I can’t say how many times a food story I’ve written, or recipe I’ve developed, has come with a story of my mother. My favorite is this one, which ended up getting picked up by Saveur’s online offerings and has, in the long run, become one of the most popular posts on my blog. Which I’m proud of not at all for the number of visitors it represents. But instead for the fact that each person who landed there had an opportunity to be introduced to my mother, indirectly, through a broken-down refrigerator and a not-all-that-unique recipe for banana bread.
It was ten years ago this week that I lost my mom. You might recall last month we all were reminded of the brutal, harsh reality we all lived through with the attacks of 9/11/01. I felt part of that bigger world, living, experiencing, processing the reactions to that terrible day. Some Seattle friends were in Lower Manhattan at the time. Another was in China on business. I remember feeling how big and connected the world seemed.
Then, about a week later, the world got small. Very small. Me, my mom, my family. Nothing else mattered. It’s funny (oddly), because I remember my mom calling me on the afternoon of 9/11. I was still a mess dealing with the news, she was talking about something going on in my hometown of Edmonds that she thought I’d be interested in. “Mom,” I said, “you know what’s going on in New York?” She assured me she knew, but had other things on her mind. Close things, home-town things, things she could relate to. I remember feeling both perplexed and encouraged by her perspective.
It was like a hint that, before long, I wouldn’t be so focused on the impact of that day. More focused instead on the impact of another event on my own life.
I won’t dwell on the series of events between 9/11 and 10/10 of that year. But the thing that comes to mind this evening, for whatever reason, is the last thing I cooked just for her. Carrot soup, with fresh ginger. She was at Swedish Hospital recovering from a first, somewhat minor, stroke. I had the luxury, among my siblings, of being the most flexible with my work days. A great friend completed an article for me, so I could focus on days with Mom. Just knitting in the room while she slept, talking with her while awake, tending to her any way I could.
My brother’s birthday is late September, we had a family dinner here at the house as usual, and I took her a piece of the birthday cake I’d made (malted chocolate) to share with her. And that bowl of carrot soup.
I don’t know if you’ve been in this position before. But for me, the helplessness of sitting next to my mom while she made small steps toward recovery, it was awful. I wanted to just crawl inside her skin and be her more healthful self. Take over. Make things better. But cooking for her, and being with her, was all I could do.
I didn’t realize carrot soup would be the last thing I cooked for my mom. Any more than I realized that tuna sandwich I made for my dad on a January day over six years earlier was the last meal I’d make for him. Every chance we have to cook for each other, even if just a tuna sandwich, is something that matters. It’s hard to remember this every single day. But it’s something that a day like today reminds me of. As my husband and I are about to sit down to a humble dinner of roasted chicken and cauliflower. Simple. Comforting. Food I’ll always relish. Particularly for the fact of getting to share it with someone I love.
Here’s to relishing every moment we share with those we care about, with good–even simple–food as a token of our love.