I have a friend who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Yeah, I know. I've ranted more than once over the years about those *Ladies In Pink*( http://brain-cheese.blogspot.com/2007/10/think-pink.html ) and I haven't worked my way through my Public Awareness Campaign Envy (diagnostically called "PACE"). I STILL think MS Awareness pales in comparison to those dayum pink ribbons everywhere and the ENTIRE month of October set aside to honor boobs. And this post really isn't about breast cancer at all, except to mention it as a key catalyst for change in my life these days. And golly, I know. How am I also going to work my mother into this mix??? Well...
As I said, my dear friend has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. She also just lost her husband AND her mother this past year as they crossed behind the Great Veil. It's been a LOT. Too much really. But she is this uber strong, spiritual being who's stride in life and strength in spirit leaves me feeling like a weak, sniveling child in her shadow. I have so much to learn from her and I am honored she allows my crass, irreverent, silly self in her life.
When the people in my life are hurting, I always feel a need to DO something. It's really not altruistic. I simply feel better when I am doing something for them, therefore it reverts back to being *all about me*. But sometimes it is hard for me to figure out WHAT to do, especially when it is someone like my friend with the big "C", as she presents such a smooth, exterior surface. I mean really? Fart jokes and cancer jokes to make her laugh just seem a bit...I don't know...easy?! And probably really NOT what she needs to maintain a sense of calm and serenity as she travels down this unknown road called *Patient*.
This past year I have been dabbling a bit more in cooking. And when I say "dabbling", I mean I've been doing more than heating up frozen TV dinners or requesting that my order at a restaurant be made a certain way. I actually even co-created a large garden at another special friend's (Henceforth known as Missy) more rural property this year and we have been enjoying the bounty of our home grown, organic garden produce. It's been good to get dirty and sweat a bit, in spite of my southern belle attitude that I should be fanned whenever I *glisten*.
Aaaaaaand, back to the cooking (It is a well traveled road called Digression I find myself on way too often!). I decided the one thing I could DO for my uber strong, spiritual being friend with the big "C" would be to COOK for her. To make her some special meals every so often while she is recovering from surgery and chemo and radiation and...the endless patient path. Sigh. And here is where my own mother enters the picture.
Growing up, I don't recall really seeing the FRONT side of my mother all that much, but I do have some decent memories of seeing her back side in the kitchen every day...at the sink, at the stove, at the refrigerator, etc. My mother was a most excellent cook (can you say root cause of adult eating disorder now kids??) and I think it was in the kitchen that she discovered her true joy. She was always making something out of nothing and always there was enough food for EVERYONE. Enough even for the *strays* her daughters would drag home from events! And our *strays*, aka friends, DID enjoy eating at our house because my mother's food was superb. She could stick her head in the fridge with only leftovers in containers and, like the miracles of Jesus, turn all of it into a 3 or 4 course meal for 7 or 8 if needed. She didn't drink, so there was no water turned into wine, but I think you can extrapolate the fine imagery and similarity yourself. :-)
I didn't care much for cooking or being in the kitchen as a young lass. I much preferred being outside working in the yard or fields, so any important knowledge my mother "could" have passed on to me about her artful kitchen fell on deaf and stubborn ears. And it was only after she died that I even began to peruse some of her hand-written recipes and tattered cookbooks. I even tried a few of her recipes, but they just never turned out quite the way "mom used to make it". I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong or if by some sense of punishment for NOT listening as a child, she had deliberate left OUT a key ingredient or cooking time or something. Something WAS missing and I couldn't figure out what.
To complicate matters further (at least for me), my uber strong, spiritual being friend with the big "C" is also an organic vegetarian (not a VAGetarian, as I commonly refer to those militant, nonmeat-eating self-righteous females out there who would rather beat me dead with a bloody steak than eat one!) . This posed a HUGE obstacle for me as my mother was a "meat and potatoes gal" and the majority of her recipes called for one or both and a high dose of animal FAT or bacon. This opened up an entirely new and scary world of food to me!
I started relying on the ALL MIGHTY internet and a few trendy healthy cooking websites to safely peek into the organic vegetarian world and menus, like a voyeur watching my nudist neighbors play cards. It was strange. It was peculiar. It was a bit of a thrill. The recipes had no mention of bacon. There were vegetable names I'd never heard of (like who knew a *Chick Pea* was the same thing as a *Garbanzo Bean*?!?). I also started shopping at the local Whole Fools grocery store - the one that has all organic crap, but still sells coffee like heroin to a junky? I changed the real name of the store here so I don't have an angry group of VAGetarians picketing my home.
I found myself selecting vegetables and produce with the care of a master gardener...feeling each item for freshness and taking in the smells. It was/is quite meditative. The shopping experience has become part of my cooking ritual as much as the preparation of the food. I also started *blessing* the items I was preparing and thinking about how the food could help keep my uber strong, spiritual being friend with the big "C" healthy and *feed* more than just her flat tummy (I do hate her secretly for that!). I found myself in THE ZONE. And it has been a wonderfully peaceful and loving place to be. :-)
Each dish I have prepared, I have done so with intention and love. These ingredients are not written down on my new list of growing recipes, but they should be. These two ingredients are also not written into the pages of my mother's cookbooks or handwritten messages, but they should be. I have finally discovered they ARE the *missing ingredients* my mother used in EVERY meal she made for us. It is somewhat sad that I have had to search so long in my life for my mother's spiritual spices that were right under my nose all this time and it is somewhat regretful I didn't take the time or interest as a teen to learn the art of cooking she so humbly created for me each and every day growing up.
I am not happy my uber strong, spiritual being friend with the big "C" HAS the freakin' cancer. I am not *happy* about this at all. But I am so absolutely grateful she has allowed me to walk with her on the path she is on and to allow me to cook for her every now and again! Because of her cancer, I have found my mother's kitchen. I am at *home*...