My mom died this holiday season. Don’t be sad for me, or her – she wanted to go. She needed to go. Alzheimer’s is not pretty and it’s better to be over sooner rather than later.
Mom never even LIKED eating -she always used to chide me “why can’t you eat to live, not live to eat!” No one could figure out where my love of food and cooking came from. Mom did love to snack, however, and Potato Sticks were frequently her lunch. I also have MOSTLY warm and fuzzy memories of our “Friday Night Parties” where a now non-existent Kraft Dry Onion Dip mixed with milk would thicken up and we would snuggle into bed with it and a bag of Wise Potato Chips. The MOSTLY comes from being kicked by either my brother or my mother because I was too fidgety.
Mom came into this world chewing on broken glass, and metaphorically at least, that’s how she left. You see, when mom was a toddler/pre-schooler, grandmomma used to put her out in the yard to play and the neighborhood was relatively new with construction debris. Both grandmomma and mom would recount stories of the broken glass snacks, grandmother “tsking” as she told them (she “tsked” at just about everything mom said/did), and mom laughingly would recount how she LIKED the taste/feel/look of the red, blue, and green glass bits she would find in the dirt and put in her mouth. Mom’s favorite snack as a child besides the glass, was an already eaten, used up corn cob she took to bed suck on at naptime. I suppose these are the pacifiers and fruit roll-ups of the depression era.
Mom also hated to cook. She resented the daily grind of having to feed a family of 6. Her only interest in food might be derived from something new and different, but because she didn’t care about food, she would not get the proper ingredients for the new recipe; she would simply substitute whatever UNreasonable facsimile we had in our fridge/pantry/freezer. Think Velveeta for Parmigiano Reggiano. Mom cursed like a sailor and when, in our prepubescent growth spurt years we would dare to hungrily ask “what’s for dinner?” her response would be “SH*T”. Yes, I get my mouth from my mother.
Mom didn’t like meat (red or any other hue). Daddy made a mean fried chicken and when he made it for dinner she would peel off her skin and hold it up for auction. Then she would pick at the protein and make disgusting sounds and expressions. She liked fish though, and we frequently had the fish that daddy caught fried for dinner, and then again for breakfast. This is not uncommon down south – fish for breakfast. I still love it for breakfast.
Mom also liked shellfish, along with beans and vegetables. She was an expert crabber, growing up in Tidewater, and NOBODY could pick a blue crab cleaner than mom. This, another residual depression skill. Waste nothing. Wash your aluminum foil, and rewash it again for yet a 3rd time until it falls apart.
Mom naturally found herself on a macrobiotic diet at about 50 and dropped tons of weight (she was never huge but from about 50 to 80 she was a size 4). This healthy diet was supplemented by a daily room temperature Tab she carried around with her everywhere she went to her various meetings and charity functions. Tab also adorned the piano where she taught lessons for 50 or so years. She NEVER drank water and I’m positive this contributed to her dementia in a significant way. She loved Daddy’s wine though, and in her recent last years, we discovered that she had come to think of the nectar of the fig and grape as excellent sources of nutrition, which she called her “juice”.
Who doesn’t like ice cream? Mom. Mom could not stand dairy in any form but cheese. She did love and partake of a Virginia family breakfast tradition at Christmas time, though – in the form of Oyster Stew, which contains milk. This we were required to ingest every Christmas morning as far back as I can remember. No one really liked it but her and my grandfather. I’ve never been a fan of oysters, but the broth I found palatable. This, of course, was served with Oyster Crackers. Oyster crackers that would not get eaten in their entirety and so, were relegated to the pantry for next year’s feast. One sunny Christmas morning, we all sat down to the formally set table – china, silver, crystal – and our Oyster Stew. Each of us passed the basket of crackers around and dumped them into our bowls, and one by one, we all looked closer and closer at what seemed to be pepper rising to the top. Then, the pepper began to writhe with life. Our curiosity turned to horror as one by one we pushed back our chairs, screeched, and RAN…as daddy’s face turned to ashen grey as it is wont to do when things don’t go right, and granddaddy chuckled and said “it’s just weevils. They don’t eat much.” The lesson of don’t save crackers for the next year’s feast was never learned. We, ever after, had a pantry full of Tupperware.
Thanks mom for this partial trip down food-memory lane. You’re a bird, you are. I’m sure you’ve got a tight grip on that Tab and are demanding attention from whomever is lucky enough to be in your path. I am grateful there is no more broken glass for you.
A Note From Chef Lori
Lula’s is excited to be a part of the Women’s Initiative Annual Breakfast Planning Committee and I’m hoping you will be able to attend on January 24, 2018. Held at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center from 7 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., we typically have over 700 women and men in attendance. Our keynote speaker is Dr. Debra Clary, who works with leaders who want to improve their impact and contribution to their organization. She is a student and teacher of narrative leadership (storytelling), resilience, transformation and change. She draws on her corporate experiences, academic research and her standup comic training to inspire others striving to live with purpose. Don’t delay – make your reservation today before it sells out! To register and for more information: www.NKYChamber.com/WIAnnualBreakfast
Click here to visit Lula’s website!