Taj was gregarious, spontaneous and exuberant in his love for glam rock, a lifestyle that he lived from the 80’s until the very end. With his pink hair, broad smile and bear hugs, there was just something about the guy that you couldn’t help but to love. He never pretended to be anything that he wasn’t, but as we all know, we don’t get to pick and choose when our loved ones move on, and this was certainly no exception.
At the wake, the priest gave his opening remarks and then my cousin Debbie read a passage. After that, people came to the podium to speak their mind, and that is indeed when the party began. I can honestly say that Taj’s send-off is to date the most memorable celebration of life that I’ve attended, and I’ve been to my fair share.
Once the dirty jokes and shots of Bombay gin started flowing, even the priest couldn’t resist and shared a scandalous anecdote about a nun in a cab. I couldn’t make this stuff up. The room went from somber and sobbing to laughter, and the realization that he was still there guiding us through his last show, replete with his cousin Danny calling him a “sellout.” Yes, Taj, you managed to bring down the house once again with the help of those who loved you the most, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I was able to get to Milwaukee for the celebration.
After we said our farewells, it was time to regenerate as we had just spent five hours at the home. As much as the celebration was the crux of our evening, it didn’t take much in the way of observation to realize that people were slowing down to a screeching halt and in need of sustenance.
The English pub in which we ate our late dinner had the ubiquitous dark wood finishings and fireplace, and of course a fairly admirable selection of beers, but I only had one as I was done. I was happy enough to finish off the evening with a Coke and a burger, the latter being a local Wisconsin grass-fed burger with (you guessed it) Wisconsin cheddar and homemade pickles and apple slaw.
I won’t pick on the cook too much, but I had to add salt to the burger, a sinful act that I rarely if ever resort to. But after that small pick-me-up, the burger was delicious. Served with an apple slaw, the sweet and sour juxtaposition of the burger, slaw and pickles made it balance out in the end. It was just what I needed to settle down before my four-hour slumber. It’s was an early flight.
As we ended up the evening, I couldn’t help but wish and hope that we can take a road trip to Milwaukee to see that branch of the family, simply to visit. It never ceases to amaze me how our family comes together at these times, and I am always grateful that I come from such a large gaggle. The stories that we share as we sit in a circle or around a table fill our hearts and give us hope, lest we forget those who have gone before us.
Grass-fed Burger, Wisconsin Cheddar, Apple Slaw
For two burgers
2 8-ounce grass-fed burger patties
Pauly’s Super-Rad Burger Seasoning (recipe follows)
2 Brioche buns
Butter, as needed for toasting
Fresh Bread & Butter pickles
Apple slaw, as needed (recipe follows)
condiments, to taste
1. Season burger patties liberally and then grill or sear the burgers to the temperature of your preference
2. Smear the buns with the butter and toast until they are golden and crispy on the inside, while still soft and chewy elsewhere
3. Build your sandwich, placing the B&B pickles and slaw right on the burger. The saltiness and spice of the burger will be well contrasted by the sweet apple slaw and B&B pickles. It’s the Wisconsin yin/yang of beefy grub
Pauly’s Super-Rad Burger Seasoning
1 Tbsp. Blackening seasoning (Yes, I’m cheating)
1 tsp. Granulated garlic
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. Dried thyme
1. Combine all ingredients in a cup by shaking or in a bowl by whisking to ensure that all of the ingredients are evenly dispersed
2. Store in an airtight container until ready to us
Makes about 1 quart
2 cups Shredded green cabbage
2 Granny smith apples, fine julienne
Red cabbage, to taste
Shredded carrot, to taste
3/4 cup Cole Slaw Dressing (recipe follows)
1. Combine all ingredients, adding the dressing until the slaw has a consistency and flavor that is compatible with your tastes
2. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve
1/2 cup Real mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. Confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbsp. Red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Celery seed
a squirt of yellow mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Combine all ingredients with a whisk until congealed and homogenous
2. Adjust seasoning and keep refrigerated until ready to use