Tag Archives: Bereavement

Remembering With Recipes

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The First Page of My Grandmother’s Homemade Cookbook

When my grandmother, who I always called “Mamaw”, died a few years ago, I realized just how many of my memories of her included/revolved around food. I think this is often true about the women in our lives, because we are usually the ones doing the cooking for family gatherings, Sunday dinners, etc. The exception is cooking that involves the outdoor grilling of some slab of meat or another, in which case the memories would be of the man of the house. Because in my lifetime I don’t think I’ve ever known a guy who would allow anyone to cook anything on his grill while there was still breath in his body.

AKA, “Kay” to Everyone Who Knew Her, “Mamaw” to Me

Mamaw was a good cook—not a gourmet chef, but a good, memorable cook. Over the years she collected various recipes from friends and family members that she made a lot and that all of us remember her preparing. She is the reason that I have a particular fondness for the easy but unbelievably delicious dishes one can make by simply opening a bunch of cans and bags, mixing stuff together, and baking for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

A Favorite From the 80’s…I prefer these days to use an equivalent amount of fresh chopped broccoli instead of frozen.

And then there were her Christmas specialties such as her fabulous Bisquick Sausage Balls—to die for, people! For those of you who aren’t from the South, sausage balls are a common Christmas-time staple in our neck of the woods. They always have ground country sausage, mixed with cheddar cheese, and some sort of biscuit type ingredient to make them stick together and bake in the oven. Every Northerner or Californian I’ve ever made them for has fallen in love—with the sausage balls, not me. Mamaw found the easiest and also the most delicious sausage ball recipe ever, of course, and not only do I associate them with memories of her and her annual Christmas Eve buffet spread, but when I make them myself I can literally feel her presence in my home.

Mamaw’s Infamous Sausage Balls! I make them with less Bisquick, and more cheese, but try to get them just as “crumgly” 🙂

Food, especially a loved one’s trademarked recipes, is a conduit of memories, love, and comfort–even more so when they are gone from your life. Those sensory memories that familiar flavors spontaneously evoke are one way to keep your special person close to you always. Several years before she became ill and her health began to decline, Mamaw and my grandfather, who I always called Papaw, gathered up all her best recipes, typed them out (complete with some really endearing typos and misspellings), and made handmade cookbooks for all us kids and grandkids. My copy is well worn, and I have often referred to my “Kay’s Kollection” cookbook when planning a meal, or looking for something different to take to a potluck or Holiday gathering. And this book of Mamaw-related memory treasures honestly means more and more to me as the years pass on. Now I am somebody’s grandmother and I can only hope that my kids and grandkids will want to make some of my signature recipes someday. I have my own, and I have Mamaw’s originals, and my own versions of those with my special tweaks, that I can envision my kids and grandkids making years from now, and maybe remembering me when they do.

A 70’s Sunday Dinner Staple, Of Course! Who didn’t love to talk about Tricky Dick then?

I wanted to share all of this with you because I think more people should consider putting together handmade cookbooks like the one I treasure so. It’s a priceless gift for your kids and grandkids, a great way to carry on family traditions, and to remember all the precious times we’ve shared with the people in our lives, who all will inevitably leave us at some point. And my Mamaw’s simple recipes and some of the memories they hold for me are worth sharing with the world, I think. So, hats off to my special someone, and her knack for the simple and delicious! A few of my favorites are scattered throughout this piece, and have been photographed just as they appear in Kay’s Kollektion, with her typos and my kitchen spill stains. If you click each of the photos to view its actual size, the recipes should be very readable and, of course, easy to follow.

I hope you enjoy them, and they will encourage you to make your own memory filled cookbook for your family!

She Made This Concoction During the 70’s & 80’s. And she got it from her sister in law and friend, Opal “Opie” Hunt, who also happens to be Phil Hunt’s Mom.

Another Christmas Celebration Favorite From the 70’s!

My Grandparents, “Mamaw & Papaw”

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

5 Things I Learned About Life When My Best Friend Died

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On January 11, 2011, my longtime friend Mark Davidson died suddenly. There was no prior warning, no illness which might have given a clue…nothing. One day he was posting on his Facebook Wall about kicking off the New Year wrong by showing up for work when the office was closed that day, and the next he was gone…just like that. While it is always hard to lose someone we love, the death of a peer, particularly when it is completely unexpected, is especially jarring. In my search to find comfort since the moment I learned that one of the best friends I’ve ever had was no longer spinning around on the planet with me, I have learned one of the reasons peer death is so difficult is that, more than any other type of loss, it really forces you to take a harder look at your own life—particularly your mortality. It also makes you think about life—a lot. This is what the loss of Mark taught me about my life and life in general;

1)      No matter where you go, there you are.

When I first met Mark in the early 90’s, he used to say this—too much. In fact, he said it so much that it annoyed me, especially after I found out he probably got it from a car commercial. His death made me realize that no matter how far we run, how we think we’ve moved on and never looked back, those people who have touched our lives, and those experiences we’ve lived through remain with us, because now they are a part of us. Everyone you’ve ever known…everyone you’ve ever loved, has made you who you are.  Mark, and everyone I’ve ever lost or even purposely left behind, looks back at me each morning in the mirror because they ARE me.

2)      Tie up your loose ends.

Oh boy did Mark leave loose ends—probably more than most. This has taught me that we all have those things we’ve been meaning to do, to get around to, but keep putting off for as many reasons as there are things. Do them—now. Because you may not have a tomorrow, and you owe it to yourself, as well as your family and friends. Just make a list and start checking them off…once you do this, you’ll learn a lot about what’s really important to you and your priorities will straighten themselves.

3)      Learn to live with loose ends.

Mark’s last words to me three days before he died, I kid you not, were “And keep playing that lottery! And if you win big, be sure to remember me!” Now that is a loose end I’d love to tie up…Earth to Heaven, Attn: Mark Davidson! Winning numbers, please! It’s just my luck that those cryptic last words didn’t include a well deserved easy payoff. Sometimes loose ends can’t be tied, and they will just stay loose forever. That’s just the way it is. We have to evolve to the point in our life journey where we can be okay with that, because it’s just the nature of living.

4)      Strive to be who you are.

Mark was always doing something new—he had a very short attention span, but jumped into new activities with great intensity. In the months before he died, he had watched that movie about eating organic foods, so he became obsessed with the Farmer’s Market…he made a foodie blog…he preached the virtues of organic, and the evils of the food industry establishment. He did that for a couple of months and then evidently went back to his curly fries and Krispy Kremes, because it was radio silence on the food front. He did that—a lot…over and over with different pursuits throughout his life. It occurs to me that Mark never really figured out who he truly was, but man did he try! I’ve learned that, in life, we should all have that same strong desire to first discover who we are, then BE it, in every sense of the word. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog…because I AM a writer. I just am…so now I write.

5)      You are the sum of your moments.

After Mark died, once I moved past the initial shock, I remembered not days I had spent with him, but moments. My mind would recall some insignificant (at the time) thing that he had said to me, or some silly thing he did or said—and Mark was always doing or saying something silly. Now that he’s gone, I have realized that is one of the things that made me love him so much. They say that you don’t remember people, but you remember how a person made you feel. This is true, I guess, but those impressions, aka feelings we associate with others are comprised of moments. And I have learned just how important those moments are, because once you are gone, moments are what you leave behind.

This one’s for you, Mark! Save me a seat at the cool kid’s table up there, will ya? 😉

Click here to view Mark’s Memorial Video on You Tube:

Until next time…