As I was reading a cookbook this morning, I started to ponder that subject that's probably on most of our minds most of the time: food. This particular cookbook, incidentally is "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" by Ina Garten. It had been my mother's, and I had bought it for her, but now because she's gone (ALL GONE!), it is now mine.
(okay, here I have to step off topic for a moment and note that my son was just bugging me to type in "Alvin and the Chipmunks" on Youtube, and I said; "I'm BLOGGING." Then my husband said to Jack; "do you know what a 'blog' is? It's a story about everyday things." Then I said; "how come when you put it that way it makes me feel slightly ridiculous? I am NOT banal!")
Okay, so as I was saying...food. Yes, we need it to live, but we are so wrapped up in it, aren't we? Here is my dad's recent conundrum: since he became a widower (sniff!), the immediate reaction from all women, whether stated outright or inferred was; "OH MY GOD! HIS WIFE DIED! WHAT IS HE EATING???"
The day my mother died, our lovely long-time neighbours immediately (and I mean IMMEDIATELY) sent over boxes of tissues, pizzas, a fruit platter and a veggie platter. Wow! Then, not long after, some lovely friends of my dads managed to whip up the world's fastest casseroles. THEN, an aunt of mine from the U.S. arrived with a large platter of artfully arranged strawberries, tiny powdered donuts and these fantastic cookie square things, of which I think I scarfed down five or six that evening.
My sister and I were perplexed as to how quickly someone can whip up a batch of squares so quickly after getting the word that a loved one has died. People want to bring my dad casseroles. They want to teach him how to cook. They want to give him meal suggestions. We all invite him over to dinner constantly. We ask what he eats when he isn't cooking for himself. We urge him to make healthy choices at restaurants. We take him out to dinner. We take him out for breakfast. He gets invites for going out to eat.
Sounds like paradise right? Not really. Dad's just not very hungry. What he is is very, very sad. Do you know whose cooking he loved best in the whole world? Mom's. So all of this offering to stuff him with NON-MOM food was causing him anxiety. It's nice, but it's weird.
I told him though that this is a woman thing, because let's face it ladies, what do we think about??? FOOD. We have, unless we've been very lucky, all been on countless diets. We've obsessed over not eating junk food. We give ourselves "treats," and this seems to mean stuffing as much unhealthy, fat/sugar/salt laden crap down our yaps as possible. Then the next day we make some unfulfilling soup crammed with vegetables. Then we do it all again the next week.
The first thing my brother did after our mom died, was go home and get his pot of bolognaise sauce, bring it back to my dad's, and simmer it for the rest of the afternoon. And oh did I eat. It was so delicious that sauce. There was something so strange about eating a giant plate of spaghetti bolognaise in the midst of tragedy, and with GUSTO.
So, now I try to read through this cookbook I got from my mom, and I can only read a few pages at a time before I'm overcome with grief. Why, Ina Garten's coconut cake has been my birthday cake of choice for the past couple of years. My mom made it. My mother could bake like nobody else. Honestly. Nobody could make a better apple pie, and if you think you can, until I see it, I'll just have to say sorry, you can not. So now as I read through about various recipes, it's unbearable, because it conjures up images of Sunday dinners made by my mom.
It makes me think of all the parties I loved to throw for my family--all centred around food. All joined by food. My mother and brother discussing how they prepare certain foods. What kind of food should we make for fancy dinners. What food should we bring to parties. What kind of food should I cook for my dad to try to cheer him up, if only just a little, and if only just for an hour. Food, food, food, food, food. There are stacks of recipes, written in my mom's own hand. I wonder if and when I'll be able to read them.