As many of you know, Michael and I have never been inside a Taco Bell. Rest assured no amount of meal deprivation is going to compromise our principles.
Thank you for your kind words, thoughts and company to help make a sombre occasion a genuinely memorable occasion – one that reminds Michael and I of the warmth and privilege of being at the center of the universe of a special individual….and that individual was Joan.
Glazed Ham with brown sugar, ginger ale and cloves.....Honey garlic baby back ribs….Candied yams….Prime rib with home-made Yorkshire pudding for Archie….Butter….Lemon meringue pie for Michael….Jalapeno extra old cheddar cheese dip for Neil (the most requested recipe)….Chicken Cordon Bleu – how many people have homemade chicken cordon bleu at home? All I had to do was ask. Shrimp with pineapple and Catalina dressing for Susan, yes, Catalina dressing. I recall that 1st dinner with this dish. We sat down and this little bowl to my left was filled with this unknown orange sauce, and shrimp and pineapple. I though to myself, you’ve got to be kidding!….More Butter….Parmesan chicken wings for cast parties….Creamsicles at the pool parties, right Gretel?….Meatballs (I wish I could tell you what the sauce was made of but I can’t)….Braising Ribs…. my personal favourite gravy of Joan’s….Liver pate….Butter again….Breaded pork tenderloin….Meatloaf that would melt in your mouth and on and on and on.
For Joan, butter was all about ratios. The cubic volume of a potato could not exceed the cubic volume of butter. For Joan, the food was an accompaniment to the butter!
There is no better hearth and home, save God’s, than the embrace and love of friends around a dining table brimming with the largesse of a special meal. Michael and I, and many, if not all of you at some time have luxuriated…..in Joan’s largesse.
Joan’s reward in life was the pleasure of giving others pleasure. Like Cyrano’s friend, the baker Ragueneau, to know Joan was to know the gastronomic ambiguity of loving one for their food rather than who they are. Blessfully, the two loves were inseparable.
Michael and I are now learning to cook. Rest assured, none of you are in danger. We’ve mastered a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, breaded pork tenderloin, broiled beef tenderloin, pork and veal manicotti (well, I’m working on that one); what I can tell you is Ragu tomato sauce is not the sauce you want to use. And, there are others to come. We can tell you do not buy Michelina’s frozen macaroni and cheese….don’t even go there! But, do go to The Boiler House restaurant in the distillery district for their macaroni and white cheddar cheese with merguez sausage…mmmm….mmmm good.
When I entered the hospital in the fall of 1992, I was 123 pounds. Misery and distress were my consorts. My life was about to take a dramatic turn in direction. Little did I know what happiness lay ahead.
The fates intervened and I met Michael….and you know what they say about dating a man over the age of 40 who is still living with his mother!
And of course, I met Joan, Joan’s razor sharp wit, Joan’s cooking, and the number 2 dachshund Gretchen, and now 12 years with Schautzie. Joan embraced me almost immediately. And then, Michael and I and Joan began our wonderful journey of over 2000 games of cribbage and gin rummy after dinners, all recorded for posterity. And what fun they we’re.
Joan, as you know, has a devastatingly sharp wit, a wit that inflicts its precision with an enviable economy of words. For example: The usual gang of us headed into our Canadian Stage subscription to see a production of Sondheim’s “Passion”. Now, now, now….no derogatory invective hurled at S.S. or Michael and I will revoke your food pass. The play was awful, the audience almost didn’t know what to do at the curtain. The end of the play culminates in a duel to the death of the 2 protagonists. As the lights went up amidst the quiet of the audience, Joan casually reflected in her quiet droll way: Well, they could’ve saved us a whole lot of aggravation if they had the duel as the opening.
The card games were immense fun, and Joan and I pushed each other’s button’s like there was no tomorrow, throwing barbs back and forth like volleys on a tennis court. And who could ask for a better adversary? We were tremendously competitive. The difference was where I would howl and gloat with the glee of a hyena, Joan was meek and humble. Despite my best efforts, I am constantly reminded how difficult it is to cultivate humility, a goal I have been working on with little success for many years. For Joan, it was effortless.
The camaraderie of those games elicited a goofiness in me that made me feel like a child again.
Joan has lived with Michael for close to 25 years and with Michael and I for half that time. And, in all those years, there is nothing whatsoever that left any lingering ill will between us. Meals were never taken for granted and we always complimented the cook. Occasionally, I would look in abject horror on those rare occasions when Michael would observe subtle differences in a gravy or sauce or taste…..what a brave man he was during those moments of daring!
Writing this has been difficult for me. It did not flow. It does not possess the characteristics I have become accustomed to in my writing. No flowery prose, no politics, no vitriolic diatribe, no intellectual discourse – all of these would detract from the person that is Joan. The less philosophizing the less maudlin the eulogy.
Plainly, I will miss her terribly. She allowed a new chapter of my life to unfold, gave me my own family when I needed it most, loved me unconditionally, stoked the fires in the cauldron of my belly at 6pm every evening, and opened a new world of some pretty damn spectacular friendships. What more do ya want?
Joan’s final gesture was to gift the gift of sight – her cornea(s). Please fill out your organ donor card when you arrive home. We offered the surgeons her tongue but they felt the risk of injury was too great and declined our offer.
Despite her tough exterior, it was really just a veneer. No self-aggrandizement, just quiet reserve and humility. She really, really wouldn’t hurt a fly. They say the meek shall inherit the earth. Well, Joan has made a down-payment.
Some of you are dear friends of Joan; some, dear friends of Michael and I; some, acquaintances; some co-workers. Some of you have only met her once or twice and your presence here is more a sign of respect, comfort, and generosity for Michael and me. Indeed, the warmth you have shown the two of us is somewhat disingenuous. Michael’s ingredients, what makes him the fine and wonderful individual he is, and my ingredients, mostly come from our parents; some from those of you assembled here, but mostly from mom and dad. Our mom, Joan Roantree, knew a whole lot about ingredients.
You are all always welcome in our home - Michael, me, Schautzie and Joan. And whenever you walk through our door Joan will be waiting for you in the kitchen, and whatever Michael and I serve you it will be Joan’s meal, and Joan’s love, and Joan’s joy as long as you are a guest in our home.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all.