The other day, while cleaning out some junk drawers in the kitchen, I came across this lovely item. It's my grandpa's pepper grinder. I've had it in various drawers since he passed away in 1995. It needed some repairs that I just hadn't gotten around to doing so there it sat, in the kitchen drawer of my various kitchens until just the other day when I took it out, put it back together (with the help of the two perfectly fitting washers you can see under the handle that I robbed from my husband's parts-stash). Perfect! It grinds pepper like a champ - I suspect, exactly the way it did 60 years ago when it was new. My dad remembers it from when he was a kid in the 1940s.
From the time I was very young, my grandmother would ask me to help her set the table for dinner, and after everything else was on the table, she would say to me, "... and put this next to Grandpa's plate." I loved this little thing - its small size, the fact that it looked like a miniature barrel, the sliding lid for the peppercorns, the simple mechanics of it - I always thought it was just perfect. Now it reminds me of dinners there at my grandparents house, with everyone sitting around the table chatting, passing plates of course after course of wonderful food.
My grandfather spent much of his time in the backyard garden in the summer. In the winter he painted. Great, big oil paint portraits of unknown people, posing in robes and postures of people from the Renaissance.
I always like this lady best. My grandmother wouldn't let him hang the pictures upstairs, so their finished basement looked like an art gallery with pictures lining all the walls. In defense of my grandma, they were rather large... I found a place for this one in my own house, hanging on the wall in the stairwell - visible to all those going down the stairs. 'Hello, lady,' I sometimes think when I'm walking down the stairs, 'you look happy today.'
Still, the pepper grinder holds a special place in my heart, because while the painting was his solitary hobby, the eating reminds me of the family. Once, when my grandmother asked me to call Grandpa to dinner, I walked a few steps down into the basement and yelled, "Grampa! Come uppa stairs!" in perfect imitation of his Italian accent. He found this endlessly amusing, and the family laughed about it for years.
He had a good sense of humor. I was not very old when I grew taller than him - he was only about 5'4" or so, and age shrunk him a bit, I'm sure. He started calling me Shorty.
So Grandpa, consider this a tribute from your Shorty. From now on, whenever I grind fresh pepper onto my food, I'll think of you.