In the early nineties, I used to work Wednesdays and Saturdays selling fruit behind the Locust Grove Fruit Farm stand at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City. Almost without fail on both of those days each week, the pastry chef Gina DePalma, would come in to buy fruit for the rustic, seasonally-inspired desserts she made first at The Cub Room, a SoHo hotspot at at the time and then at Mario Batali’s legendary pillar of Italian cuisine, Babbo Ristorante. Gina died earlier this month of ovarian cancer. Sadly, Gina and I never became real actual friends, but we made the occasional contact via social media and saw each other at events, and I think it’s fair to say that we liked each other and regarded our long ago farmers market connection as a sort of bond from the trenches.
Gina kept a blog until the end and I loved reading it. First, because she was knowledgable and a professional and whether she was writing about the iconic pasta dish, cacio e pepe or giving her readers a recipe for bran muffins, I knew I could trust what she had to say. And second, because in addition to being a game-changing pastry chef, she was also a talented writer. The last reason I liked her blog is that although it was about food, it was really about life. She had something to say about everything, and that’s just how I remember her bounding up to the farm stand every week positively bursting with something to say. All three are just the sort of qualifications that should be required to have a blog.
When Gina wrote what would be her last post, she was going in to a second cancer surgery, but despite that statement of the grim facts, there is so much joy and poetry and appreciation for life in her words: “So wish me good luck, send me some good vibes, and do some good stuff while I’m out of commission. Hug your friends and family, kiss your pets, water your plants and send some thanks up to the universe… make or eat some lasagna because as my former chef Mario says, lasagna is love, baby!”
As we are now well on the road into 2016, whether you’re a person who didn’t make resolutions because you think they’re pointless, or whether, like me, you make a long list of resolutions and goals in the never-ending hope that this might help you become a better, happier person, I think that most important goal, or lesson, of 2016 might be summed up in Gina’s ability to savor with such sincerity and such a slowing of time just how delicious it is to take a walk in the crisp autumn air, to make lasagna, or to hug a friend.
So let’s enjoy 2016. Aren’t we just so very lucky to have that chance? And as Gina said (para-quoting Pink Floyd lyrics) in that last post, Shine on, you crazy diamonds!