Does anyone know what an icebox is?

No, not a refrigerator, an icebox. Well, let me tell you a story. I was in the grocery store the other day and was walking past bags of ice when, all of a sudden, I had a flashback to my childhood and realized just how fortunate we are today in our modern kitchens.

Funny how January is a time for reminiscing. When I was six, my mother would take my brother and me to Washington, D.C., to visit her parents during the summer. It was great. We would take the train and then stay at my grandparent’s home for six weeks.

My grandfather was a chef and had his own restaurant. It was a diner that was located near the streetcar barn where lots of working people would eat and where I got my first taste of the restaurant business. He was a big strong man, migrating from Greece and working in the steel mills of Pennsylvania. He had to make enough money to move his family and open a restaurant.

I was named after my grandfather, which is a Greek tradition, and he would always want me to come to work with him and do things together. I loved it! I could eat anything I wanted, but I had to work for it first. He would place a milk crate in the dish room sink and I would help wash dishes by hand.

Every so often he would pick me up and carry me into the dining area to show me off to his friends and customers. A grandson named after him, Constantine, and because Constantine was too long, everyone called my grandfather Gus. So, I became Little Gus. Please don’t start calling me Little Gus now!

Sunday, he would close the restaurant and we would go to church and have a family day together where we would visit all the wonders of Washington, D.C.

On Sunday, I had a special job before we could do anything. I would have to get up early and go to the ice house that was several streets away and get a block of ice. He would give me 15 cents and a red wagon and off I would go. They were expecting me because my grandfather had set it all up.

The men would take me on a tour through the ice house. I had to wear a parka that was so large it dragged on the ground. I watched them chop a large piece of ice and they placed it on my red wagon.

Then I would start dragging it home. I never thought I could do it, but the red wagon wheeled easily. I got it home and the ice was placed in the icebox to keep things cold for a week. I was sent to the front door to pick up the milk, eggs, and butter that had been delivered that morning, and I would watch my grandmother make breakfast. I was amazed at how she made toast over a gas stove in a wired bread holder.

At the restaurant, there was a refrigerator for food and electric toasters for bread. But my grandmother was old fashioned and was happy with her kitchen. Besides, she would complain that modern appliances were too expensive. So, my grandfather would leave her kitchen alone. It was her kitchen.

It’s funny how a smell, a color, or an object can trigger memories. For me, a piece of ice brought back a great memory from the world of my childhood that I almost forgot. So, I am writing about it now in hopes I won’t forget again. What about you? Now is a good time to remember. Let me share a memorable recipe with you, too. Maybe you have one that might help to remind you of this story or one of your own. Enjoy and remember.

A Memorable Fish Dinner

Serves 8


2 pounds, white fish with firm flesh (tilapia, cod, halibut, farm raised catfish)

1/4 cup lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil blend or canola oil

1 small onion, peeled and sliced

1 small red pepper seeded and cut into strips.

1/4 cup Jalapeño, seeded and sliced

2 cups salsa

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup olives ripe sliced

1 tablespoon capers

4 tablespoons cilantro fresh chopped


Arrange fish in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with lime juice. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Heat oil in a large, nonstick pan or skillet over medium heat. Add onions, red pepper and jalapeno peppers. Cook and stir occasionally until vegetables are tender. Add salsa, tomato sauce, olives and capers. Reduce heat and cook for 1 minute. Pour the sauce over the fish and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until fish flakes or breaks to the touch. Serve with cilantro, garnish with slices of lime if desired.

Costa Magoulas is dean of the Mori Hosseini College of Hospitality and Culinary Management at Daytona State College. Contact him at (386) 506-3578 or

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