Posted in family, Health, human nature, Mothers

The Home

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 6.03.15 PM

The following is a true story.

It happened in a clothing outlet, one mid-morning in early September.

A mother and teenage daughter were waiting on line. The mother was fifty-ish, probably near, or in the throes of, her changes and looked like someone who paid close attention to her diet and exercised regularly. If she was anything like I was at that age, she was probably at war with her body much of the time and the five extra pounds waiting to glom on to her with every bite of any carbohydrate. From where I stood, however, she was obviously winning as she was trim, and very fit in her skinny jeans and crisply tailored shirt.

If she had gray hairs, they were masked well by strategically placed highlights. Like most women at that age, she had a few lines on her face, but what struck me most was her fatigued expression. As clearly as she adored the girl, I sensed she would rather have been at home reading a good book than shopping.

As space on the conveyor belt cleared, the mother began placing items on it—tee shirts, sweaters, shoes, waiting for the two women ahead of her to pay and leave.

They were also a mother and daughter, but the former—short, elderly, with rounded shoulders and coarse, steel-hued hair—stood aside, steadying herself by holding on to their shopping cart’s handle as the former—close in age to the teenager’s mother—paid for the items.

When all their bags were in the cart, and the sales receipt was in the daughter’s hand, they walked to the exit, the daughter staying close to her mother, who continued to use the cart for support.

The teenage girl’s mother watched the pair leave, and as she stepped up to the register, and took her wallet out of her purse, she gazed into her daughter’s eyes. “Will you take care of me like that when I’m old?”

The girl didn’t miss a beat. “Nope,” she said. “It’s straight to the home for you.”

I suspected she was joking, but her mom didn’t laugh.

©2018 All Rights Reserved

 

Posted in family, food, human nature, Politics

Pan Fried

Screen Shot 2019-02-13 at 12.10.02 PM

My parents had a cast iron skillet. It wasn’t very big, but many of the meals we had came out of it—eggs, burgers, chicken, steaks, fish, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

The color of pitch, every surface of that pan was so slickly well-seasoned that nothing stuck to it. I have no idea how long they had it, or how long it took to season it, but it was perfection.

A few years after my mother died, my father moved into assisted living. Since he wasn’t going to be cooking there, everything in the kitchen, along with the rest of the apartment, had to be cleaned out. It was difficult to make the choices—what to keep, what to give away, or toss. My brother and I pulled the pan out of a cabinet and stared at it, then looked at each other. It was as though the mere sight of it brought our childhoods back in floods.

We had a lot to go through that day, and left the pan on the stove to finish sorting. It seemed right at the time.

~ ~ ~

You can throw a lot into a pan when you’re cooking. Sometimes you plan, and other times it’s whatever you have in the house. The pan, of course, especially if it’s cast iron, has to be seasoned.

Having grown up with a perfect pan, one of the first things I wanted after getting married, was a set of cast iron frying pans. I found a pair the hue of matte pewter, and bought them. When I got them home, I oiled and heated and wiped them down. Then I oiled and heated them again, but nothing I cooked in them tasted right. I didn’t get it. How could my parents’ pan be so magical, and these pans be so completely not….

Then one morning, I decided to fry some bacon and split it between the two pans.

So much depends on what goes in.

~ ~ ~

When my brother was in his teens, he’d use our parents’ pan to cook breakfasts for himself. He’d start with eggs, whatever else sounded good—onions, peppers, ham, ketchup, cheese, and throw it all into the blender for a few good whirs before pouring it into the pan. He claimed the results were delicious. I wasn’t convinced.

~ ~ ~

My head feels like a blender these days. The spinning jumbles everything in a way that separates and connects without reason, or time to find reason. And, from the whirring, come stray thoughts—about personal space, how our definition of it has changed over the decades, how those changes shape our social interactions, and thoughts about personal and business interactions, those I’ve written off as jerkiness, or, as a former boss used to call it, “Terminal Assholery,” and those I’ve recognized as threats to my safety and well-being. In the mix are thoughts about unwarranted self-righteousness, greed, abuse of power, cruelty, hypocrisy, bigotry, warmongering, unfettered mania, and a dwindling awareness of what is real and what is not. Worst of all, emerging from the slop, is a fear that our collective sense of humor is waning, our ability to laugh, find reasons to laugh.

You can throw too much into a blender.

~ ~ ~

There was a day, not so long ago, when my brother and I had begun to gray, that he plied his alchemy with the bounty we bought at a local farmer’s market. This time, he chopped and sautéed, giving each ingredient a chance to express itself, complement others, develop and transform, and used his own favorite pan to create a meal of many flavors which had both of us swooning.

~ ~ ~

My own frying pans are the color of pitch now, just as my parents’ was, and their surfaces are perfectly sealed and seasoned.

But I can’t stop thinking about the pan forgotten on the stove—what went into it, what came out.

And I wish I’d taken it with me.

©2017 All Rights Reserved

Posted in family, food, Mothers

Nostalgia Bread

ls

This probably should have been a Mother’s Day post, but my head was off on Mother’s Day, drifting to other days and dreaming of date-nut bread sandwiches and comfort.

We went on a lot of outings, my mother and I—to the theater, ballet, opera, museums, and shopping. We dressed up for every excursion, even to shop, choosing stylish dresses, or skirts and blouses, then later, smart pantsuits—and, of course, sturdy walking shoes.

I don’t know how my mother managed it, as she worked full time. But it seemed we were always going somewhere together when I was growing up.  And when we did, we had favorite places to lunch or simply recharge.

One of them was Chock Full O’Nuts.

In those years, it seemed as though the restaurants were on every block.

I remember heading indoors out of the cold or heat, lured by the scent of their freshly brewed coffee, and climbing up onto stools to sit at the counter. We’d order drinks, and always date-nut bread and cream cheese sandwiches. They were a blend of sweet and crunchy substances and tangy cream—a perfect comfort food.

A few years ago, I set out to recreate my own version of these treats, adding some personal favorites to the traditional blend of dates and walnuts. The result was both comforting and nourishing, as well as calorie rich and decadent.

Since I’m allergic to cow’s milk, I opted for chèvre instead of cream cheese (you know how much I love goats, right?). But for those who don’t have that restriction, go for the original. There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned shmear….

NOSTALGIA BREAD

Ingredients

1 & 1/2 cups chopped dates

1/2 cup boiling water

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon of honey

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

3 tablespoons molasses

two large or extra large eggs

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 small zucchini, grated

1/3 cup mini dark chocolate chips

1 cup, minus two tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons coconut flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º.  Liberally grease an 8″ x 4″ bread pan with butter.  Pour boiling water over chopped dates. sugar, and honey, and let stand for 15 minutes. Beat in eggs, molasses, oil, and vanilla, then add nuts and grated zucchini.  Sift dry ingredients over the liquid mix, and blend. The batter should be substantial, but not overly thick. If it’s too runny, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it’s right. If it’s too thick, add water or coconut milk until it loosens up.

Bake in prepared pan for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack, then dive in and devour!