Usually when we talk about creating mealtime memories, it is about in the present to carry us forward. However, for me this last week I have been mindful of the memories I carry with me from friends and family members who have passed away. My mother, for example, was not the best of cooks, but she was an amazing baker and the smell of cinnamon reminds me of her rugelach and I can feel her presence with me whenever I make them. Sometimes I wake up and I can smell them baking in the oven even though there is nothing there.
Every year on her birthday, my friend Laura would ask me to make my lasagna and orange brownies. That is all she ever wanted for her birthday. I can not make either of those dishes without thinking about her and my heart is filled with memories of our time together and the love I still hold for her. I also remember the look on her face as she savored every bite and had this glow of glee when I told her I would pack up the leftovers for her to bring home. I know she savored those leftovers and waited in anticipation for her next birthday. It was the last meal I made for her before she died. I am so grateful for the joy it bought her during a dark time in her life. Read more
One of my Pampered Chef Team members always talks to me about the importance of her Community Group at her church. This group meets weekly and serve as a source of support for each other in good times and challenging times. This group ensures that no member of the group ever has to go through anything alone. They celebrate with each other and work with each other to create solutions or to provide support when going through the challenging times. Never does she have to go through anything feeling unsupported or alone.
My son taught me a similar lesson when he first came into my life. He wanted to bake cookies. I was so busy at the time working on my dissertation that I honestly did not want to stop working. However, my time with Nick was also rare. He both wanted me to bake with him, but also wanted to bake like a big boy and do it himself. So I moved my work near the kitchen so we could be together and I could help him when he needed it, but he could also cook like a big boy. It was his first time ever to bake cookies, something his birth mother had never allowed him to do. Each part of the experience was new and exciting. I remember feeling so grateful to be able to witness his joy, although I remember not looking forward to cleaning up the mess he was making. The best part was when he came to see me and I could see all the places he had touched his face, as there was white flour all over his chocolate skin. It is a moment I will remember forever. Read more
I woke up this morning thinking not so much about food, about how we come together to share meals together and create memories. This year, I have been reminded in numerous ways that sometimes this is not possible and sometimes what has not been possible becomes possible. This past week so many people around the world celebrated traditions which brought families and people together. My Facebook feed was filled with images of families gathering, sharing meals, creating memories and reinforcing traditions.
At the same time, I have friends for whom this was not possible. Those they loved were in hospitals, incarcerated, and for others reasons were unable to be at the table. Growing up in a Jewish household every year at the Passover Seder we would pour a cup of Wine for the Prophet Elijah. As a child, I understood it as we were holding a space for him at the table. As an adult, I understand it is a reminder of a gathering of a larger family and at a larger table. Read more
It is nice to finally be healed enough from my most recent surgery that I have the energy to cook and entertain again. Whoo hoo! Just having the energy to cook again and create healthy low fat, low carb meals for my wife and I is such a blessing. Last night, I was chatting with a friend who was having one of those days where she just needed to know she was loved. I suggested she come join us for a very simplistic dinner. It was a chicken stir-fry with brown rice for her and Zoe. She wanted to know what she could bring and I said just come. It was those last two words – just come, that really spoke to her heart and soul. Read more
As many of you know, we had to travel the last few days to attend a funeral. Doing so kept me out of the physical kitchen for a few days. So coming back last night, I had a new appreciation for my kitchen. At the same time, however, it made me think about what a kitchen is. By definition, a kitchen is “a room or area where food is prepared and cooked.” We tend to think about a kitchen as containing certain things like a sink, stove, and refrigerator. However, the other night I gathered with Zoe’s family in the sitting area of the hotel where we brought down leftovers from the home going celebration and reheated them in the microwave and shared them at what became our “kitchen table”. It reminded me that not every culture thinks about kitchens in the same way or has in the past. Read more
For those of you who know me, or have been reading my writing for a while, it is no secret that I admire the cooking and wisdom of Alex Guarnaschelli. In an interview, with Robert Stolank of the New York Times, she discussed her relationship with her husband Brandon Clark and told a story in only a way Alex could tell it. Stolank reported,
As they were closing up one evening he confided in her about a problem he had with a school assignment on potato-crusted black sea bass. He was galvanized by the private tutorial she gave him. Read more
Recently, someone asked me what it is that I love about cooking. Anything that I do in the kitchen, whether it be cooking or baking is more then just what I produce. What I love about creating in the kitchen is that it connects me with people around the world. Although we may all do it in different ways, the one thing every culture in the world does is prepare food and eat it. Food and the preparation of it is something that enables us to come together as a global community and speak a common language. Even if one has never prepared a single dish or meal in their lives, they have eaten one. Read more
This memorial day I was reminded of a very important lesson. Food has the power to bring people back home. There are some dishes you can eat and there is something about that dish that just brings you back home, or brings you back to the kitchen of someone important in your life. I know I have shared this before, but Zoë and her friend Billijo love my cabbage casserole. The two of them when they sit down to eat it make sounds that would make someone think they were doing something other then eating dinner. The last time I made this casserole for them, the two of them sat there making sounds and enjoying their casserole while I enjoyed my simple mixed green salad with feta cheese and Greek tempeh. Read more