Since Holly died, 21 years ago today, I have often thought of my friend George C. Legaros—almost every week, and maybe several times a week a week at that. This is because of something he told me now that I was living alone. “You’ll never again have to wash your coffee cup between each use.”
He knew. His own wife Connie had preceded him in death in 1975, also from cancer, and at the time of her death, Holly and I had no idea we would be following in the Legaros’ footsteps 18 years later.
This remark taught me that sometimes, when terrible things happen to us, you have to grasp at anything, however small, to find something positive in your new situation. I have washed a lot fewer coffee cups since then.
I always heeded George’s advice. Sometimes it worked out, and sometimes it didn’t (as when I hired a realtor—one of George’s more successful and affluent customers—who steered me to a mortgage banker I didn’t like, and who I learned years later had justly ended up in prison). But George had taken Holly and me under his wing when we first set up housekeeping in Minneapolis, and I trusted his intentions.
George was the owner, with his brothers, of the nearby Rainbow Cafe, a landmark Minneapolis restaurant founded by his father in the Uptown area of town in 1919. Until it closed in 1979 as one of the last and largest family restaurants in the Twin Cities, it was a place where grandmother-style comfort food was sure to be served by silver-haired ladies with names like Rose, Hermina, Dorea, and La Vaughn. If George discovered me among the customers gracing the restaurant’s comfy Naugahyde booths, chances are no check would appear at the end of the meal.
But that’s not the reason I took George’s advice. He was a really smart guy and knew a lot of stuff that, as a 20-something, I had yet to learn. I never knew until years later, but besides the University of Minnesota (which is de rigueur in Minneapolis), George had attended the Wharton School of Business, Harvard, and the University of Chicago, where he received his MBA. George loved his family, the arts, classical music, cooking, and gardening.
George died in 2001 at the age of 76. He was the age of my parents.
Before he died, George shared the following recipe for lamb stew as his restaurant and fellow Greeks prepared it. It is a fitting memorial to him that it is remembered as part of his legacy.
Rainbow Lamb Stew
3 lbs. lamb, neck or shank
1 No. 2 can whole string beans
1 cup canned tomatoes
1 cup water or chicken or beef broth
1 tbls. chopped onion
½ tsp. oregano
¼ tsp. chopped garlic
Salt, pepper, and paprika
Cut lamb into ½ lb. pieces. Salt and pepper and roll in flour. Place the floured pieces in a roasting pan and sprinkle with paprika. Pour tomatoes over lamb, add the water (or broth) and sprinkle with the onion, garlic and oregano. Bake uncovered in 325 degree oven until brown, about 1 and 1½ hours, turning continually. Remove the lamb pieces and place in a sauce pan. Add the broth from a can of string beans to drippings in roasting pan. Put roasting pan on stove and bring to boil. Add drained string beans to lamb. Strain sauce in roasting pan and pour over lamb. Simmer until done, about 25 minutes. Serves six.
Groove of the Day