A Garden Trip Down Nostalgia Lane


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They say the sense of smell is the strongest of the five senses in terms of bringing back memories. I know that’s true for me. I have a very good sense of smell. It comes from my dad. He’s the same way. We’re the first one to smell something burning or to notice someone’s new perfume or wrinkle our noses at an area  poultry plant.

For me, sometimes it’s hard to remember where I’ve smelled something before. But not always. For certain aromas, there’s a direct memory connection.

And that’s what it is for garden-grown white grapes and vine-ripened tomatoes.

Whenever I smell or taste them, it brings me back to my grandpa Quagliato’s garden in Union, New Jersey. Now, he had a garden in Newark, too, I’m sure. But that’s a bit harder for me to remember, because they moved out of Newark when I was little. But when I touch the vines of a tomato plant and smell its aroma, I am brought back to his 3×15 tomato garden.

He took such great care of his tomatoes. He was out there all the time. Doing what, I couldn’t say. He wasn’t much of a talk, and I wasn’t into gardening then, so I never paid attention. That’s probably why I’m such a bad gardener to this day! I remember the taste of a freshly picked sliced tomato, sprinkled with a touch of salt. I can remember the little yum-yum noise my grandma would make as she ate the first slice. I can sometimes remember my grandpa smiling as he brought in his tomatoes. And if you knew my grandpa, that was a big thing.

And the grapes. My grandpa had a grape vine on the fence. White grapes. I don’t know which kind but they were good. I’m pretty sure they had seeds. Like most real foods straight from the garden, those grapes tasted nothing like the grapes in the stores. In fact, I’ve never eaten any grapes from a vine that tasted like grapes in the stores, leaving me to wonder…where do those grapes come from???

But, I digress, the smell and the taste of those white grapes take me back to my grandparents house in NJ. I can picture the little tendrils and leaves on the vines and sneaking some grapes when no one was looking. I can almost hear the birds on the fences and the planes flying to nearby airport, and the tinkling of the ice cream truck.

My grandparents passed away years ago, but when I grow tomatoes and touch that vine or buy those grapes from the farmers market, I like to think a little bit of them lived on in me.

I love you, Grandma and Grandpa Quagliato

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Grandma Quagliato with me at the piano

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Grandpa Quagliato at their house in Union.

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Me, Grandpa, my cousin Caitlin, my brother Christopher, and my father (rockin’ a ‘stache) at my grandparents house in Union, New Jersey. You can see the grapevine behind us on the fence. Beyond that is a patch of garden where his tomatoes grew every year.

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