The first in a series called I’m Not Finished: A Personal Encyclopedia Gluttonica.
In the realm of emotional bookkeeping, there is literally no number of doughnuts that equals the cost of picking up the check at a waterfront restaurant.
My maternal grandfather, Carl Pilbeam, remarried when I was almost three years old. I have but one fleeting memory of that afternoon: a group of us under a huge shade tree in front of Grandpa’s farmhouse, outside Victor, in upstate New York. What I do remember, in much more vivid scraps, is a summer night outdoors at the same farm right around that time, a few glaring spotlights, clanging, laughing, and the smell of smoke. I remember it was a clam roast because it was the only clam roast my family has ever had. And because clams at a clam roast are incredibly delicious.
I knew my grandfather as a man of constants until he died at the age of 97. The only incident I ever saw him lose his temper over had to do with a game of gin rummy. He was incurably sociable, a Rotarian and Friday Fish-Fry guy, and incapable of traveling anywhere without running into someone who recognized his heavy-set frame topped with a Napa cap on his bald head. He was an eater, big hungry country boy division, who specialized in ice cream, fruit pies, and the type of doughnut called a fried cake. When Grandpa went to buy doughnuts in the morning, so the family catechism went, one dozen were for the family and one dozen were for Grandpa’s drive home in the truck.