Friday, September 17, 2010

Who Am I and What Am I Doing Here? Project Food Blog Challenge #1

COOK. EAT. FOOD. WINE. TRAVEL. ENTERTAIN. If this were Jeopardy, the question (answer) would be "What does Judy think about all the time?" I am a busy working professional, but "What's for dinner? What wine will pair with it? When and where is our next vacation? What do they eat there?" are questions that occupy my thoughts daily. 

Our favorite winery

While recovering from two surgeries and six weeks of subsequent treatment, I had very little energy for anything. But when I felt well enough, I would visit a local winery or try a new recipe. I was too fatigued to pursue my usual creative outlet of collage and fiber art, but I needed a way to express myself. Instead of using paper, fabric and fiber as my medium, I wanted to write. Not about my illness, but about something I loved – cooking, food and wine. I had never read food blogs, much less considered writing one. But I could blog when and where it was convenient and writing was not as physically demanding as fiber art.   
Recovery food

And food is also art. I see it from the perspective of a fiber artist. Food is woven into every aspect of our lives and is a thread that not only runs through our days, but weaves us all together. We can’t live without food, so why not approach it with joy, passion and humor. My blog tells the stories of my life, past and present. I recount my experiences through food and dining; how I have become ME and what I've been doing lately.

I recently wrote about my mother's cooking lessons and how her memory still influences me:

My mother wasn’t much of a cook. She could have been, she had the skills, but she didn’t seem interested. She was coerced into teaching the cooking badge to my Girl Scout troop when I was in the fifth grade and she did an excellent job. She taught us basic cooking skills such as how to measure solids and scrape the measuring cup with the back of a straight knife, when and how to sift flour. She grew up with very little money and her frugal nature never allowed her to enjoy cooking or eating. Being a working mother of three children probably didn’t help either.

Years later when my mother died, we had only four days to empty her apartment. It felt like we were erasing her life. We sold/donated/discarded most everything she owned. I packed just a few special items to ship to my home in California. When my package arrived, I was dismayed to see that my husband had slipped in other items he thought I’d appreciate later.

Mom's recipe box
One item Larry packed was my mother’s recipe box. Recently, when I couldn’t sleep, I looked inside the box for the first time. I’m sure she never made most of those recipes. Of all the magazine and newspaper clippings and the typed or handwritten index cards in the box, we shared only two recipes that I could find – two that I had requested from her over 30 years ago: a squash casserole and a strawberry Jello salad.

My son and his
This sleepless night was the fifth anniversary of my mother's death. And also the due date of my son’s first child. I was relieved that my grandson Isaac arrived early and did not have to share his birthday with the bittersweet memories of my mother’s death. It was so difficult to leave him and return home just a few days after his birth. Maybe I wasn't just suffering from a grandmother's version of post-partum depression after having to leave this beautiful child who began laughing at four days old. Maybe I couldn't sleep because I was also missing my mother.

I'll keep the recipe box. I'll probably never use the recipes, but I like the idea that I could. My mother didn't spend much time with my son, but  I hope to spend far more with his. Maybe I'll even teach him to cook. At least I can show him how we collected recipes before there were computers, by keeping his great-grandmother's recipe box.

Over the years, I have taken the basic cooking skills I learned from my mother and developed them beyond anything she could have imagined. My mother rarely left North Carolina and never left the country. I love to travel and try new food experiences. Larry and I have dined on excellent cuisine in recent years from South Africa, Brazil and Ecuador. I love to return home and see what I can create based on new flavors I have experienced. Then I see if my friends will try my experiments. I suspect my mother would not be willing to eat much of what we cook now.

Some meals are exotic, others are simple. My trips to the farmers’ market are a weekly ritual to help create healthy and interesting meals. Northern California is a paradise when it comes to produce, so the opportunity to explore fresh and local ingredients is almost unlimited. Even with our healthier California cooking, I’ve never quite conquered the food addictions rooted in my childhood. Southern fried anything, donuts and M&Ms will probably never disappear from my diet. At least now, I can sometimes justify succumbing to the cravings for the sake of blogging.

At the market

What does my future hold? I have, at least for now, abandoned fiber art. Every day there are new inspirations in my “inbox” providing clues as to where I might go next in my culinary journey. It’s all a glorious adventure. An adventure that I hope lasts for a really long time.

11 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your life with me. I am really excited about hearing everyone's stories. I am going to publish my food buzz challenge tomorrow. If you get a chance stop by and check it out and let me know what you think. Have a great day.
    Ashlee
    www.ashandlewplus2.com

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  2. Judy, thank you for such a moving post! I'm so glad you husband slipped that recipe box into your things to save. Even having something that she put together is special. Congratulations an entering the challenge, I can't wait to see how it all goes! Good luck! I'll vote for you!!

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  3. What a wonderful story! Great entry for Foodbuzz!

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  4. Judy, I love the story about your mother. My grandmother was an amazing cook who taught me many things. I have her recipe box and it brings back many memories.

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  5. I am loving everyone's different stories.

    Good luck.

    Jason

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  6. This really resonates with me. My blog is all about the connection between parents and food and kids. I'm sorry you lost your mother, and I'm glad you're keeping her memory alive.

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  7. Great post! Good luck in the competition. You got my vote.

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  8. What a heartfelt and lovely post. I want to see more. I'm giving you one of my votes.

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