Uncle Joe didn’t live long enough to eat the fried little treats, but nevertheless, that summer, we ate the carduni without him. He had been so excited to hear about my wonderful Sicilian-American husband, a non-relation from California, of good Sicilian ancestry of course, that the fact that he was also a trained cook was secondary, but it wasn’t so bad either. If only Pietro could go and show that man-called-a-cook at the retirement center how to cook pasta. That was what Joe wanted most of all, just plain decent everyday food. Every time we saw Joe, it was either a plea for help from him asking us to deal with the kitchen staff where he lived, or else he had a few nice things to say about the young female attendants. Keeping him away from both subjects was always a good choice when I visited though, and that was where the cardoons came in handy.
Now we still have the same cardoons, the ones I planted for him 3 years ago, and although I should probably re-seed them again so that the stalks next year will be younger and tastier, I just have a hard time ripping them out. Those plants make me think of Uncle Joe and what he meant to me. He was one of the strange but wonderful bachelors in my family who never married, choosing instead to live with family, pooling their money and resources as they lived together. Each individual appeared to have their place in they system, at least from my perspective, but who really knows now.
As I move on in my own life, I have to let these things go sometimes, and I have to hold on to what I can. I just wish that I could have held on to Uncle Joe longer, or to my Uncle Charlie or Uncle Fritz. I would trade those damn cardoons for a moment with any one of my old Sicilian relations in an instant.