gotten one of those new-fangled food processors, and she decided she’d use it to make liver pâté for the party.

Well, during the course of the pate processing, grandma managed to get a wooden spoon stuck in the works. Chunks of spoon were now part of the pâté.

There are two choices that most people would make at this juncture:

  1. Make new pâté.
  2. Remove the chunks and continue making pâté.

Grandma, being grandma, turned to option 3: grind up the spoon and serve the pâté.

I remember being a little kid at that party full of adults, and seeing mom discover that the pâté was more… fibrous than usual. I remember watching her carefully and secretly warn everyone in the room that they probably shouldn’t eat the pâté.

I have many memories of delicious holiday meals that I’ve had with my family, but I think my favorite memories are like that one. Anyone can make tasty food, but only my grandma would deliberately add a spoon to our diets.

This holiday, let us all embrace what is unique in all the people we care for. Let’s revel in the mistakes and the oddities, for none of us are perfect, and thank goodness for that. Cheers!


  1. I was going to point out the grammatical error in the second-to-last paragraph, but the Rodney Kingesque spirt of the last paragraph made me hesitate. But at last I decided that in the same holiday spirit you’d forgive me any grammar nazism.

    I do think the anecdote needs a little extra development. Did your grandmother attend the party? She obviously didn’t wear a party dress. What did she wear? Did she eat any of the pate herself? Did the food processor have a shortened lifetime? Did it produce any other interesting treats?

    • Yes, the party was at her house, so she was there. To the rest, I say: that was over 25 years ago.

      That was a different holiday than the one where her doberman ate the entire turkey before dinner.

  2. Thanks so much of reminding me about that story. I haven’t thought of it in ages. Mom always made the holidays “interesting”.
    I’ll miss you terribly tomorrow. Have a wonderful, wooden spoon free, Thanksgiving.

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