My grandfather – whom I affectionately refer to as Papa – had many talents. A Renaissance man of sorts: an Army PFC stationed in Germany during WWII, a sales engineer for Johnson Control, and the King of Siam [absolutely no resemblance other than he was bald] in a church production. Just as eclectic were his passions: singing with the choir, teaching German, HVAC and computer courses at the community college, woodworking, John Coltrane, and talking politics with the neighbors [usually over a beer or two]. He seemed to know everyone – or if he didn’t know someone he would soon be chatting away.

During elementary school I occasionally went home sick; Papa always picked me up. [And then usually bought me French toast or a malted milkshake. Maybe a round of mini-golf.] Whenever I made a mess playing in the basement or ‘reorganized’ his office, I had “Heatherized” it. He had a good sense of humor, had a great laugh and liked to tease. Instead of saying ‘wash’ or ‘squash’, his Indiana roots said ‘warsh’ and ‘squarsh.’ His favorite German word was elgenbogen. There is nothing about him I don’t miss.

In matters of cookery other than grilling or carving the holiday bird, Papa wasn’t very blessed [or at least not interested]. But he did know how to tap a maple. From mid-February to mid-April, he could be found at Wehr Nature Center: tapping the sugar maples, collecting and transporting the sap to the sugar house, and then drawing the syrup to be filtered, graded and bottled. I often went and watched him work, fascinated and charmed. I think it’s safe to say he was grooming me to be maple addict.

Until tomorrow, I leave you with a close-up and a promise of the final maple-laced recipe.