There, heady from meat and the Jewishness of it all, he was reminded of an old joke. He had a difficult time remembering it, so my mother, who’d tagged along, filled in the gaps.
It goes like this: A woman goes to a butcher, and she says to him, “Give me a good one!” The butcher brings out a chicken, and the woman takes a whiff. She tosses it back and says, “No! I want a good one!” It continues back and forth like this for some time until the butcher has had enough.
My grandfather was reeled back into the memory just in time to steal the punch line. “Lady!” he shouted, in character. “’You think you could pass such a test?!’”
After Attman’s, we ambled over to Vaccaro’s Italian Pastries, well known for its cannolis overflowing with ricotta. I managed only half of mine; my grandfather finished all of his. That night, we ate dinner at the Woodside Deli on Rockville Pike, where he ordered triple deckers with bacon and nearly cleared his plate.
His appetite seemed fully returned. Had it? I asked. “Like a horse,” he replied.
In the last two months, my grandfather has packed on about half the pounds he’d lost. I reminded him of the other time in his life he’d gained a significant amount of weight.
After enlisting in the Navy at age 17, he became enamored with canteen food and went from from 120 pounds to 150 in a matter of months. The mess hall’s chipped beef, he said, had a lot to do with that.
When I suggested we track down a plate of it, he recoiled. “I hate chipped beef!” he cried. I was confused; hadn’t he just told me otherwise? “That was 60 years ago!” he said, laughing. I understood. Tastes change, but sometimes the story is too good to stop telling. A person, it turns out, can have an appetite for things beyond food.