For the LOVE of food

I really love to cook.  To be clear,  I really love to eat too.  I know some people who eat only because they will die if they don’t; they get no joy and no pleasure from it, it’s just fuel, and I know many people who get no pleasure whatsoever in preparing food or cooking, they do it only as a chore or obligation.  I know people who are so fussy that they eat only a handful of things and never want to try anything new, or won’t even try something they actually like, but prepared in a new way.  Picky, squeamish,  finicky eaters and I don’t really combine well, kind of like a perfect Umbrian Coricelli extra virgin olive oil and water.  I prefer being around people who like the experience of food… the eating, the preparing, the entire interaction with that which sustains us.

When I cook  for myself or for guests,  it’s with so much gratification in the act itself, sometimes as much, if not more than the final product.  The whole process, the sounds and the smells,  and the actions involved, is something I really like. I enjoy having a full freezer and well stocked pantry so that I can create what I feel like, when I feel like it.  My daughter never enjoyed helping in the kitchen, she liked to help my mother bake, but seldom liked to help me cook, but her youngest daughter does, and that excites me.  When a three-year old asks to learn how to use a knife, and before she is four can hull and slice her own strawberries, and now likes to julianne peppers and wash dishes, and when at your house, often turns on the cooking channel, you know you’ve got a little ‘foodie’  in the making.  My Mimom was the consummate hostess.  She could throw together a lunch for her bridge club ladies at 1 o’clock, have assorted snacks and a cheese platter for cocktails later at 6:30, and a delicious and visually delightful meal at 8 for eight, without breaking a sweat or having to leave the house because she was “out of something.”  Her pantry was like C.S. Lewis’  magic wardrobe to me and I loved being around her while I was growing up and am sure much of my love of entertaining, stocking cupboards, and preparing food, comes directly from her tutelage.

I remember one night so clearly, she was prepping for a large dinner party…having her show me how to set a full formal table and where to put the water glass, the wine glass, and the liqueur glass, how to fold the napkin, and how to arrange the plates for bread, salad, and dessert…all those details that mattered so much to her and now matter to me…everything about her kitchen that afternoon and night excited me…I don’t remember much about the snacks served with the cocktails, other than nervously balancing nuts and cheeses on a tray and asking her friends if they would like some, but I do clearly remember helping my Mimom to bring out the main course, crab imperial.  I can remember helping her pull apart the crab meat that afternoon and being sure there were no shells, and even watching her mix all the ingredients couldn’t prepare me for the thrill of seeing this crab casserole get spooned into these beautiful enormous shells and then baked and served…the presentation was like something out of a magazine…maybe they were just normal sized shells I see on the beach, but as a little girl enthralled with all that was going on that night,  those shells looked like the most magnificent serving platters I had ever seen!

Years ago my Sunday mornings used to start very early, and at 5 or so I would sit on my big fat purple sofa and sip my coffee and crochet and watch  -Nigella Bites- It was my favorite cooking show… I liked Nigella Lawson’s  accent, I liked how she cooked, I liked how she used a knife and a mezzaluna, I liked what she cooked, I liked her kitchen, I like how she served, I liked how she explained things, I just loved my Sunday mornings with her and I would get inspired, and usually Sunday supper was in my mind before my second cup of coffee was empty because Nigella energized me.  Three years ago my small town lost its A&P, a store I ADORED, and soon thereafter lost its Genuardis, a grocery store I liked well enough, but didn’t love, and has not had a supermarket since.  What kind  of town does not have a grocery store??!!  We have SEVEN places at which a person can buy tires but NOT ONE place to buy a head of lettuce, a wedge of Gruyere, or a steak.  There are MORE than enough pizza places and take-out places where I live, but if you want to put together a luncheon for your girlfriends, snacks for evening cocktails, and dinner for your guests after dark, you have to go someplace else.  FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD, my town needs a supermarket, or a gourmet little grocery store, or a specialty shop, or a butcher, a baker, and a cheese shoppe.  I drive out of town because I must, but what kind of town council or committee thinks it’s okay to keep approving building permits for more housing but neglecting to recognize the fact that there is nowhere for residents current or future, to buy food!!??

My work truck is my only vehicle and it gets 10.2 miles to the gallon, yes, that point 2 really makes a difference,  BUT even with that fact in mind,  I admit that a few times a year I do in fact drive some 41 miles west of me, not far from Philadelphia, for food…the towns in that area have a Trader Joe’s, a Whole Foods, and a Wegmans, and you might think it ridiculous that I would even consider driving that far for groceries and totally preposterous that I actually do, but I really love food shopping when it is in a place that makes me remember that I love to cook and love to organize my pantry and love the whole experience of purchasing and preparing food.

Where I live has a lot of residents who are from someplace else and I don’t mean to sound rude, but many of the women from these ‘someplace elses’ have voices and accents that make my skin crawl, and it seems that so many of them crack their gum when they talk, and that makes my skin crawl more, and they seem to always be in a tremendous hurry and often are insulting to the employees at the supermarket…understandably, this is of course not the case with all the people shopping in the grocery store, but sometimes it feels like it to me,  and as a result my love of grocery shopping is significantly diminished…BUT when I drive 41 miles west…oh goodness it is like a buzz…it seems that everyone shopping in those supermarkets is there for the same reason I am…to happily buy unbelievably overpriced produce and protein and fabulously packaged food stuffs in a well-lit, clean, and organized store, where one almost feels healthier just being IN the store, like we are doing our bodies good, and don’t have to “shop the perimeter” because the entire store seems to be filled with high quality foods.  Does it make me seem like a snob, who, mind you, can’t afford to be, that I like to shop there?  maybe.  But I really love food shopping when I get ‘into’ the entire experience of food shopping.  When I do it here, I am often feeling annoyed that my town has no store and it feels like a chore…but today I am going to change that up.

The last few times I have had to go food shopping I  psyched myself up for it, and walked into the store with a really positive attitude, and when I heard an accent that made my skin crawl or a gum cracking woman hit my cart of I heard somebody be impolite to the boy stocking the avocados, I just thought that I should feel sorry for them, that they were choosing to  be miserable and rude, and I should feel glad that I was not them…and I have found, admittedly slowly, my love of food shopping returning.  I have a list today and I have some menus planned, one of which includes a black bean soup with tequila lime marinated shrimp.  YUM!  Yesterday I reorganized all my spice racks and cleaned all the jars and made all new labels, I emptied out and organized my kitchen pantry and started rotating my stock in my utility room pantry, I know what I am low on and what I am out of, and I am going food shopping this morning with a smile on my face, a positive attitude, and a grateful heart for the love of food.

Pad, Abode, Quarters, Casa, Maison, Bungalow, Space…home

I’ve heard it said and read that we humans want all sorts of things but that we only need food, clothing, and shelter.  It does not matter what you call  the shelter, but rather, I think  it matters how you feel about it…Having a roof over your head is perhaps a necessity, although in some parts of the world this may not be the case, but I would venture to guess that in every culture, in every species, there is a need for a space in which to live, to nest.  Whether or not it brings you joy or upset, or comfort or unease,  is totally up to you.

Five years ago today I got my C.O. and began the process of moving into my new space.  It was issued one year and one day after the building permit, and it’s truly AMAZING what can happen in 366 days!  I have lived in much smaller spaces than I live now, and I have lived in much bigger spaces than this house, but much like Goldilocks finding porridge of a perfect temperature, and a chair of a perfect size, and a bed of the perfect softness, this space is the one that feels just right for me.

Building a house is very different from buying one.  To be clear, it takes a lot of work to move, regardless of the circumstance, but the experience of drawing plans and taking a place of acres of empty woods and turning it into a home, is overwhelmingly wonderful, and unbelievably hard work…I hired a lot of different sub-contractors to help me build this house; roofer, plumber, electrician, framer, sheet-rocker, et al., but the fact remains that I physically worked here on it, in some way night after night, weekend after weekend, morning after morning…because it is what you have to do if you want to get it done…I silently thank my parents every single time I pull onto my driveway, for how much they helped me to make this happen, and how much they still do for me to keep it all together.

I still have the notebook, page one dated January 2008 when I got the piece of property…and every note thereafter from getting the variance, to the building permit, to the certificate of occupancy…it’s all in this notebook, which I kept much more like a journal, and there are pages where the ink is washed out because I was upset and crying while I wrote, much like in a journal, where I listed EVERY SINGLE CENT I spent and was able to total, down to the penny, how much it cost me to build this house…I opened it this morning, just at random to see what page I turned to, and here is what I opened to:  February 23rd 2009 “Well, I’m over budget, but not terribly.”  It gave me my first laugh of the day!  The notebook’s  filled with appliance dimensions and item numbers, window sizes, phone numbers, sofa names, doodles of floor plans, ideas for furniture placement, and paint color numbers, and I treasure this notebook, honestly as much as I treasure my child’s note filled baby book!

If where you live does not make you feel at peace and comforted and happy, then perhaps it is time to think about moving to a different space.  I know not everyone feels such a connection as I do to their abode, and I understand that to some I am rather weird about how deeply I love mine, and how sensitive and protective I feel about it…not a whole lot different than how one might be protective of a child,  in fact, I am pretty sure that I was more upset when my walnut floor was first dinged & dented by a dropped can of soup  than I was when my child fell off a swing and broke her wrist!!   When I get into one of my cleaning frenzy modes, or reorganizing my pantries or painting my trim, or freshening up my walls or ANYthing related to caring for my space, it is done with as much thought and effort as I’ve ever cared for any person…maybe not everybody should love their house in the way that I do, but I really do think it matters, to love where you live…

Firsts, Lasts, and Everythings

I had dinner, cocktails, poker, and game night with my first friend from first grade over the weekend, including her husband and my boyfriend, with lots of laughter and deliciousness.  My Mimom always told me, from the time I was a little girl, *to keep my girlfriends close, to treasure the friends I make,  that men die before women, husbands often leave, but that you will always have your girlfriends.*  I have taken her advice very seriously.  My immediate circle is very small; two close girlfriends, ‘besties’ as my granddaughters would say, but my outer circle is very large, filled with many dear friends, most of whom I only interact with in cyber space, but who I know, if I were in need, would say, “how can I help?”  There is a comfort knowing that I would do for others as I would have them do unto me.  I have known far too many people who  don’t think that way, and I suppose for them, they choose how big or how diverse they want their circle to be.

While watching my friend and our partners interact  I reflected upon the fact that she has been with me through every boyfriend, every breakup, every job, every car, every screw up, and every achievement of my life, and for both of us, if ever we are not involved with these two men, we will still be involved with each other.  I could be more involved with both of my closest girlfriends; I seldom if ever call either of them just to chat, I get together with them each about once a month, and we three work, we three have men in our lives who occupy our other hours, and I know that I could DO more to be more involved with both of these women, and indeed with any or all of my cyber girlfriends, but somehow, even with the minimal involvement we all have with one another, there is a very definitive sensation of connectedness…for me at least…that I am here for them and they are here for me, however much or little we might need of each other…

I feel lucky that my relationship with my daughter is what it is…when she was a teenager I often reminded her I was not her friend, I was her mother, and it did not matter to me one bit if she didn’t like me, if I wasn’t doing what she wanted, that we did not have to be friends…but now she is an adult and my next door neighbor, and I am so glad that we have a friendship too.  I often have felt that I am nice to people and kind, because I am a kind person, not because I want something from a relationship.  I sadly have known a lot of people in my life who are only nice to people because they think they will ‘get’ something out of it…that is not a way to be a friend.  That is really more like the definition of a parasite.  I love that my daughter too has cultivated friendships that are full of love and acceptance, and that she has that same desire to be connected by choice to women who fulfill her and she them…

I have another friend who lives in New England who I met the week before I got married.  She was my neighbor on the island where I lived and her husband worked with mine and we were dear close friends for a few months, and then things changed; we both got divorced, moved, our lives became completely detached, but you know what?  In the spring of 2012 we had a brief 6 hour visit as she moved from Florida back to Massachusetts, and before that we had not seen each other since my daughter was in kindergarten, and we miss each others phone calls several times a year, but when I speak to her…it is as if no time has passed, we just are friends…it is VALUABLE, it is more important than any things we could own, any savings we could have, any flashy car we could drive, those things are just surface materialistic things…friendships are priceless.

My sister and I have had some ups and downs, but since the late summer we have made a deliberate effort to reconnect, and there is a history there that no friendship can match…when you have been raised by the same two people and shared the same roof, holidays, and experiences, despite the occasional differences or hang-ups, a sister is a relationship that you will have until you die…it’s up to you to maintain it, to extend the proverbial olive branch when needed, to sweep the differences under the rug and forget about them when necessary, or not.  There are some relationships that neither time nor forgiveness can heal.

I was friends for 22 years with a woman who I really felt connected to, but she chose to end the friendship.  I struggled for a year, wondering what exactly I did that made her mad, how I failed as a friend, what I didn’t do right, where it went wrong…and then I came to simply accept that she didn’t need me.  She made a conscious choice to stop being my friend.  It hurt terribly because we had SO many fun times together, but I understood that for her, the relationship had run its course…like many relationships, they just end…I have a long list of ex-boyfriends to show for it…people who you really like or love, for whatever period of time, and then you don’t.  It’s kind of simple really…if you can accept it.

Your girlfriends will be by your side through every screw up and every greatness, if you want them to.  They will become a piece of your history/herstory if you’d rather.  I have some girlfriends who get their nails done every week and buy shoes that cost as much as my electric bill, I have some girlfriends who struggle to pay their electric bill and are happy to buy their shoes at Payless.  They don’t seem to ever judge me, that although I graduated first in my class at college, I now clean the toilets and pull the weeds and paint the walls for the rich and famous.  They accept me for me and I accept them for them.  Just like whether or not you like vanilla or you’d rather have chocolate, you decide what you want in your life and you decide what you want out.  You tend to a friendship like a seedling if you want it to grow and to blossom and you can ignore it if you want it to just dry up and die.  I have made many questionable choices in my life, but deciding to tend to a few really beautiful friendships isn’t one of them.

pages turned, chapters ended, time to start a new book…

My daughter became a single mother this morning at our County courthouse when her marriage was formally documented and recorded  as -over.-    It is a role I never would have wished on anyone, least of all someone I love so dearly.  I had for many years, a deep and insatiable sadness that I was unable to provide my child with a childhood like I had.  She will say that she had a wonderful childhood and a very good life, and that it was filled with love, and she was spoiled by her aunts, and doted on by her grandparents, and that my father was the best father-figure she could ever have dreamed for, and all of those things would be true, but they don’t assuage my guilt, that I did not give to her the kind of family unit and family life that I grew up with.

Every June on my daughter’s wedding anniversary I would laugh and text them that they “made it through another year” and often would remark about what famous couple had split up during the year, and I would feel so proud of them, that despite their occasional troubles, they really were doing their very best to make the kind of family unit they wanted to make for themselves and their daughters.  My daughter got married a week before she graduated high school and didn’t “have to,” which blew my mind…that she seemed to want to attach herself to one person, at 18 years old, and not go out and have all the experiences that I so dearly desired but didn’t get to have…I had tried to be such a strong female role model for her and I think I was intending to live vicariously through her for a few years, as she went to college and lived in her first apartment and traveled to interesting places and did all sorts of fabulous things…but she chose to fall in love with a boy she met on spring break in Myrtle Beach and get married to him two months later, and off she moved to North Carolina, leaving me that summer of 2004, both longing for her presence in my home, and perplexed by her choices…

Ten years later, we are next door neighbors and today her marriage was dissolved and I feel both a sadness and a gladness, neither one was expected.  I didn’t really expect to feel much of anything, it’s not my business… She sent me a text from the courthouse, now that she had her married last name legally removed and is now going to go by just her first and middle names, Victoria Rose, and the text said, ‘Hello from your daughter Victoria Rose’  …And I wrote back, “Hello Victoria Rose,” and then I started to cry, at work, in a customer’s kitchen, …realizing and remembering they were the very first words I ever spoke to her when she took her first breaths of air on this earth, holding her ridiculously long fingers, and touching her face, Hello Victoria Rose…

In one moment late this morning I felt sad for her that her marriage had formally ended, and felt glad for her that frankly, she seems  just fine.  Both my son-in-law (I guess I can still call him that, I still love him, and he is after all the father of my grandchildren) and my daughter are happily dating lovely people, and seem very well matched with their current flames.  They are both young and attractive and have really their whole lives still ahead of them,  and surely that makes moving on, turning a page, ending a chapter, starting a new book,  easier…I have turned many pages, ended many chapters, and started many new books in my years on this earth…change is not always easy, whether we initiate it or just try to “go with it” doesn’t really matter, we just have to be open-minded enough to know that change is good and leads us somewhere new…I think as a mother I just felt so glad that my child was not having to go through those changes, suffer those jolts of reality, accept that dreams are often not coming true…but here she is, moving forward with the next phase of her life, moving on…

I joke, but it is true, that I am pretty much an ‘open book,’  but because my blog is public and my pseudonym of ‘RStar’  is now known to be “me,” because of a “sharing” glitch in social media two years ago,  there is no more anonymity, so I am careful, or at least try to be, to not divulge too much that is personal because not everybody with whom I am associated is as open as I…so I find that I often want to write about an event or an issue or a problem but I can’t…because many readers know to whom I must be referring…which is hard, when you want to write and all these words are in your brain, and they want to come out your fingers, but you have to stop yourself…editing my thoughts and the words that want to spill out of me is somewhat painful…needless to say/write, it might be time to start a new blog, but in the interim, there is the recognition that my child, this woman who is my neighbor, this woman who brought two amazing little humans into this world and who have filled my heart with the most inexplicable and unimaginable love, has turned a page, ended a chapter, and is starting a new book, and I want nothing more than a great page turner with beautifully rich character development, and a gloriously happy ending.