The Ida Poplowski Chronicles

by Maddie Woda

My father says his fifth grade teacher was Guy Fieri’s grandmother. She had red hair and freckles, according to my father, and taught social studies in the trailer duct taped to the actual elementary school. He, my father, and apparently she, Guy Fieri’s grandmother, are both from Powhatan Point, Ohio, a crusty junction of Ohio and West Virginia in the Ohio River Valley. Food is love in Powhatan Point, just like food is love in most places, and my grandmother (not Guy Fieri’s) owned two restaurants while my father was growing up. One was called the Wigwam (I do not debate the politics of this moniker with my father. What’s done is done). The other was called Dorelli’s, manned by Doris and Ellie, my grandmother and great-aunt respectively, before they were my grandmother and great-aunt.

Maybe there was also a time when Guy Fieri’s grandmother was not just Guy Fieri’s grandmother, but Ida Poplowski of the red hair and freckles. I don’t actually know if that’s Guy Fieri’s grandmother’s name, but Powhatan Point is stuffed with Dabrowskis and Adamcyzks and other Polish or Czech surnames, the descendants of rough men who came to Ohio for coal mining. Surely Guy Fieri isn’t his real name either (Edit: Upon further investigation…it is?). Perhaps Doris and Ida were friends; Ida came in for a bowl of chili at the Wigwam; they chatted over the counter. Ida, like a mother to Doris, even though Doris’s own mother only lived three miles down the crick and popped in everyday to remind Doris to save the metal lids from canned beans. Doris’s own mother, of course, being my great-grandmother, Veronica Paige Woda, before she was my or anyone’s great-grandmother. She, like her daughter and her daughter’s son, made a mean side dish, rubbed whole cloves of garlic along the metal salad bowl.

Ida is certainly no longer with us, and Doris is in hospice. She had a stroke two weeks ago, though I don’t think she could recognize my father or Ellie or anyone else before that. She made me chicken soup when I visited as a child, thick egg noodles and no vegetables, just like Guy Fieri would want. My father now makes soup every once in a while, pours boiled potatoes into a blender, fries bacon and chives in garlic. We sit down together in front of the TV; we watch Guy Fieri moan over a burger as thick as his face. “He spits it out,” my dad says like it’s a personal affront. “I read he spits it out as soon as he tastes it.”

 

Maddie Woda is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She attended Columbia University and has been published in the Emerson Review, Willawaw Journal, the Indianapolis Review, and others.

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Filed under Nonfiction

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