BY CARRIE ANN PEREZ
R. David New of Delray Beach is one lucky grandson. His grandmother, Elizabeth Grode, 93, who lives west of Boca Raton, has been baking for him and his family for years. "At every holiday, she always had something on the table," said New, 34. About 10 years ago, New started videotaping her cooking recipes, aiming to catalog her techniques for the family. He always wanted to put Grode's recipes in book form, but it took a debilitating illness to spur him to do it. Newfound out he was HIV positive in October 2000. By February 2001, he was in a Fort Lauderdale hospital with spinal meningitis.
"I thought 1 was going to die. 1 wasn't supposed to last a week," said New, an artist who moved to South Florida from Philadelphia shortly after he was diagnosed. While he was in the hospital, New lost his hearing temporarily. He said
he thinks it was caused by his medication. His hearing returned, but after seeing the world slowly disappear over three weeks, New saw the last glimmer of light on his 31st birthday. He remains blind. He spent more than a year in bed.
Cytomegalovirus, the same infection that robbed him of his eyesight, caused a lesion in his spine that led to paralysis. Then he developed wasting syndrome, which usually affects people in the later stages of HIV, but it affected him early on. His. weight dropped from 150 to 120 pounds. Enter his grandmother and her goodies. "I shot up to 180 pounds and she still didn't think 1 was eating enough. 1 was huge," New said, adding that he's trimmed down to a healthy 165. New said he thinks Grode helped him bulk up enough to regain his strength, fight the infection and eventually learn to walk again. "I especially liked her poppy seed cookies," he said.
New said he thinks he could not have made it through the ordeal without the support of Grode and his parents, Charlotte and Jerry New of Boca Raton. "They were really instrumental in my recovery. I surely would not have survived," New said. After New returned home from the hospital, he hammered out plans to put Grode's recipes into print. He got a software program called Job Access with Speech from Florida Blind Services. "Once I knew how to work it, Grandmom would read her recipes and I put them into a database," he said. He hired a voiceover actress to read the recipes, and he made a CD for the visually impaired. It accompanies the book. He hired a photographerto do a photo shoot of Grode and her goodies. Then he found a printer. In May, Grandmom Grode's Gourmet Goodies was published. "I actually had come up with the name years ago. Grandmom had baked awhole batch of things for my sister's bat mitzvah, and we made a sign to hang over the table: 'Grandmom Grode's Gourmet Goodies'," New said. "The name stuck."
New originally thought he would distribute the cookbook, which contains recipes for cakes, pastries and other Jewish specialties, such as challah stuffing and matzo balls, only to family. He had 100 printed, then another 50. 'We'realmost out. We need to print more," he said. Grode and New conducted a book signing at Cohen's Judaica in Boca Raton and Grode handed out some of her treats. They plan to do more publicizing. "I just love to bake. I bake for them whatever makes them
happy, and it makes me happy," said Grode, who was born in Russia in 1911, the third of nine children. Grode is modest about her contribution. "I didn't do a thing. He made the cookbook. He typed it all in," Grode said.