Sunday, December 4, 2011

Forgive Me (Part 2)

These photos show images related to my Grandma Dora, Aunt Anna, and Aunt Mary, all of whom were amazing teachers of food preparation and presentation in my life. Today we would call that "slow food" but they did it quite quickly and with skill that would astound and could not be replicated by many today. Aunt Mary's restaurant, which is above, was called "The Argonne Cafe" and was located at 1731 Grand Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa.  The Argonne was near both the Ford Plant and Meredith Publishing, an area which must have been "hopping" during the War years.  Aunt Mary took great pride in her restaurant.  She would speak of it often over the years, as if it was a defining moment in her life.  (I wish I had been paying more attention.) She truly must have been in her element there. She was an amazing and inspired cook throughout her life.  I do not know when she bought the restaurant.  I do know that she worked there before she bought it.  The card below suggests that it was her restaurant in 1941. I do not know the vintage of the vehicles in the above photo but that would be a way to date the story too.  I believe that some of the 1st images of me on our family home movies are in front of this restaurant.  I was a baby and the year would have been 1948 or 49.  Aunt Mary sold the restaurant in about 1954. Thinking of her after this time in her own kitchen in Prairie Village, Kansas, I see feet running to the market to purchase the best grade of ingredients she could find and arms going in all directions grabbing just what she needed for that next culinary pleasure. I also hear much uproarious laughter besides. 
One of the lessons that I learned early in life was that if you ever had an opportunity to "eat with Mary", you wouldn't dare pass that up.  It would be a sensory pleasure you would be talking about for years, and in this case for a lifetime.  Maybe that explains in part why Aunt Mary reportedly had long lines of people waiting outside her restaurant. It is easy to see why.
Mary's sister Anna moved to Des Moines to help Mary with her restaurant.  I can imagine that it was significant support for these 2 women who were 1st generation born in this country to Croatian immigrants to have been in a very active Croatian community, including Dora's sister Sadie Budiscelich Ruppe.  In the above image, Aunt Anna is in the kitchen peering over the counter.  I can imagine that Mary and Anna were quite a team. Aunt Anna would have been in her mid 20s to about 40 when the restaurant closed.
Here is Aunt Mary at the till of her new restaurant.  Aunt Mary began some of her early restaurant work at the Younker's Tea Room, which these days would have been called "up scale".  By the time she was about 30, she was a restaurant owner.  She and M. Wayne Bryson married in 1954 and moved to Kansas City with his transfer in the Ford Motor Company in 1955.  She would have sold the restaurant sometime before.  Both she and Aunt Anna look the happiest in these photos that I have ever seen them.  Aunt Mary's ownership of the Argonne included the years of World War II.  During this time when men were gone to the war, women took on many leadership and work roles which were not customary at that time for their gender.  I can imagine that her restaurant was just hopping and with it came great pride that she was successful and doing her part.
I love this picture of my Croatian Grandmother Dora (Dragica) Budiselich Bloskovich (Blaskovic). While she is ironing rather than cooking, she is indeed in her small kitchen.  I see that wonderful refrigerator behind.  This would have been just about the same area that I remember making bread with her when I would have been 6 or 7.  Grandma Dora and Grandpa Kazimer moved to Des Moines in October 1946 with Kazimer's decline in health.  They lived at 1111 East 9th, which was next door to Dora's sister Sadie and her husband Matt Ruppe.   This picture would have been taken about 1948 or 49. Grandma Dora would have been about 70.

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