I wrote and posted this over at facecrack not too long after Mothers Day. Food is one of my ramble on for days subjects. I think I will just revisit food every Thursday rather than try to cram it all into one post. Suffice it to say that my mom’s love of food boiled over onto me. To this day, my memories of mom are potmarked with food, eating and the tenacity she had to keep our family together.
Today, Crunchy Betty asks what your last meal might be, if you could choose. Folks pipe up with all the decadent dishes…lobster, ice cream, gravy on this, butter on that. I love food. But you knew that. My mom loved food. For a decade in her 50s, she worked at the FBI Academy at Quantico as a Cook (at the Chef pay rate). She complained about coworkers, managers and job politics…but she never once complained about the food. Not the volume. Not the strain of gigantic pots. Not the students and staff who came to the dining hall. Not once. She was there for the food. When she had a serious grievance with her supervisor…there was food involved in her protest. In fact, it was a full tray of Turkey Tettrazini and his shoes. She once was irritated that someone had come to ‘tour’ the kitchen and was messing up her rhythm. It was Janet Reno. (Mom: “I don’t know, some man come here today. I have a soup to make. Baka.”) She didn’t seem to mind so much when Chuck Norris came to tour, though and she was pleased that he was shorter in real life. I suspect she encountered more notable people there and their identities escaped her, because she was there for the food. When we got together on a weekend, Mom pulled out the stops. She loved a big spread and put extraordinary effort into planning and making sure everyone had a favorite food there. She made, without fail, a bean, salsa and sourcream dip. She made the best gyoza (won tons). Everyone helped chop, fill and fry. We were usually stuffed with those before dinner was on. Shrimp cocktail plates. Veggie platters. Olives and pickles. And extras, because she knew the kids would plow through them. “No problem, there’s a more!” She took great pride in making sure everyone had their favorite eats represented. And if someone (my sister, ahem) had an aversion to a flavor (cilantro) she would debate how to accommodate. Always, the food. Mom was diagnosed with a stage 4 GlioBlastoma in her brain in June of the year she passed. She suffered the effects of what looked like a stroke right off the bat. Her ability to cook was stolen. Her right hand incapacitated. She could no longer hold a fork, chopsticks, her 10# French knife. She was reduced to eating with her undominant hand and food just wasn’t the companion and inspiration it once was. In her time at National Rehab Hospital, late summer and driving past the Seafood Piers in DC on the trek through the city for radiation….mom decided she wanted Tako (Octopus). Her oldest friend had come up from Florida to visit and she was now assuming the duties of preparing some food for mom…a huge measure of comfort. She would put out a feast of foods that mom knew by heart. Japanese pickles, rice….and the tako. She took me to the kitchen and showed me step by step how to wash the critter, beat it up, salt it, scrub it, boil it and cut it down for presentation. Mom, so delighted. I wish now, that I had left and not filled her house up with all the bustling. I wish I had left her to be with the food alone. I wish I hadn’t been there when she said, “I can’t chew it.” She gave up shortly after that and let go. When her choice for last meal was not to be, she let go.
See you next Thursday. I think that’s enough feelyness for today.