My grandmother Mabel regularly hummed a certain tune, unfamiliar to me, throughout the years I lived with her, 1976-1980. She was 76 years old, I was 17 and at a university in St. Louis. She hummed all of it except the words “my buddy, my buddy,” which I took to mean her late husband Leo. Eventually I heard the song played on the radio during a Veterans Day broadcast. Although the song by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson was published shortly after World War I ended, it is included on many discs of songs from America’s wars, and is widely referred to as a WW I tune:
The song has been performed and recorded by many prominent singers over the decades, always with a gentle poignancy, too many to list: Al Jolson, Mario Lanza, Doris Day, Mel Torme, Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, Doctor John, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby. (Check out all of these and dozens more on the web.) It has been variously interpreted to reflect the longing felt by a young woman for her man gone to war, or a soldier for his lost comrade.
All of my uncles and several of my cousins served in the military: Mabel’s son David Dietiker and Mabel’s sons-in-law Jim McMullen, Russell Rozzelle and Ralph Huez, who served during World War II, having enlisted at Jefferson Barracks, and returned to St. Louis after the war.
Happy Veterans’ Day, Uncle Ralph, and to all who served.
When I cook this soup for a crowd, I start out by making the minestrone vegan and gluten-free, following the Moosewood recipe. I add meat after I’ve separated the soup into two pots; in this case I added ground bison to one pot. I also add gluten-free pasta at the end of the cooking. The brown rice and quinoa pasta holds up better in soup than the corn pasta. I serve the soup with shredded cheese on the side in the event anyone is avoiding dairy. Parmesan is the standard topping for this soup.
The White (off white): Roasted Fennel with Cannellini beans, garlic, fresh rosemary and parmesan
I no longer remember where this recipe originated, but the dish is memorable in the tasting, and I always have to make large quantities as folks tend to devour it enthusiastically.
Roast 2 bulbs fresh fennel, chopped and tossed with olive oil, until soft and some of the pieces are toasty-colored. (Approximately 25 minutes at 400 degrees.) Add one can of white cannellini beans, drained; a small handful of parmesan; 2 tablespoons minced garlic; and 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary. Add more olive oil if the pan looks a little dry. Place the pan back in the oven until all is warmed through, approximately 15 minutes more. Serve with bread or crackers.
The Blue: Blueberry and Yogurt Parfaits and Blueberry Lemonade
Blueberry and yogurt parfaits (French vanilla yogurt layered with fresh blueberries).
Blueberry lemonade (fresh blueberries and lemonade with ice in a blender, garnished with fresh mint).
Red and Blue Together: Watermelon, Blueberries and Fresh Mint
As simple as it sounds, this combination has remained my favorite fruit salad.
The proportions are flexible; this bowl holds 2 “pureheart” mini-melons, 4 pints blueberries, and 3 oz. minced fresh mint.