My week starts with yoga, one of the many ways to pray. Master teacher Jeanne calmly leads us, regardless. She shares Buddhist practices, mostly, as we move together through Zoom. Today she read a verse from “Just As I Am” along with the thoughts of Richard Wagamese, indigenous poet. Sanskrit offerings too. We have tried to pay; she refuses, saying this is what she can give.
If I include this lovely practice, more of my days than not include a community prayer service. It allows my week to start honorably. I do appreciate all the holy names of God.
In the past, we called it Lumami Frittata, employing the Chilean word for leftovers. This summer though, it became Wednesday Fritatta because midweek, we toss in whatever’s left in the fridge to be consumed before we replenish our local organic vegetables on CSA Thursday. This week’s one-pan meal included onions, the-most-giant-garlic-clove-ever, zucchini, broccolini, carrots, salad and chopped lamb burger remaining from lunch, plus a few nuts for crunch….all salted and seared in olive oil, covered with eight beat eggs then baked at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. This dish is different and delicious every time.
And what a wonderful day it was for cooking. Hours of chopping, mixing, experimenting. Singing and dancing too. I blended pesto to slather over rice/lentil pasta unearthed from back of the cabinet. Baked chocolate chip cookies too using that recipe memorized long ago, altered to gluten/dairy-free version but definitely not taste-free. And washed greens for later.
Let it be known: This is the day I delighted while cooking. Not the first but Day One of considering myself a cook, a good one at that. Maybe even a darn good one. For this amazing shift, thanks go to my patient teachers. You know who you are, especially Carolina Jane, Mr. FODMAP and even Ms Cancer. The necessity of nourishment combined creatively with care. Who could have imagined?
Almost 40 years and new tidbits still come up. I asked him how to spell niece, then whispered the first phrase to myself, “ ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’.” As best speller in 6th grade (who knew?), he added (also heretofore unknown to me) second phrase, “and when sounding like ‘a’ as in neighbor and weigh.” Since I’ve narrowed life-long commitment down to one person, romance, sex and deep long-standing fondness are what I tend to treasure most with Rob but, Lord, these fresh offerings out of nowhere are awe-inspiring too.
When it comes to cooking, I am my mother’s daughter. Recently when she was asked, “Grandma, on a scale of One to Ten, how do you feel about cooking?” she unequivocally exclaimed, “Zero!” Don’t get me wrong. I can nourish my family. And I get high marks for “front-of-house” duties, as in making people feel welcome.
So, I was as surprised as the next person when, during the pandemic, I branched out. I was delighted to mix it up a bit. Landing supper on the table without relying on the old favorites or someone else’s recipe was downright fun. Often and especially early on, I thought we were enjoying feasts fit for royalty. I remember pausing with gratitude. Who did this? Given time and focus and desire, the muse of Creativity had delighted us yet again. Our prayers before meals were spontaneous and heart-felt.
Then came the long stretch of Rob’s digestion difficulties. No garlic and onions allowed, just when I had finally expanded from salt and pepper. Happy to say that we have lived to see the days of welcoming back any food in moderation. Dear and amusing Creativity has returned. So have CSA—Community Supported Agriculture—deliveries of fresh organic vegetables, some that are unrecognizable.
Enter celery with luscious leaves and very short thin stalks. During the recent Heat Wave of June 2021, I remembered the idea of cool celery soup. I decided to give it a go using a recipe I found online and converted to dairy-free. At least I knew the creamy texture was attainable because our daughter, Chef Carolina Jane, recently graduated from culinary school—an amazing feat during the lockdown—and had gifted me with a Vitamix.
All of this to say, the draft of that soup was terribly bitter. Rob choked it down. Why would he do otherwise, saying, “Evaluating your efforts in the kitchen with anything but appreciation is decidedly not in my best interest.” But I knew better. The temperature and texture were right, but that’s it.
I was sorely tempted to ditch that slush but texted Carol first, “Is there any hope?”
She proceeded to encourage me to taste and ask, “Is it sufficiently sweet, salty, acidic and savory?” In her words, my products would ideally be a balanced combination of these flavors. For instance, to make the soup more salty, add salt. More savory? Perhaps mushrooms or cream. More acidic? Use lemon or vinegar. Or sweeter? Add sugar or honey. Add and taste, add and taste.
Since her Dad was heading to the valley to help with her new tiny home, I sent a sample of the edited soup along. Her applause about the altered version felt like balm. She’s a fantastic cook and a good teacher too. There’s hope for me yet.
Facebook is reminding me that 7 years ago I administered the Heimlich maneuver on my mother when she choked across the table from me during a picnic. Because I inadvertently squeezed the emergency pendant she wore at the time, the EMT onsite came running over to check on her.
Fast forward to now. She has been issued a pendant at her assisted living home which she has misplaced. We are considering putting a camera in her room so she can be viewed from outside. She is reticent about this idea.
Meanwhile I am glad she has not misplaced her new hearing aids. Even though she questions whether she really needs them, we believe they are devices from which she can benefit. I am not sure the other technologies are, nor is she. But do they help us rest-assured? Is there such a thing when her aging doesn’t slow for a second? And we know no one gets out of this alive?