Pete grew up in the country, outside of a small town in northwest Ohio. He is the youngest of three children, and the only son of a deeply religious, traditional farm family. He was not exposed to non-religious literature, music or media until he was 13. “What happened at 13?” I wondered. He answered: “Puberty.”
Disenchanted with his path of becoming an English teacher (and student teaching), he moved to San Francisco. His parents were not pleased with that decision. His mother: “that is the modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.” Pete, to himself: “Exactly.” He rented a room from a woman who was from Switzerland, practiced witchcraft and rode Harley Davidsons. He loved it.
A year or so later, Pete was flown back to Ohio by a prominent local restaurateur to open a bakery. He now works in research and development for Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, a progressive boutique manufacturer focused on pure ingredients with unique flavors like goat cheese with red cherries, Bangkok peanut and Riesling poached pear sorbet. At home, Pete gardens and spends most Sundays in the kitchen.
His parents had an enormous collection of antique cut glass dishes, but it was display only, not to be touched. Even as a child, Pete loved to cook and bake, and he always wanted to use those cut glass dishes but wasn’t allowed. When Pete & Mike moved into 923 Oak seven years ago, they had a housewarming party. His parents drove down for it and his mother presented him with an antique cut glass candy dish. It’s Pete’s most treasured possession, not just because of it was part of his parents’ beloved collection, but because it symbolized an unspoken acceptance of his and Mike’s relationship.
Of Pete’s two sisters, one is also gay. He has a good relationship with his parents now. “They have always been very kind, generous and compassionate people, but Christianity was their first and foremost … but with two kids who are gay, either you find some way to accept that, or you lose your children.”
Both parents voted for Barack Obama in the last election, which blew Pete’s mind. “My father, who is 83, lived on the same one-mile stretch of road his entire life. They started seeing all of their farmer friends starting to lose their land and their homes. That’s all these people know and do. So that had a really big impact on them.”
I used to live in the same city where Pete and Mike live now. During that time, Pete worked in several restaurants, and our paths likely crossed … I probably enjoyed a dish he created, though neither of us knew it.