“The building of the Panama Canal was fueled on the food of my ancestors,” Jackie says. “My great grandmother, Rosa Adams, was a caterer there. She fed the men who built it.”
Jackie’s Jamaican-born, great grandmother, Rosa, cooked and sold food from the West Indies to Central America. She cooked her family’s way to New York City. There she was lost to cancer and most of her recipes passed with her. Her, now deceased, daughter Maude’s (“Grandma”), Jackie’s grandmother, biggest regret was never learning to cook from her mother, whom she swore was ten times the cook she ever was. Jackie finds this difficult to believe: “The Gordon family would beg to differ because Grandma has always been an amazing cook! I got my “excess is best” motto directly from my grandmother. Her incredible holiday and Sunday dinners were as delicious as they were feats of space.”
Grandma cooked sumptuous meals from “soup to nuts” in a pivot kitchen. A room so small you could stand in the center and touch the four walls. And if the variety didn’t floor you, the quantity did. At times she borrowed neighbors’ apartments to seat all her guests. And every guest had to have food to take home for the next day. Grandma’s theory was the dinner was ruined if your guests had to cook the next day.
Then there was Granddad, Marcus Gordon Sr., direct from Jamaica. He bought and cooked the meat. Nothing but the best!
“One year, he spent so much money on a standing rib roast from Macy’s that Grandma insisted on hanging the receipt on the wall so the guests could thoroughly appreciate the food.”
He worked for decades at a midtown hotel that exposed him to diverse cultures and developed his taste for a wide variety of foods. He introduced Jewish food into the family’s repertoire of favorite food in the pre-grandchildren days. A trip to Zabar’s was one of his greatest pleasures, up to his passing at the tender age of 94.
“The men behind the smoked fish counter were on a first-name basis with my grandmother. She was very popular because she bought out the store—a feast of smoked salmon, sable and sturgeon, herring in cream sauce with onions, chopped liver, shrimp salad, horseradish beets, rye bread with the seeds, and bialys, and bagels, and, and, and, and…I would always ask her, ‘Now you’re positiveyou’re not the source of my Jewish ancestry?’”