An appreciation: Harry Hall

If you never had the chance to meet Harry Hall then you really missed out. 

He was the greatest, a really charming older guy who loved to flirt in a way that would make you feel giddy but not unsafe. He was so smart and read all the time, all kinds of things, and always wanted to find out what you thought.  

He was a guy who cared passionately about everything he cared about, including but not limited to politics (Democrat), books, the game of bridge, the beautiful house in Sharon that he built with his wife, Helen, many years ago, and most of all his two daughters, Kathy and Libby, and his son, Peter. 

People might think that I met Harry through Libby (who works with me here at the newspaper) but that’s not true. It was the other way around. I met Harry shortly after I came to work at The Lakeville Journal, I can’t remember why, maybe because that’s when he took over the water commission in Sharon. The town built an office near the Sharon reservoir and they named it in his honor, Harry’s Hall. I interviewed him.

I mostly got to know him because he sent in the weekly bridge scores, which I decided should be put on the sports page, and boy did I take a lot of grief from the local sports coaches for that. I don’t regret it. Bridge is a game, just like soccer is a game.

Every week, Harry would send me a perfectly grammatical and perfectly punctuated summary of the Wednesday bridge game in Sharon and along with it he’d send me a little note about his week and his life and what was growing in his garden if it was summer (he was a champion grower of tomatoes and onions and asparagus). He would always ask me about my daughter and after I got divorced he made sure to invite me over for my first Thanksgiving as a single person.

He loved to cook and to eat and he’d often have a little cocktail while he was cooking. His favorite recipe was some kind of horrible old-fashioned dish that included kidneys, but I loved him anyway. 

It’s hard to cope with it when people that you like pass away, even if they’re very old. I find that one of the nicest ways to remember people is through their special recipes. When my mother died, I made a little cookbook of her favorite dishes, and was surprised by how many people wanted a copy of that booklet. 

So I’m going to share here, as we approach summer, Harry’s Special Summer Salad. It’s old-fashioned, like Harry was, and you might want to update some of the spices. But it’s really delicious. Think of Harry when you eat it, even if you didn’t know him. I’ll include his notes, so you can hear his voice. 

Dear Cynthia,

The summer salad I like to make starts with a platter, not a bowl.

First layer is finely chopped fresh parsley.

Second layer is less finely chopped fresh basil.

Third layer is finely chopped sweet white onions (Vidalia,  preferably).

Fourth layer is very thinly sliced cucumber.

Fifth layer is slightly thicker slices of tomato.

The topping consists of, in this order, a light dusting of sucrose, followed by Lowry’s Seasoned Salt, followed by a drizzle of olive oil, lastly a drizzle of red wine vinegar. 

Put it in the fridge to get it cold. Before serving, lift and turn over the layers so it becomes mixed.

The idea is to let the seasoning, sugar and salt drain to the bottom. There the vinegar takes the “heat” out of the onion.  The juices from the greens meld with the onion and the seasoning.   

Everyone’s taste is different. I usually add more salt to the tomatoes. How much vinegar and how much olive oil you use one learns by doing. I like a residue of juices left over, after the vegetables are gone. 

Dipping bread into the juices may be fattening, but I find it marvelously delicious. Of course that depends upon how heavy handed one is with the drizzling. 

There are often juices left over. I put them in a small pitcher and put it in the fridge. I then use it before I start drizzling oil and vinegar the next day.

That and fresh corn makes August and September my favorite months. 

Thanks for asking. Harry

Cynthia Hochswender