A cookbook celebrates how a grandmother's love nourished David New from AIDS brink
By ANDY ZEFFER
Things were pretty grave when R. David New was diagnosed with HIV in October 2000. The young man had let his illness go unchecked far too long. He was down to zero "T cells." The following months found New bedridden and temporarily paralyzed as well as temporarily deaf. CMV retinitis had taken grip over his eyes, resulting in permanent blindness. Excruciating pain ensued, including spinal taps and having needles inserted in his eyes. He suffered from swollen nymph lodes in his stomach and ingrown toe nails so painful his toes felt as though they were being crushed when a sheet was laid over them. Through it all his family was at his side, including his now 93-year-old grandmother. ' "My grandmother is such a strong' lady," New says. "There I was bedridden, and my 90-year-old grandmother is standing there massaging my feet." But massaging New's feet was just a fragment of Elizabeth Grode's care and love. When New's struggle with his condition resulted in severe weight loss, Grandmom Grode did what she does best. She hit the kitchen to cook and bake up a storm, helping make sure her Grandson was nourished back to health. "Grandmom was the one forcing me to eat. New recalls. "She was just baking and cooking every minute of the day. She'd keep telling me to take a nosh, and I'd tell her I was eating all the time."
To this day, New credits his grandmother's doting on him and baking for him as key reasons for his turn around. Though his eyesight is gone, New has regained his health, and in turn let his grandmother know how much her contributions mean to him by honoring her through a cookbook titled "Grandmom Grode's Gourmet Goodies."
A fitting thank you
The idea first came as New was mending from his illness. He had to keep his mind busy, and creating a cookbook and dedicating it to his grandmother seemed like a good project to help him do so. Elizabeth Grode had countless recipes that needed to be documented, all of them contained in a Zip Lock bag and printed on scraps of paper. The print was so small on many that Grode had to squint and use bifocals while pouring over them with her grandson. Because some of the scraps were smudged as well, the two had to improvise a bit. Now Grode herself refers to the cookbook when she is baking. New put all of his time and resources into creating the book. Since losing his sight in 2001, he has trained on screenready software, which enabled him to write the preface.
He found photographer Gordon Duvall to take the pictures. Duvall brought a photo assistant to the home of New's parents, where the shoot took place. "My grandmother had been baking for two weeks prior to the shoot," recounts New of the big day. "We brought everything out, and Grandmom powdered and iced the dishes. She also set up all the tablecloths and flowers as well." New wanted to offer buyers more than just a book and considered his options, including a CD-ROM. He decided on attaching an audio CD on the back of the inside cover. After being presented with some exorbitant prices for recording, New contacted the National Library of Congress, who in turn put him in touch with an organization called Insight for the Blind in Fort Lauderdale. There, a recording engineer took on the project. After listening to the promos of voice-over artist Connie Zimmet, who does of all of Burdines' ads, New chose her to narrate the CD.
Recipes to remember
The end result is a book and audio CD with mouth-watering recipes ranging from Passover sponge cake to potato kugle. , Among New's favorite recipes are the chocolate mint squares, the poppy seed cook, ies, the chocolate chip cake and the strudel. He says the best part of putting together the book was time spent with his grandmother. At times, she would have New in stitches. "We were going through the recipes and a lot of them said a pinch of this and a dash of that and I said 'Grandmom, you have to let readers know exactly what amount to use." New says. "She said 'Well, if they don't know what they are doing, they shouldn't be in the kitchen in the first place."' The book costs $21.95 and is available at Cohen's Judaica in Boca Raton,Fla. On July 21, a reception will be held at the store for the book. If the book makes a profit, a portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the blind. New says he will most likely make a donation to the gUide dogs' association that sponsored his own guide dog, Carmichael. But for now New would be happy just to break even. "I wasn't thinking of the cost or looking to make any money from this project," says New. "My primary purpose for doing it was for grandmom. It is important for us to remember her and keep her recipes a tradition in the family."
|R. David New
Residence: Delray Beach, Fla.
Occupation: owner of Internet furniture business: www.americanchairexchange.com
Education: Fashion Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, Temple University, University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale .
Pets: Carmichael. a 2-year-old yellow lab and guide dog that came from the Southeastern guide dog association. Also a King Charles spaniel named Sugar
Fun tidbit: Is currently taking up sculpture