Food, Family, and Memory

The Widow’s Guide to Recovery

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by Pamela Felcher

Depression-conceptualMy husband Mike passed away suddenly two years ago. A “catastrophic coronary event,” I remember hearing before the doctor launched into the “We did everything we could” speech. I sat motionless in the Naugahyde chair in that dimly lit room they usher people into to tell them such things.

My husband Mike could put the caption on the cartoon we call life. I can still be felled by a wave of sadness when the world calls out for his wit, but it usually passes as the business of life encroaches and forces the sadness aside. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that grief is not a linear process or a series of predictable steps. It comes and it goes, lingers or dusts by. It can overpower or gently remind. Now you see it; now you don’t.

The second year into loss, the cycles of grief had given way to the flat, dark monotony of depression. Since action is my default response, I checked out inspirational websites for those contemplating putting themselves out of their own misery, and I downloaded into my iPhone Kindle any number of self-help books about depression and the powers of positive thinking, and I answered every “Are you suffering from...” and “On a scale of 1-10...” quiz that the books offered.

Half Raisin, Half Grape

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by Grant Onnie

grapesMonday, mid morning, I found my five year old Sara, in the kitchen,
Curious, standing on her stool at the island counter,
Fiddling with the 24 table grapes on the plate,
The ones that were part of our experiment,
The ones that would answer all of our questions.

I admit, my questions:

How long does it take to make a raisin from a grape?
I don’t know daddy…
Will our raisins taste better than the ones out of the box?
I don’t know daddy…
Over time, what the heck goes on inside of a grape anyway?
And how? And why? And so on…

“Hey Sara Bear, how many grapes on that plate?”
I was tempted to start grouping them for her.

“I don’t know daddy, do you want me to count them?”

“Good Idea!”

Rosemary Fried Chicken

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by David Latt

friedchickenWhat a beautiful day! Perfect for taking a walk at the beach, shopping at our local farmers' market, cooking, and eating outside.

We've cleaned off the deck. Arranged tables outside for lunch. Prepared a carrot salad and a couscous with grilled vegetables, made kosher pickles and a pasta with braised beef and watercress, soaked chicken and onion rings in buttermilk for fried chicken, and baked a custard with chocolate.

Today will be a good day.

For me the fried chicken with onion rings is the centerpiece of the meal. I have strong childhood memories of my mom making fried chicken when we went to Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica. Nothing Colonel Sanders ever made came close.

My Dad's Sleep Disorder and His Amazing Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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by Amy Ephron

chocolate cake milkMy dad wasn’t much of a cook! He even burned the bacon. His idea of making baked beans was to put them in a pan of boiling water – in the can with the top still on. This might actually work, although the only time I remember him doing it, he forgot about them, the water boiled down, the can exploded (EXPLODED!!!), luckily no one was in the kitchen at the time, and a lot of the baked beans flew up to the ceiling and rested there. I do not remember if my mother thought this was funny.

He was a great barbeq-uer but that’s a different story.

He, also, had a ridiculously high metabolism and ate more than anyone in the family practically until his dying day, (seemingly without much of a weight problem, or cholesterol problem, I might add.) When we were little, he used to get up in the middle of the night sometimes, wake one of us, and we’d tiptoe down to the kitchen for a slice of home-made pie or chocolate cake OR Dad’s one and only specialty not cooked on a grill -- although curiously with grill in its title -- grilled cheese sandwiches.

My dad had a theory that one of the reasons people wake up in the middle of the night is because they’re hungry, so if you ate a piece of pie or cake or a grilled cheese sandwich (preferably with a glass of milk), you would fall right back to sleep. Note: I have not tested this theory since childhood.

Happy Hour

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by Fredrica Duke

happy-hourWhat the hell is Happy Hour and why is everyone talking about it? The happiest hour for me is when I eat. But if it means standing around with drinks in your hand, eating from some communal barrel of glop, count me out. I don’t think Happy Hour would have appeal for me even if it were at a restaurant I wanted to go to. It just sounds awful. Or am I a snob?

The other day, I was recommending my new favorite restaurant in L.A., Tar and Roses, to someone who then asked, “Do they have a Happy Hour?” I was baffled by the question. It’s so foreign to me.

And then I got an invitation to join my daughter and her best friend Cody and a bunch of their hot 27-year-old friends for what I thought was dinner. But it wasn’t. It was Happy Hour at some Mexican restaurant’s bar (Marix Tex Mex). And while I think it’s brilliant for young people not yet making big money to be able to eat like that, I just couldn’t do it. I asked for a proper menu.

Today, it was back and forth all day about where to meet “in town.” The dreaded driving–into-town-for-an-hour-or-two-of-traffic hell. I hate it. I’m almost over it, but I’m so friggin social, I go anyway. I just wish I had a private helicopter to jet me around. Do you watch Dr. Oz? If you do, you know that to live an extra six years, it’s good to socialize. I was getting updates throughout the day and the number of chicks invited grew by the hour. I snuck in, or so I thought -- a switcheroo.

Cornbread – Mimi vs. Granddaddy

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by James Farmer III

cornbreadpanMy Mimi told me something quite hysterically funny and dramatically morbid a few years ago…”If I die before your grandfather, he will have to eat something. I’ve taught him how to make cornbread. That should sustain him in between the three months I die and he remarries.”

Tears immediately streamed down my face at the humor and sadness that thought evoked. That is, however, a bit of my family’s humor in a nutshell… delightful and somewhat macabre running hand in hand. What has happened though is a rivalry between Mimi and Granddaddy as to who makes the better batch of cornbread. They both use the exact same ingredients, same iron skillet, and same kitchen and oven for baking, but there are slight differences I would like to address: first the title.

Since Granddaddy makes it himself, it is dubbed “Granddaddy’s World Famous Cornbread.” Mimi’s boasts simply as “Mimi’s Cornbread,” which I guess is the passive aggressive way of saying hers is best. Since everything she makes is wonderful, permitting Granddaddy to title his dish as such is totally apropos. Plus, that is Granddaddy’s personality – everything he or his children do, but especially anything his grandchildren take on, mind you, is the best, exceptional, or “world famous.” The feeling is completely mutual and reciprocating.

I’m proud of my grandparents and there’s never been a doubt they are of me or the rest of the brood. I think their only flaw is that they gave me deep roots and short wings, considering I live two doors down. The cycle continues. I digress.

The Legend of Maw Maw and Chuckie

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by Alison Wonderland Tucker

kitchenupdate.jpgI was raised in a very sheltered household when it came to food.  Sure, we would eat the incredible Italian or Chinese food my father prepared by hand, or feast on amazing French, Japanese, Indian, Greek, Bistro, or Thai cuisines from local restaurants.  I mean, I did grow up in New York.  But I was very cloistered when it came to one cuisine… American.  I was probably 25 before I tasted my first meatloaf.  My father and stepmother were both raised in the suburbs (one in Maryland, one in the Midwest) with very traditional American family fare and it was an unspoken law that that cuisine never would cross their daughter’s lips (or their own ever again).

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I married a man who had been raised on a gaggle of Air Force bases across the south.  The Christmas after we got engaged we visited his grandparents who lived in Florida.  His whole family had flown in from various places across the country, as they did every year.  I had only met the nuclear family and was a little on edge to meet the rest of the herd.  I was a young and outrageous artist and felt a lot of pressure to present myself as relatively normal to my new ultra-conservative family.

The first night we were all gathered in the 1960’s wood paneled eat-in kitchen as Maw Maw (his grandmother) announced we would be having Chuckie Casserole for dinner.  This was met with a great cheer from the crowd.

The Fair, the Farm Stand, and all the Festivities

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by Susie Middleton

fair-poster-hog-wild-2013-226x300There’s barely a minute to breathe and yet I am practically hyperventilating. I’ve never been good at containing my excitement, and this year, I seem to be more excited than ever about Fair Week.

You could get really cranky around here during the third week in August when traffic tangles up and thousands of people descend on the Island. And I must admit, after an onslaught of farm stand customers—and traffic jams in our own driveway—yesterday, I was just plain exhausted. But I woke up to the clear air and blue skies today feeling giddy.

This year the President’s family vacation overlaps directly with Fair week, making things even more exciting (or more frustrating—depending on your point of view) than usual. We happen to be on the excited end of the spectrum on this one, too. Friday we were given the opportunity to contribute to a gift basket of local food heading directly to the chefs who will be cooking for the Obama family this week (at a house only a couple miles up the road from us). We sent cherry tomatoes and eggs, and a pint of Fairy Tale eggplants, too, which apparently the chefs especially liked. Roy is really hoping that the President is waking up to a breakfast of Green Island Farm eggs—but who knows?!

Red Velvet Memories

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by Lisa Dinsmore

red velvet cakeAs my birthday approaches I can't help but think of my sisters - I'm the middle one - and my maternal grandmother. My sisters and I are born two years apart, with our birthdays all in the last week of September. If you do the math, I guess one can blame the joyful spirit of the holidays on the closeness of the timing.

My brother, as the oldest and only boy, always seemed to get special treatment over us girls. I'm sure he felt tortured by his loud, energetic sisters, but at least he never had to share his birthday party. I can't really blame my parents for lumping our "big days" all together on the middle weekend between them all. My father worked two jobs to support his young family, so lack of money paired with convenience produced - throughout our childhood - one giant party for "the girls." It was a "more-the-merrier" type of event and we were all showered with enough gifts to make us contented despite the lack of individual attention.

When we were very young my mother took care of the cake, but as we got older and began developing our own opinions, all we ever wanted was my grandmother's Red Velvet Cake. I can't remember the first time I ate it, but I can still taste it today. It was the same every time with a dense, almost chewy texture; the sweet tang of the cream cheese frosting; that distinct something-more-than-just-chocolate flavor that distinguishes this classic cake from all others.

Eating Flowers

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by Michael Tucker

from-our-gardenAlessandra, a neighbor of ours in Umbria, is a wonderful cook.

That’s a redundant statement, as virtually everyone in Umbria cooks well. Wait, let me qualify that — virtually every woman in Umbria is a wonderful cook. Boys were urged by their mothers to do other things — careers and such — whereas the girls fashioned ravioli with their nimble fingers before they learned to walk.

Anyway, Alessandra once served us an appetizer of various flora — zucchini flowers, sage and basil leaves — that were dipped in the lightest, most elegant batter I have ever tasted and then flash fried. They were appetizing indeed. When I pressed her for the batter recipe, she said, “It’s simple to remember — everything is one.”

As I struggled to comprehend this Zen concept, she scribbled the recipe on a napkin, which I still have.

 

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