My Grandmother’s Recipe

Recipe photo (c) Greg Santos


Recipe photo (c) Greg Santos



I have yet to dust off my Tata’s recipe for croquettas de atún.

I still have not gotten the hang of béchamel, the mother of all sauces.

My daughter does not eat fish, also a factor.


Learning to cook tuna fritters just how my grandmother used to.

It is on my perpetual to-do list, like getting my driver’s license.

It has been one year today since she died.


My Mother once told me she couldn’t stand how people say

passed away, such a feeble euphemism.

The words numbing in their uncertainty.


Her side of the family in Spain lived through La Guerra, its aftermath.

With both my maternal grandparents now dead,

I have no access to their memories but from remembered stories.



Throughout my childhood, in works of literature, art, Picasso’s Guernica,

Pan’s Labyrinth, my love of Lorca, a perpetual feeling of duende.

I’ve come to glean fragments, which I’m only now piecing together.


My Spanish grandmother and Italian grandfather’s  revulsion

upon naming any of  Los Tres Dictatores:

Franco, Mussolini, Castro.


Showing off a photo of my newborn daughter raising one tiny fist up in the air

someone remarked we have a communista in the making,

the joke was met with a frown and a prayer. We do not joke about such things.



I learned that my Mother and Tia were sent off

to live with relatives when they were children during the Franco years.

The story was always just in the fog of the past.


Tata worked as a waitress at her family’s restaurant by the beach.

Nano, my grandfather, stationed nearby as a soldier. Noticing my grandmother,

he asked her out on a date for ice cream. A sweet story amidst much darkness.



Once when I told her of my calling to be a writer, she didn’t flinch.

She always in awe of the magic of Hollywood stars like Doris Day, Clark Gable.

She told me of her enduring dream to write stories and movie scripts.

But she was told that it would never happen to her.

Writing stories for movies was unladylike, she would wistfully say.

It was a different world, a different time. Que sera, sera



I will one day learn to cook her croquettas de atún.

Until then, I write this for her,

my recipe keeping Tata’s story alive. Whatever will be, will be…


My grandparents, Ece Cervi and Luciano Cervi (c) Greg Santos



Greg Santos is the author of Blackbirds (Eyewear Publishing, 2018), Rabbit Punch! (DC Books, 2014) and The Emperor’s Sofa (DC Books, 2010). He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. He regularly works with at-risk communities and teaches at the Thomas More Institute. He is the poetry editor of carte blanche and lives in Montréal.