Archive for October, 2008

October 24, 2008

The cook was a good cook, as cooks go; and as good cooks go, she went.

-H.H. Munro (Saki) 1904


At 22 years old, I knew how to make Frito pie and a few chicken recipes that mostly called for cream of mushroom soup. The late 1970’s were not a time for trendy fare, and the cookbooks of the day aimed for simplicity. I guess all those newly hatched women’s libbers needed easy recipes to make after a long day at the office. Crock pots were the thing back then. Throw everything in it in the morning and voilà! Dinner was ready when you came home. The recipes all had names such as “Yummy Chicken and Vegetables” or “Fish Cooked in Dishwasher” (I am not making this up).


I received two cookbooks before I married in 1979. One was the venerable “Joy of Cooking” which had everything from A to Z, including field dressing squirrels, if I ever got desperate enough. The other one was called “Cooking for Two”, and it had scaled down recipes that served two people, as you might guess by its title. I also had a subscription to “Good Housekeeping” (still do!) and took the newspaper, which had a weekly food section. Other than that, I didn’t have much exposure to the latest trends and fads in cooking, such as ethnic cuisine dishes and the like.


My mom could whip up a mean casserole for us 6 kids, and she did actually introduce us to unusual fare such as artichokes and plantains at a young age. I loved the former, hated the latter. I even learned to like beets, lima beans and Brussels sprouts when most kids I knew wouldn’t touch them. Still, I have never been a “foodie” and I guess I never will be. If I only had myself to feed, I’d probably eat the same thing every day.


So it was with a bit of amusement that I opened my birthday present from daughter Shannon earlier this year to find a new cookbook called (guess what), “Cooking for Two”. It wasn’t the same version I’d had earlier. This one has recipes for things such as “Southwestern Moo Shu Chicken Wraps” and “Tabbouleh with Shrimp, Feta and Dill”. I hope Shannon isn’t too disappointed that I haven’t tried those two yet.


Recently I mentioned to her that I was running out of ideas for her father’s low carb diet fare; it seems like lately we’ve been having the same things over and over again. And so she sent me some recipes via e-mail, including “Baked Aubergines with Cheese” and “Sea Bass with Creamy Leeks and Soy Jus”.


Where did this child come from? Her great grandmothers would have been awed at her expertise and knack in the kitchen at such a young age, although they probably had never cooked with leeks in their entire lives (true confession… me neither). They were more of the old southern school of cooking where you either fried everything until done, or boiled everything until likewise done.


But what they have in common is that both Shannon and her great grandmothers all tweaked, experimented, tried new variations and used what was in the fridge. I’m afraid that the gene pool skipped my generation in this regard (except I have been known to use what is in the fridge when push comes to shove).


With all the Food Network shows on tv, the vast recipe resources from the internet plus a boyfriend who was raised vegetarian, Shannon knows more about cooking creatively than I ever did or ever will. Someday I imagine she will laugh at the fact that her childhood diet consisted of a lot of chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.


I wonder what my grandkids will eat? Will they come to my house and turn up their cute little noses at Spaghettios? Maybe I’d better go buy an aubergine and get with the program while they’re still yet a twinkle in her eye!


(btw, an aubergine is an eggplant… I don’t think I like them, but maybe there’s still hope for me yet!)


Farewell to a Friend
October 18, 2008

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

-Laurence Binyon (1914)


I don’t mean to dwell on the sad subject of Dad and his Alzheimer’s journey, but the sudden and unexpected death of the father of two of my youth choir singers has given me pause. Rick died too soon, too young. He was a recent friend, but a good one, and absolutely the rock of his family.


No one would ever wish to lose a loved one at such a young age. On the other hand, no one would ever wish to watch a loved one deteriorate into the helplessness of a debilitating disease such as the one that Dad suffers from. But you can’t choose. You don’t get to pick. You must accept the reality of what life gives you and be grateful for every small scrap of a positive.


If you asked Rick’s family right now which they would prefer, I know their answer would be to have Rick another 30 years and then help him through the indignities of old age. Would that be my answer, too? Would I have rather had my dad guiding me these past 40 years, unlike Rick’s 14 year old daughter, who now won’t have that privilege and pleasure?


I think so. I know so. If there is no other benefit of Alzheimer’s, it’s that our loved ones have lived a long life, in which we’ve all enjoyed years and years of laughter, love, support and guidance. I’m grateful for that, and I will continue to honor my dad’s legacy of service to others as a reminder.


As for Rick’s family, they will never have to witness the effects of this particularly devastating disease. And for that one small scrap of a positive, perhaps they can cling.  

Here We Go Again!
October 10, 2008

The days of our age are threescore years and ten; and though men be so strong that they come to fourscore years… 

Psalm 90:10 


It seemed this week that Dad was in his final days. After all the recent times when he’s had “a spell” (Mom’s term for it) and we’ve thought, “This is it,” he’s inevitably rallied once again. He’s continued to thrive on the TLC his caregivers dote upon him, but even his primary caregiver said that she thought she saw the end coming after he stopped eating over a week ago. Vernice is a most capable and experienced geriatric specialist, and I credit her careful and loving attention as the main reason Dad has lasted this long. 


I suppose that’s both a blessing and a curse, as we have never wanted to prolong Dad’s suffering on the one hand. But under Vernice’s care, he hasn’t really suffered physically; by that I mean he’s not in any pain, and of course, given his advanced Alzheimer’s, he has no fear. However, he’d be the first to say that he’d NEVER want to live this way, particularly after watching his own mother decline in her final years. He and his sister both had to help pay for the private care nurse that eased their mother into her greater reward. He’d HATE to think that he might be considered a financial burden, especially given his careful investments over the years that have now dwindled due to the current financial market. 


As I write this, it is Friday, Oct. 10, two days after my parents’ sixtieth wedding anniversary. Had Dad been subconsciously lingering to make it to this milestone? They say there is something about that inner clock that directs people to dictate the time of passing, even in spite of the seeming loss of mental facilities. I guess we shall never know for sure. 


One thing we do know for sure is that he has apparently decided to stick around awhile longer, because he sat up this morning and ate a big breakfast and later a good lunch. All we could do is laugh about his latest rally and marvel at his stamina. He always did like to be in control, and even in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, I suppose he still is! 


And so the roller coaster ride chugs back uphill once again.



Bag Dog!
October 4, 2008

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?

-John Keats (1820)


As we returned home from an evening out, Joel unlocked the back door, and out flew Bailey who headed straight for me. When Bailey flies out the back door like that, we usually suspect that he’s been in some sort of mischief, and look carefully around to find the mess. The difference on this evening was that he ran straight to me. Usually he runs out into the yard and watches from a distance to see how much trouble he is going to get into.


I was shutting the gate in the driveway, and as he drew near, I saw something curious. It looked like he had a brown paper bib dangling from under his chin. He had a look of fright in his eyes as if he were trying to say, “Mom!! Help me!!” As I reached down to remove the offending object, I realized that it was a remnant of a gift bag; the handle part of it had lodged behind his ears.


In the meantime, Joel found the mess. All my unopened printer ink cartridges were strewn across the floor in the hallway along with the mangled remains of the aforementioned gift bag into which they had been placed. This bag usually rests in a basket on the floor of the pantry, where my printer is, and looking at the evidence, it appeared that Mr. Curiosity had stuck his head in the bag to see what was in it. But he happened to stick his head through the handle of the bag, so when he raised his head back up, his ears caught the handle, and the bag raised up right along with his head!


I can only imagine the struggle he must have had to remove the bag from his head. It’s comical to think about, except that he must have been frightened. He must have shaken his head and pawed at the offending bag until it finally ripped apart, leaving the aforementioned “bib” that he couldn’t reach.


We had a good laugh at his expense, and didn’t fuss at him or anything, despite knowing for sure that he’d made the mess. I think he was punished enough by his fear and struggle. Maybe he’ll think twice about sticking his head where it isn’t supposed to be? One can only hope!