I cooked today

(117:  Hanging near the edge.  Photo © 2009 by Robin)

I’m feeling a little discombobulated today.  Things are weird.  There is a big hole in the world where my mother used to be.

I’m here to offer some apologies and some thanks.  Apologies first —

Yesterday I was sitting here updating on the latest news I had regarding Mom.  At that time, the news was ‘no change.’  As I was getting ready to hit publish, my sister called with the news that Mom was gone.  After our conversation (I’m surprised we managed to understand each other through all the tears), I sat here for a few minutes trying absorb the news.  In a flash of numbness and lack of thought, I changed the title of the post to “She’s Gone,” deleted everything I had written and let it go out with just the photo and the title.

The apologies are for those close friends and family members who had to hear the news that way.  I am sincerely sorry.  My only excuse is that I have no excuse.  It was a thoughtless act.  I’m not beating myself up over it or anything, but do feel bad that some of those VIP’s in my life heard it via the blog or through someone following the blog.

Now for the thanks —

I’ve received a lot of comments and emails over the past 24 hours.  I want to thank you all very much for your support, hugs, offers to help, and love.  Some of that comes from family and close friends.  Some of it comes from people I’ve never met yet think of as friends.  Thank you to all of you.  Your thoughts, prayers, support, love, and hugs mean a great deal to me, no matter which category you happen to fall into.  There was even something in one of my earlier posts from someone I think is new to the blog that brought me a bit of peace and comfort.

I am grateful to you all.  I am grateful for you all.

I made a vegetable stew for dinner tonight.  Last week, before events took a course none of us were expecting in a way none of us were expecting, I loaded up on some of the local harvest.  I have given away some of the vegetables I brought home.  A goodly amount of the rest of them went into a stew tonight.  It’s a stew I’ve made many times, the recipe coming from one of the Moosewood cookbooks.  For those not familiar (and who don’t want to follow the link), we’re talking vegetarian.

I started with the onions and garlic, using a lot of both, sauteing them in a good olive oil.  Next were the potatoes and eggplant.  I once read something about potatoes being an anti-depressant.  I don’t know if that’s true.  I was going for the placebo effect and the comfort of potatoes.  They were new potatoes from a local farm.  In fact, everything that went into that stew was grown locally.

When Mom was growing up, the idea of eating locally wasn’t an idea.  It was a reality.

Then there was some business with the juice from the tomatoes.  I had skinned and chopped the tomatoes last Friday.  They didn’t make it into the canning process because there wasn’t time to get them all done.  We canned 5 quarts before we left last Friday night.  It had to be done because I’d already started the whole process and it didn’t make sense to leave them since I wasn’t sure when we’d be coming back.

I added the juice from the tomatoes and the first of the two herbs involved in the stew — rosemary, the herb of remembrance, loyalty, and friendship, long associated with weddings and funerals — and some water.  While the potatoes and eggplant cooked with the onions, garlic, tomato juice, and rosemary, I cut up zucchini.  I must have stopped thinking at this point as I peeled the zucchini, something unnecessary and something I never do.  I’m sorry I peeled it as the skin adds a lively green color to the stew.

Next came the yellow squash.  I remembered not to peel it.  Then the peppers.  Lots of peppers.  I used a red bell pepper, a green bell pepper, and three Italians roasters (as they call them at the market) which varied in color from green to red.  The potatoes and peppers are my favorite part of this stew.  If it’s cooked just right, it doesn’t become a melting pot where the flavors all come together.  Instead, each vegetable retains its own flavor and texture, making each mouthful an explosion of interesting feel and taste.

Once I finished with the chopping, I threw the squashes and peppers into the stew to simmer for about five minutes before adding the tomatoes, the juice of one big and juicy lemon, and some fresh dill.  Lots of fresh dill.

I don’t think my mother would have made this stew, but I’m almost positive she would have enjoyed it as I know she enjoyed fresh vegetables from the garden.  My mother could make anything grow and grow well.  This past year or so she’s been nurturing some orchids who thanked her by blooming and blooming, over and over again.  I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who had a way with plants and flowers like Mom did.

M and I ate the stew served over couscous with some feta cheese on top.  It was delicious.  More than that, it brought a feeling of healthy goodness with it.  We’ve been eating, of course, to keep going.  Tonight’s dinner brought taste, a little enjoyment, and a lot of comfort.

Several people have suggested that the way to keep Mom alive is through memories.  I’ve been struggling to get past the memories of Mom as she was in hospice.  When I started preparing tonight’s meal I was brought back to how I learned to cook, through watching my mother.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen with Mom.  I’ve passed on some of her recipes to my sons and friends.  One of the things that always amazed me about Mom was the way she sliced, diced, and chopped vegetables.  She did it all in her hands.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen her use a cutting board.  I was never able to master her technique (without cutting myself!) so I resorted to a cutting board once I was married and cooking on my own.  I suppose doing it all by hand, in your hands, is not the proper technique according to the cooking schools, but it takes a lot of talent and practice to be able to do that.

Well… I’m all done in.  Knackered, as a dear friend would say.  Shattered, even.  (Go ahead.  Follow that link.  You might find it interesting, and the word suits me quite well at the moment.)

That’s it from the Bogs for now.