The following text was submitted as a reader story by me to http://www.splendidtable.org/story/tales-of-eating-with-mom
My mom loved food. For a decade in her 50s, she worked at the FBI Academy at Quantico as a cook. 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.
She once was irritated that someone had come to tour the kitchen and was messing up her rhythm. It was Janet Reno. 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 — she was there for the food.
Mom was diagnosed with a stage 4 glioblastoma in her brain in June of the year she passed away. 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 no. 10 French knife. She was reduced to eating with her undominant hand — food just wasn’t the companion and inspiration it once was.
Driving past the Seafood Piers in D.C. 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 was 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.