Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Our paternal grandfather was born in France but left before WW I to break new ground and establish himself as a gentleman farmer in the vast Canadian west. Farm he did, but his life was cut short at the age of 36 when he developed a condition which is now treatable with dialysis. In 1922, in the wilds of northern Alberta, there wasn't any medicine let alone treatment for this very painful illness.
My father was 1 1/2 years old when he lost his father and naturally, we grew up with scant stories and a few letters and documents that he left behind. My grandmother remarried and second husband was not a fan of first husband so that all ties with France ended rather abruptly when my father's eldest sister died of tuberculosis in her twenties. She had continued to correspond with my great-grandmother after the death of her son, my grandfather.
So grandpère Georges has always been a mystery man to us and we held on to whatever we could to forge that part of us that was him. The few photos we have have been reproduced and show a rather gallant, intellectual sort of adventurer.
In 1982, I traveled to the Champagne region with the name of the village where his mother came from, and found what was left of the family in that area. Namely my father's second cousin Jean, his wife and their children.
I have visited them several times since, and with the help of French online archives, have located my great-grandfathers and a good number of great aunts and uncles. I have in my possession copies of birth, marriage and death records of many family members but nothing speaks like a relic of days gone by.
That is why this pot is one of my favorite things. It comes from where I come from, was touched and used by my ancestors and now is in my service, in my kitchen, so many thousands of kilometers and so many dozens of years later.