D is for Dandelion wine. Fourth of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck!
Every spring when dandelions pop up their yellow heads, I’m reminded of the Altamont, N.Y., farm where I lived until I was seven with my parents and maternal grandparents — and eventually two younger brothers.
Later, when we moved to the suburbs, those dandelions would become my dad’s enemy — a signal that he was not taking proper care of his lawn.
But on the farm, dandelions were part of the natural order of things. Their bobbing heads could be enjoyed, picked and smelled — or just mowed down along with the thick, untamed farm grass.
More than that, they were the key ingredient in the homemade dandelion wine that Dad brewed in the unheated room off our kitchen.
“Just pick the yellow flower, nothing else,” Dad would instruct, handing me a little-kid pail.
The he might relax in an Adirondack chair on the farmhouse porch and watch the traffic go by on Route 20 — or putter away at some household repair — while I went to work gathering the blossoms.
I remember racing around the yard looking for dandelions as if I was hunting for gold — seeing how quickly I could fill my pail to the brim with the sunny, warm, fragrant flower heads.
Each time I delivered a pail of flowers to Dad — my hands sticky with their tangy sap — he’d pour my harvest into a larger bin until it was filled with enough dandelions to start brewing the wine.
For years I recalled this flower-picking ritual as just a fun time on a spring day. But once I started studying my family’s history, up popped an ancestral connection.
The dandelion wine recipe Dad used came from my Italian-American grandfather Tony Laurence — his last name anglicized from Di Lorenzo. He was my mom’s father who with us on the farm.
Gramps inherited the recipe from his Italian ancestors back in Gloversville, N.Y. — and who knows how long the dandelion wine instructions were passed down in our family before they got to him.
So when the wine was ready and Dad let me taste a spoonful of the bitter brew, I had no idea I was also imbibing a bit of my family heritage.
Up next: E is for Elephants, mastodons and local excursions. Please stop back!
© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.