Chef Rossi

Written and published for Huffington Post

What's in A Life

I have been pondering this question all week: "What's in a life?"

There has been a lot of death recently.

With the loss of the great, awe-inspiring Nelson Mandela, I found myself almost chanting, "This one man, one man, one man... changed the world!"

It made me feel as though my little footprint on this planet was nothing but a speck of sand blowing in the wind, but that was not the lesson of Nelson Mandela. I think his lesson was that all of our specks of sand can collectively make an avalanche of change.

Another of his lessons is the one about forgiveness. I must admit that's still a work in progress for me. But baby steps...

Six days after the passing of the great "Madiba" in my own sandbox, a kind and wonderful man named Tim Merrell, who was married to my dear friend José Rolon, died in his sleep.

He was 48 years old.

I first met Tim and José when they came to me to cater their wedding.

I have met a lot of couples in my 25 years of catering. (A girl loses count after a while.) Most of them really love each other. I said "most". But once in a while, I meet a couple who more than love each other. They have what I call "crazy, over-the-top love."

They have the kind of love that melts your heart.

Tim and José had that kind of love.

I was honored to be their wedding caterer and even more honored to stay in their life afterward. José decided to stay on in the wedding business, and we became good friends.

I didn't get to see Tim as much, but through José's loving eyes, I came to know Tim not just as a great husband but as an adoring father to their son Avery.

There was something about Tim that reminded me of Jimmy Stewart: kind and quirky, polite and dignified, with a roaring heart beneath the surface.

As I ponder this question "what's in a life?", I think of Jimmy Stewart in the movie that is so closely associated with Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life.

How many souls did Tim's old-fashioned charm and decency warm? How many emotional "Pottersvilles" would be out there, if not for him?

Tim and José's love could warm the soul of even the most homophobic person.

How many people think differently about same-sex marriage, about gay parenting, about the rights of gay people to live free and equal lives because of them? We will never know, but I suspect that it's a beach load of sand.

José and Tim's
Fantabulous Wedding at the Foundry
May 15th, 2010

Passed hors d'oeuvres
Vegetable empanadas with green apple chimichurri
Grilled Moroccan shrimp with mango ginger sauce
Pulled barbecue chicken on mini waffles
Wild mushroom wontons with red pepper miso dip
Ropa vieja on plantain crisps

The buffet supper
Pernil (roast pork shoulder, Puerto Rican style)
Chilean sea bass in Veracruz sauce (tomato, Spanish olives, capers and fresh oregano)
Arroz con gandules (pigeon peas and rice)
Oven barbecued early summer vegetables in cracked pepper and thyme (carrots, asparagus, squash and zucchini)
Baby lettuces with hearts of palm and summer tomatoes in honey, chili, lime sauce
Pull-apart biscuits and baby rolls with sweet butter

Later on
Coffee and tea station
Cupcake tower
The lovely mini dessert table