Elizabeth Jacob married Jean Jacob in December 1979 on a Sunday – because the French Market in Georgetown did not close on a Saturday during the busy holiday season! In her interview with Catherine Habanananda, Elizabeth and her daughter, Cathrina, describe the relationship of the Jacob brothers and their famous French Market. There were very few specialty food markets in Washington during the 1960s and 1970s and the French Market filled the void first in Chevy Chase and later in Georgetown on Wisconsin Avenue. Elizabeth reminisces about her first meeting with Jean at the market while looking for calf’s brain for a recipe, the extraordinary love and friendship between the Jacob brothers, and the success of the French Market in Georgetown.
Catherine Habanananda: Hello Elizabeth and hello Cathrina.
Elizabeth and Cathrina
Catherine: Today is the 5th of June, 2011, and, Elizabeth, here we are in your beautiful house at 8701 Fordham Drive in Bethesda, Maryland. This is your home and the home you were sharing with the late Jean Jacob, your husband.
Catherine: It’s an interview that’s going to be mostly centered on Jean…
Catherine: He passed away just recently on July the 14th, 2010. And July the 14th I understand was a date extremely important for you and Jean in many different instances.
Catherine: Can you recall some very important July 14ths in this life?
Elizabeth: Well, I know that they (the Jacob brothers and their father) started the French Market on July 14th, and when they opened the French Markets in Georgetown, it was on July 14th.
Catherine: And that was in, I’m sorry, in ’58?
Elizabeth: I think so.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Then the first date that Jean and I had was to the Bastille Day Ball at the French Embassy.
Catherine: Oh! Well then, indeed!
Elizabeth: That was our first date.
Catherine: Your first date before the wedding.
Catherine: Did the wedding come soon after?
Elizabeth: This was in July. We met, I think like the 7th of July; 6th or 7th of July. And then the 14th was the first time we went out to this ball at the French Embassy. And then we were married in December 1979 on his birthday which was a Sunday because the French Market had to be open on Saturday. They could not close even for a wedding.
Catherine: Right. Right. And so, also because it was December, it was a very important time for the business. In December, they did not…
Catherine: Close to Christmas. Absolutely, absolutely. Yes.
Elizabeth: Yes, they did not want to take any detours.
Catherine: Let me now back up a little bit and talk about you. I would like to know when you were born and where, which was not in Washington, D.C.
Elizabeth: No, I grew up in South Africa. I was born on a farm in South Africa, and I lived on this farm until I was seven years old. Then we moved to the city.
Catherine: To which city?
Elizabeth: In South Africa, it was called Pretoria, near Johannesburg.
Elizabeth: Johannesburg is a very famous, or could be famous, or infamous city, and it was near Johannesburg. My father was in the military so we moved a lot. I didn’t really make any roots in South Africa because we were always moving, other than in this farm where I lived the longest period of time.
Catherine: I see.
Elizabeth: And so, my memories of South Africa are very tied to this farm.
Catherine: To your youth.
Catherine: Your childhood actually.
Elizabeth: Very much the childhood.
Catherine: And where was your father moving? Any other different countries?
Elizabeth: No, not different countries; just within South Africa. He was transferred about every three years to a different… And he was like the commanding officer so you know, you just get up and go. Tours of duty were always three years.
Catherine: Yes, it’s the same thing in France and everywhere, yes.
Elizabeth: Yeah. And then, when after I finished high school, I actually attended what they called a Civil Defense College for women in South Africa. And then I worked at the Foreign Affairs Department, and then transferred to Military Intelligence Department and they transferred me to Washington, D.C. I had that choice of I could go to Germany or to America and I didn’t want to make that decision. So, to the man that I worked for, I said, “Please decide for me.” He said, “I think you should go to America.” And I said, “OK, I’m going.” And, I was here for three years, and really on my way back home to South Africa when I met Jean. I was taking a French cooking class at L’Academie de Cuisine and I just wanted to complete that before I went back. I was always interested in French cooking.
Catherine: Ah, interested in cooking?
Elizabeth: Yeah, and at that time, the French Market was the only market that would have authentic French foods.
Elizabeth: So whenever we had to do something in cooking class, he (the teacher) would say, “And you can find that at the French Market in Georgetown.” So finally, I got in my little car and drove to Georgetown to go and see this famous French Market. And, of course, the three men (the Jacob brothers) were there.
Catherine: Name for us those three men.
Elizabeth: Jean, and Robert, and George. And I did not know that Jean was not married at that time. So I just went to get whatever ingredients I needed. But he noticed me, apparently; that’s what he said. And then they opened the Chevy Chase Market, and I lived in Chevy Chase right behind the market. It’s, again, serendipitous because, not only did I attend the church here that was right next to Jean’s house, this Chevy Chase Market was right behind the apartment in Chevy where I lived.
Catherine: Where you lived.
Elizabeth: Yeah. So again, I wanted something to cook and I went over there, and he had more time there because it wasn’t so busy. So he came out from behind the counter to talk to me.
Catherine: So that was Jean?
Elizabeth: That was Jean.
Catherine: So he worked in both places; the one in Georgetown and the one in Chevy Chase as well?
Elizabeth: Yes. Two of them would be in one place and one would run the other one.
Catherine: Oh, I see, I see.
Elizabeth: And then eventually, when they sold the one in Georgetown, he and George went too… Robert was first by himself in Chevy Chase. And sometimes when Robert would be on vacation, then Jean would go. And, I think that was the time. It was in summer that Robert was on vacation and Jean was working there.
Catherine: So, they make like a real team of three brothers, extremely…
Elizabeth: They couldn’t live without each other.
Elizabeth: They were supporting each other, and they each had a very distinct role at the French Market. Robert was just very flirtatious even though he was married ‑ in a very sweet way.
Catherine: Very French, very French, isn’t he?
Elizabeth: Yes, yes, yes, he would always wink at all the ladies and he made hearts on all his packages.
Catherine: Oh dear!
Elizabeth: He would draw the hearts on the package. When he would write the price there would always be a little… And that was his signature. Everybody knew that. Nobody else did that, he did that. And Jean had lost his wife many years before. He was single for a long time, and he raised his children before we met. The last one was in high school.
Catherine: So how old were you when you met him?
Elizabeth: I was probably 27; 27 on my way to 28.
Catherine: And he was older than you, then.
Elizabeth: Yeah, he was 46.
Catherine: Yes, 46 with children and he had raised the children.
Elizabeth: He had just one daughter still in the house, and she was actually graduating from high school at that time.
Catherine: So, they weren’t at home.
Elizabeth: The two boys had already left the house. He had two older boys; Chris and Jean Claude. The three brothers, they really did rely on each other very heavily. They each had their own specific skills that people would go for. Jean was very good at the cooking. He did most of the cooking.
Elizabeth: The preparation of the patés. He would be down in the kitchen, directing. Because they had cooks that were down in the kitchen, in the downstairs…
Catherine: This is in the French Market in Georgetown?
Elizabeth: In Georgetown, yes. They had Jimmy…
Catherine: In the basement?
Elizabeth: Yes, in the basement they had a kitchen.
Catherine: They had a kitchen, I see.
Elizabeth: Huge stoves and huge pots, and it was really something to go down there and see them make these vats of pate.
Catherine: Enormous quantities.
Elizabeth: And they would stir it with these big spoons. They would put like three cups of a spice in something because it was just so huge. To me, it was very fascinating. But all of them were very good at preparing ‑ when they would sell fresh meats ‑ to prepare it into a roast. You know, the tying and they all could do that because they learned that from their father. But, Jean was really the cook. He could fine‑tune a recipe, because he could just taste. He would always taste things. He never really too much, had the recipes written down.
Catherine: Nothing written in front of him.
Elizabeth: It was just tasting, you know. “Go put more salt.” You know, “Do this” or “Do that”.
Catherine: And experimenting things probably.
Elizabeth: Yeah, he had a very fine palate. And if he said to you, “That’s not good,” you knew it was not good. It was immediately shunned.
Cathrina Gaba: But if it was good, you were like, “Oh my God!”
Elizabeth: Yes, but there were not a lot of things that he thought were good that other people made.
Cathrina: That’s true.
Catherine: And George? Was George having some specific…
Elizabeth: George, he was… (Jean was the youngest. Robert was at that time, the second oldest, and George was then the third brother and Jean was the little baby.) George did a lot of the financial business of the market. Jean did all of the accounts on Sundays. He had this huge leather briefcase and it actually fell apart. This leather briefcase would come home on Saturday evenings and I knew not to talk to him for at least till 1:00pm or 2:00pm on Sundays because that was the time that he was doing the accounts. He would wake up, drink his coffee, get up, and say, “I’m doing the accounts.”
I despised the accounts because it took him away from us and I would just hear him counting his money and…
Elizabeth: It’s so interesting because now I have a little job where I actually do accounting money and I remember how he did it, how he would pile up the money to count it, and that’s how I make sure that my cash tray is…
Catherine: He taught you without you knowing it.
Elizabeth: Yes, I just kind of learned it from him. If you want to see, then you count them by tens. You lay them all out and count them by tens.
Catherine: He had to run the business.
Elizabeth: He had a very sharp mind for numbers and they kept all the ledgers and everything. It was just done the old fashion way, but that was his job and he couldn’t get out of it because the other brothers didn’t want to do it.
Catherine: So he was the accountant for a little awhile?
Elizabeth: Yeah. Well, the weekly receipts, that’s what he did.
Catherine: And George had to handle a part of this?
Elizabeth: Well, I think George did the writing up… Because so many of their customers in Georgetown kept an account with them, so they would send the monthly bills. We actually have the box of all the customers and I’d still have to go through it, it’s somewhere in the basement, with all of the names of the customers and their addresses in Georgetown.
Catherine: Can you remember from the….
Elizabeth: I remember one day Mrs. Harriman…
Catherine: Mrs. Harriman?
Elizabeth: Yeah, she bought a lot from us, and Mrs. Kennedy, there were so many famous people who were his regular customers.
Catherine: The Embassy also…
Elizabeth: The Embassy all the time, his whole life kind of revolved around serving the French Embassy for years and years. That was really their biggest customer for the longest time.
Catherine: I don’t know where the French Embassy is going now.
Elizabeth: I’m sure they have their own people. Now there’s so many places like Baldacci and Demanovka, they probably buy wholesale also (if you have your own butchers).
Catherine: Things have probably changed; it’s less of a personal relationship. It was probably wonderful when the three brothers were running the place, you could order things or order something special and they would make it.
Elizabeth: Everything came with a recipe. If they sold the veal to somebody, they would write what you do, how you do it, and what temperature to cook it at. It was always written on the outside of this white butcher paper and you never went out of there without your perfect instructions of how you had to cook it . They were always teaching people how to cook. And actually when Jean passed away on the memorial page someone wrote that he credits them for his wife saying yes to marry him because they told him this wonderful recipe to cook for her the day he asked her to marry him. You can actually look it up if you go…
Cathrina: If you go through the post, there’s a legacy website.
Elizabeth: Yeah. There are very cute little anecdotes that people wrote about him. You just go to obituary…
Cathrina: Yeah, and it links you to it. You Google his obituary.
Catherine: We hear laughs and the voice of Cathrina who is with us, sharing some moments of remembering Jean Jacques Gaba especially and the whole French Market. Elizabeth, would you like to tell us again about how your romance happened?
Elizabeth: I was taking the French cooking course and I had just learned how to cook calf’s brain and again was told that you could only find brains at the French Market. So I went over there to the Chevy Chase Market and Jean said yes, he can get it, but he has to order it and he has to have my phone number to call me when it comes in. And it was a Wednesday. I remember it was a Wednesday because he was off on Wednesday afternoon. They closed on Wednesday afternoons. I was at the Embassy and I got this phone call and I was like, “Who is this?” He said, “Oh! It’s Monsieur Jean Jacob from the French Market. You wanted some calf’s brain. I have them.”
And I was like, “Oh my gosh. I totally forgot about that that I told the Frenchman I wanted the cervelle.” And I was like, “I don’t really need them today.” But I had a friend staying with me and she’s French, and I was like, “Maybe I could have him come cook it”. I said, “Do you come with the brains? Can you come and cook them?”
I had my friend, she’s French. I thought maybe she would like him or he would like her. And he said that his heart apparently just literally stopped when I said that. It was like unbelievable to him that I would invite him to my home.
Catherine: To cook.
Elizabeth: And he said, “But of course I will come!” And it is so funny because he said when he got this phone call, it fell on a Wednesday so he had the afternoon off, but he had a little farm in Mount Airy and he drove out there. He dug up little baby potatoes to cook with the cervelle. He came with the chopped parsley and garlic and everything.
Catherine: Wow. Everything!
Elizabeth: Everything was ready; the cream, this big brown bag. He got his hair cut. I mean, he looked smashing when I opened that door. If you didn’t fall in love with that man, there was something wrong with you! You know, he wore the tightest little brown pants and a tight brown shirt, and he looked great.
Brown hair, beard all trimmed. He was perfect, and his jacket, a leather suede jacket, over his shoulder, the brown bag, big smile and white daisies in his hand which was like the knock‑out thing to get me because I love white daisies. I don’t know; how did he know? And my friend was there and he cooked this. He was just so charming. It was just over the top.
Catherine: Wonderful, wonderful day. Good food, good food. For both.
Elizabeth: Pardon me?
Catherine: Both. He had already fallen in love with you?
Elizabeth: Oh yes, I’m sure. The next morning I woke up and I said to my friend, “I’m going to marry this man.” And she was like, “Oh my God, did you drink something? What is wrong with you?” I called my mother. I said, “I met the man I’m going to marry.” My mother nearly had heart failure in South Africa.
But that’s how it happened, and here is Cathrina in front of you now, the proof of it all.
Catherine: Yes, yes. And this was when? Which date? Put a date on that, it’s so important.
Elizabeth: 1979. Yes. I originally came here in 1976, so I was three years and I was literally packing up to go back to South Africa, and God intervened.
Catherine: And the date, excuse me, the date? Can’t remember the date? Doesn’t matter, we have the year.
Elizabeth: I don’t… it was the Wednesday before Bastille Day. That’s all I remember. It was the 6th or the 7th of July.
Catherine: Oh, that’s good enough. Wednesday before Bastille Day. Before July 14th.
Elizabeth: And then he asked me to go to the Bastille Day Ball with him. And that was when Mommy wore that dress with the…
Cathrina: The scarves?
Elizabeth: … the scarf things…
Cathrina: I love that dress!
Elizabeth: … on the back. And I had short, blond hair. Very short, blond hair, my husband never liked short hair, but you know, I promptly grew my hair out after that. I never really cut it again after that.
Catherine: Another precious touch. This is living history or nothing is. And did you work at that time?
Elizabeth: No, I did not work for 10 years after we were married. Cathrina was born in 1981, and Joseph was born in 1987. And when Joseph was three and went to pre‑school, I took a class in… I kind of got to this point where I said, “What do you really want to do with your life?” Cathrina was almost 10 years old and in elementary school and Joseph was entering pre‑school. I was like, “I love children and I want to work with children.” And so I found out what courses I needed to take and I took them. And when he entered pre‑school… I always say, again, it was just fate that had it so I was just standing in the door when the director needed somebody to hire that day. And I said, “I just took a class. I can do it! She said: I need an assistant for next year.” And I was like, “Right here!” And she hired me just like that and I have never left. I’ve been there 21 years.
Catherine: And this is at the church?
Elizabeth: Right at the church.
Catherine: Right here? What’s the name?
Elizabeth: It literally takes me a good 30 seconds from the house to my work. The Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church. And so incidentally, that was the church I went to, in 1976 the first Christmas I was here. Like I told you, I only would go to church on Christmas, so the South Africans all looked in the newspaper to see where we could go to church for Christmas. This was the church that had a service on Christmas Eve, so we came here. I really liked it. So I lived in Chevy Chase and I would just drive straight down Bradley Boulevard. So for three years, I was a member of this church and would drive past Jean’s house going to the church.
Catherine: Jean’s house was right here.
Elizabeth: Yes, yes.
Catherine: So many things are converging.
Elizabeth: Yeah, the confluence of a lot of things, yes.
Catherine: So in the French market itself you never actually helped cooking or help do anything.
Elizabeth: I actually never worked at the French Market. My sister Natalya worked there. All the children worked there at some point in their life. They were either working at the cash register. Christian, Jean’s son, worked there the longest. He actually did 20 years of work in the French Market, and he’s just as…
Catherine: He’s one of the first marriage?
Elizabeth: Yes. And he’s just as wonderful with cooking and with his hands as his father.
Catherine: Really? So he learned from him.
Elizabeth: And he’s the only one in the whole family who actually cooks… He made merguez just yesterday for his daughter’s graduation. This is Jean’s granddaughter. He still makes all those beautiful pates that he learned from his father, and we’re very proud.
Catherine: So the trade is not lost.
Elizabeth: We would love for him to open another French market.
Catherine: Oh, yes.
Elizabeth: He actually told me yesterday, “I’m getting there. I’m getting there” because his first little girl will be graduating in two years, and this one just was… she’s going to Boston University. She told me, (I don’t know if I should share this,) but she’s going to become a doctor. She wants to go back to North Africa.
Cathrina: Oh, wow!
Elizabeth: She told me yesterday.
Catherine: But she’s very young.
Elizabeth: Yes. And she said, “Because Pape grew up there. That’s what she told me yesterday, and she said that she would like to work for Doctors Without Borders.
Catherine: I see.
Elizabeth: So I’m hoping. And her grandfather would be just delighted with her becoming a doctor.
Catherine: That’s good. That’s good. We have we missed so far Robert.
Catherine: I know a little bit about Robert.
Elizabeth: And you should try and meet Robert, actually, because he’s charming.
Catherine: He’s still working in his Chevy Chase store.
Elizabeth: He’s not, no. He has a little bit of Alzheimer’s but not that much. I would say he might be able to give you an interview.
Catherine: He might like that.
Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah. You should ask George to try and get him together, possibly next week. His granddaughter has just graduated from college. She’s having her graduation, so we’re hoping that he might be there.
Catherine: So how often do you see him now?
Elizabeth: The last time I saw him was at Cathrina’s wedding in October, and we saw him. He came actually when Jean became unconscious. He was wonderful. He came almost every day during that time, and Jean was unconscious for 10 days. So everybody made the trip. The two brothers would be here…
Catherine: I see, they came to visit him.
Elizabeth: … every day, and they would sit with him and talk with him. He could not respond, but they actually made that big effort to be with him.
Catherine: How long was the illness? How long was the illness?
Elizabeth: Well, Jean had a surgery, and the surgery went very bad. He suffered peripheral brain damage during the surgery due to prolonged hypotension. So we only knew that had happened after he recovered. He had no coordination in his hands anymore. He could not coordinate his brain and his hands. So all his skills he lost, which was devastating to him.
Catherine: And he knew what was going on.
Elizabeth: Oh, yeah! And for somebody who could do anything with his hands all of his life? If you wanted something fixed, you ask Daddy. “Daddy can fix that. Daddy can do this. Daddy can do that.” So that was really hard for him.
Catherine: And for you.
Elizabeth: Of course, this is still so recent. It’s within one year that he passed away.
Catherine: Sorry. But the friendship between the three brothers as you can tell even in those last details of life, this friendship is extraordinary. Not only they could work together through their life, probably teaching each other something over time and complementing one another.
Elizabeth: And believe me, they would fight.
Catherine: I was about to ask. Of course.
Elizabeth: Yes, but my husband always said, those who fight, love. And he said it in our house too, and that you don’t fight, if you don’t love people, why would fight them? They certainly had their arguments, and… but in the end they would stick together, and they would pull through and everybody would pull together. I think my husband was closer with George than he ever was with Robert.
Catherine: Yes, George mentioned it to me . Yes.
Elizabeth: My husband was closest with his oldest brother. The oldest and the youngest; with Henri, yes. It was…
Catherine: Henri was not involved, excuse me, not involved with the French market at all.
Elizabeth: No, but as an overseer, I would say.
Cathrina: He was like the Godfather. Like the Pepe.
Elizabeth: He was like the Godfather because they never made decisions without calling him and talking to him. [referring dog] Can you let him out? Just take his collar off because he has a leash on.
So he was involved in all of their decisions and from the beginning. He set them up, how they should start the market, because he had his own business in Minnesota. He was in an armament business selling arms, which was a huge business in Minnesota and he was very successful. He was a very good business man. I mean, they are real merchants. It runs in their blood.
Catherine: Did he lost his sight?
Elizabeth: In one eye.
Catherine: Ah, one eye. OK.
Elizabeth: He lost his eyesight, yeah. But I would, during the time that Jean was ill, in the last year. George was the one who really stood by me through thick and thin. He would visit with my husband once a week and he would be here for the whole day. They would sing together, play cards together. My husband wasn’t able mentally to do very much, but George just pretended like everything was OK, and they would play the taunt outside together.
I would always leave food for them. They loved it, I would make a big soup for them and sandwiches and they would just spend their day together, and the strangest thing was even though my husband was so mentally incapacitated, he could sing. Singing was an absolutely normal thing for him.
( Well, this is Jean’s dog, so you have to have him in the picture because they were inseparable.)
Catherine: He wanted to be in the picture!
Elizabeth: Fort the last few years, yes, yes, that dog was the love of his life. He lets himself in. He pushes the door open. So my brother‑in‑law, we all became really close the last year. Even though, medically the physicians really wanted us to put Jean in a nursing home, because they knew how hard it would be to take care of him, my brother‑in‑law said to me that if I don’t do it, he will help me.
And he did. He absolutely made it bearable for me. He gave me a break every week by taking care of him for six hours or so. I could go to the store or just go for a walk or something.
Catherine: How long was Jean ill finally? Within a year?
Elizabeth: It was all in all four years from 2006, and it just became very, very bad towards the end. But we all managed to keep him home, and again, it was the family sticking together. My own son, he gave up going to his classes. He was in college and he gave that up for that last year. I gave up one job, I had two different jobs. I gave up one job. My son stopped going to class and he was just working part‑time. And we just put our hours together because he needed 24‑hour care. That was how we did it.
Catherine: He had a beautiful end of life.
Catherine: You did the right thing.
Elizabeth: Yes, it is… We all… We are very proud of it.
Catherine: It’s a beautiful life and it’s a beautiful end of life, too.
Elizabeth: And a beautiful end of life, yes. And his funeral was the cherry on top of the cake. It was a huge celebration. I did not cry at all at Sean’s funeral. Because, to me, I always said, “It will be a celebration of his life.” And it really was. A lot of other people cried. But I didn’t.
Cathrina: And so many people came too…
Elizabeth: And so many people came. It was like they came out of the woodwork. We didn’t know where they came from. We haven’t seen them in 20 years. There they showed up, at his funeral. It was really amazing.
Cathrina: But he had a very beautiful retirement phase, before falling in. He had a few years.
Elizabeth: Yes. He did. He worked at Balducci with George. And the two of them were there. Many of their customers from the French Market found them there. Because they actually… There’s the article that they wrote.
Cathrina: In The Post. They did the legacy…
Elizabeth: Yeah. So people found out where they were and they followed them.
Catherine: But Jean did retire eventually or he went on working, almost forever?
Elizabeth: No. He worked at Balducci literally until the absolute last. He went in the hospital from the last day of work. He was forced to stop working because of that.
Catherine: Yes. George stopped and actually retired before. I understand that.
Elizabeth: He did. Yeah.
Catherine: What a beautiful story!
Elizabeth: Yes. It is a beautiful story. It’s a very blessed life.
Catherine: But you made it that way. It was certainly thanks to you, thanks to Cathrina. Cathrina is very moved.
Cathrina: Yes. I always cry when we talk about my dad.
Catherine: Will you tell us one or two lovely moments with your father that you can remember?
Cathrina: If I can get it out, I’ll try.
Catherine: He was there for you all the time, I suppose.
Cathrina: I don’t know if I can do it. I can answer questions. I don’t know if I can…
Catherine: Well, I’ve seen this adorable little drawing that you were showing me.
Cathrina: Yes. My dad was just amazing. I don’t know if I can do it.
Catherine: You look like him.
Cathrina: I do? I do. I have his nose and I have his feet.
Elizabeth: She has his feet, let me tell you. She does have his feet.
Cathrina: I do. I will share with you… I wrote his eulogy. And I didn’t read it. My pastor read it. But I’ll share it with you and then you can get a picture of our life together. He was very… Not “very.” “Very” isn’t even a big enough word. He was the most generous person in the world, with his time and with his love. He was so attentive to me when I was little. Even though I didn’t… He would play with me for hours and hours.
Cathrina: He was my student.
Catherine: So what did you learn from him?
Elizabeth: She was teaching him.
Cathrina: I was the teacher and he was the student.
Elizabeth: She was the teacher.
Catherine: Oh, that’s even better.
Cathrina: Yes. We had this little desk down in the basement and he would sit…
Elizabeth: It’s still there.
Cathrina: It’s still there, this tiny little desk. I would teach him whatever I would teach him. He would just play with me. He took me everywhere. We went fishing. I was always on the back of the motorcycle, on the back of the truck, hanging out the window in his truck. We were just so happy. He was just the best dad. The best dad ever…
Catherine: Were you sometimes in the store?
Cathrina: Yes. I’ll give you some French Market anecdotes, so we can stay on topic. He was a wonderful dad outside the store. But we always go on Saturdays to visit…
Elizabeth: We would all get all dressed up on Saturday to go and visit Daddy for lunch.
Cathrina: For lunch. He would make us these big, wonderful deli sandwiches, with French mayonnaise and baguette and turkey and lettuce and tomato.
Elizabeth: Turkey, lettuce and tomato.
Cathrina: Yep. That was our favorite. And Oranginas.
Elizabeth: Orangina. Little bottles of Orangina. And you also had the little Martinelli apple juices when you were a baby. The glass bottles that we saw in Avi’s kitchen.
Cathrina: See, I don’t even remember that. But we just loved going to see him. And to just hang out at the store. I always ate all the candy and Uncle George would get so mad. Because I’d be eating all this really expensive Lindt chocolate.
Catherine: And would you be sitting on the little porch in the back?
Cathrina: Yeah, we used to sit in the porch. And in the back of the butcher counter in Georgetown, there was a little cutting board, almost, that would flop down. He had a little stool for me. I would always sit back there and draw on the butcher paper. So we have all of these drawings, all made on the butcher paper. That was our canvas. I have one over there he drew for me. I have some I drew for him. One of my favorite things was… He was such a great Dad. I painted him this big portrait of himself…
Catherine: Which was just his face?
Cathrina: … When I was in kindergarten. It was just his face. I have it laminated now at home. But it lived behind the butcher counter at the French Market. All the years of my daddy. And it was just so sweet.
Catherine: It was like the entire…
Cathrina: Yeah. That was his face. This big oval… And his beard and he was blue and red and yellow. It was just beautiful.
Catherine: No wonder the store felt like a family place for a lot of customers. It was not simply a shop.
Cathrina: Right. It was delicious and it was beautiful. And we just loved it. So yeah. We would just go and spend time. We’d hang around. I remember the black and white floor like yesterday. I worked at the register for a while.
Catherine: You did that, as a teenager?
Cathrina: I did, as a teenager. We all, at some point, worked at the register. Yeah. All manner of trades, we all took part in. So it was kind of a magical place. And it was always filled with their spirit and joie de vivre. Everyone loved them.
Catherine: Joie de vivre and quality of life, as well. You told me Jean was really needing your different things around him. He was a demanding kind of individual, was he?
Elizabeth: He loved beautiful cars. He loved Jaguars. That was his signature car. And the white one that sits out there is… Nobody’s touching it. Because we just… Like, “What are we doing with this car?” We would never survive it if we got rid of it. But he made sure I had a Jaguar. He had a Jaguar. He had the old Jaguar. At any given time, there were three Jaguars in the driveway. And he loved a beautiful home. He just loved beautiful music. My husband loved music. He had the most beautiful singing voice and Cathrina can attest to that.
Catherine: And you sing, too?
Elizabeth: Yeah. This is from Mama, the mother. She had the beautiful voice. She actually would sing opera to the children when they were little. Not my children, her children. So all the boys (the Jacob brothers) knew the words of opera songs.
Catherine: Would they sing?
Elizabeth: Yes. And they would sing.
Cathrina: And whistled… They all whistled.
Elizabeth: There was always something going on. If you could hear those two singing, the two brothers, when George came over… Life did a lot of damage to my husband at the end. But it didn’t rob him of the memory of the words of the song. So they could sing and he could remember everything, of all the words of the songs, which was so amazing. Just to hear roaring these voices through the house!
Cathrina: Yep. And laughing. Never stopped laughing.
Elizabeth: When they would eat together, they would sing. One would start and then the other would start. They have corny little traditions that are so precious. Expressions that my husband had. He called her chou-fleur. He could call me chou-fleur. My darling daughter, Adorée, he would call her. I was chou-fleur more. I was chou-fleur. And everybody was “sweetheart.” If you have to live a life, could you live it like my husband did? Because it was so precious, the way that he lived it and so deserving of respect. And to be celebrated forever.
Cathrina: Yeah. I don’t know if we told you about our grace. When we say grace, we don’t say grace. We sing it and we hold hands. In French. So that is one of our traditions.
Catherine: Should we do it?
Cathrina: Oh, we could do it. We can sing it. All right. Ready? We’re not as good as Dad. And he usually would introduce it with a, “Pa pa pa pa pa pa…” I can’t even do it. [singing]
Catherine: Thank you very much. This is a treat.
Cathrina: We didn’t even give her…
Break in Transcription:
Cathrina: Usually I have George to do it.
Elizabeth: I know. [laughter]
Cathrina: OK, so now that I can breathe and not cry, we have a couple other things. [laughs] In addition to Pocsonipow which is our blessing.
Elizabeth: That’s at the beginning of the meal.
Cathrina: That’s the beginning of the meal and it means, “For this meal, for all grace, we thank you thee, O Lord.” But if the food is good and in this house it always is, we do a bon and it’s a celebration for the chef. My Uncle George does the Chinese version. [laughter]
Cathrina: He did it at my wedding and if we ever get a chance to show you my wedding video…
Elizabeth: You will see it.
Cathrina: …it’s phenomenal. It’s a series of claps and counting, so since you’re so fabulous we’re going to give you a bon even though you didn’t cook!
Elizabeth: We’re going to give you a bon. We’ll close it with the bon.
Cathrina: Yeah, we’ll close it with the bon. Ready? OK.
Elizabeth & Cathrina: [clapping and counting beats in foreign language]
Catherine: It was so beautiful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.