Tag Archives: food


27 Nov

It is the Sunday after the Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA and so it seems fitting at this time that I write about food and hunger, though this is a thought process that has been in the works for a while now…

When I was around nineteen years old I had the wonderful opportunity to live with my grandmother Ella and grandfather Greg for nearly a year. During that time, I became engaged to marry my husband and thus had domesticity on the brain. Living under the influence of Ella was fortuitous and her mark was evidenced in my own nuclear family for many years. She taught me many basics of cooking which lent their foundations to my spring-boarding recipes. And so my children, friends, nieces and nephews, neighbors and more knew me to be a creative and consistent cook.

*I have to take a side step here, for I know my mom (Margie) reads this blog and will be chiding the computer screen with a “hey, what about me?” type question. My mom is an amazingly creative and gifted culinary master in her own right. Unfortunately for her, I liked only white rice and plain pasta noodles during my formative years. Her cooking left me stuck at the kitchen table as a young girl for hours past the dinner meal, staring at and stirring my grub. I have vivid memories of her pea soup, which now I would relish, but then I thought was some ancient torture ritual and I the prisoner of circumstance. I learned a few tricks of the trade during that time–swallowing peas like pills so as not to taste them and lopping up my food with napkins, burying them down in the bottom of the trash “unrecoverable.” And though it would seem I am the reluctant beneficiary of her talents, I see her in myself and my preferences more and more. I am thankful for her influence though she didn’t find in me the opportunistic learner that her mom did. Now back to the story at hand.

I am winding down in my 27th year of marriage (anniversary in February) and for 23 years of marital bliss I had the circumstance and opportunity to provide meals for my household always with a nutritional and creative lens. I viewed the kitchen as my “lab.” Understanding the chemistry of ingredients and how they react one with another lent for some masterpieces and some flops. I came up with creative ways to serve my husband and children vegetables that they found palatable as well as low-sugar desserts and some high sugar ones as well. Under my grandmother’s influence I started off the culinary arts with a high fat dependence upon butter, cheese and Campbell’s soups. But the more ground I gained as dietician to the Bent family, the “Margie factor” crowded out the Ella influence and hydrogenated fats in the soups were replaced by a love of olive oil and international ingredients. I studied nutritional journals and published papers, kept charts of the nutritional values in different vegetables, fruits, grains and meats, and used this information to better understand the influence food has on the body. I took inventory from my troops of the nutrients they consumed in a day and planned menus to provide variety and diversity of ingredients for the holistic picture. I believed (and still do) that our nutrients are best derived from food and not supplements, so diversity of food has been key in healthy living.

*I must side step again as I find it so ironic when I write or speak about my views on health or faith, because my son died of a brain tumor so I realize that my investment in food and prayer are not exactly the poster child one hopes for, as far as outcomes are concerned…sometimes I wonder if I should have embraced soda and fried chicken! Forgive me as I digress.

Getting back to the subject at hand, which the mention of my deceased will help me to do, is to say that I have spent a good and consistent part of my life creating and being inspired to cook. Which is why, since the loss of Cole, I find it strange that I don’t even feel hunger. My creativity is lost somewhere inside of my struggle to live in loss. My palate craves nothing and my body needs little. This is not to say I dislike food, on the contrary, I do like food-I guess. But my taste is simplistic at best. I am satisfied by an avocado for lunch. Or fish and rice. An artichoke for breakfast along with my coffee is more satisfying than an iconic spread. I now walk the produce section of a grocery store in wonder, with no inspired thought. Oh yes, I know I enjoy sauteed mushrooms but with what? I don’t know and don’t care. I don’t want pasta, but bought a package to have on hand this past week for my young cousin who was visiting. My husband is often eating cereal for dinner as I have no offerings to provide (unless in his ambition he heats up a hotdog and canned beans) and prepackaged meals gross me out. Even salad, usually a favorite of mine, is common place. I assemble one often for lunch because I know this is the type of fuel that works well for my constitution but I don’t crave a certain type. I even find that during the holidays, when hosting at my house, I struggle to think of what others would want and enjoy. I don’t snack and my beverage of choice is water. By my own assessment, I have become quite dull. In full disclosure, this past week I did eat 7 sticky buns (Ella’s recipe courtesy my sister who keeps this family recipe/tradition alive) but declared it my dinner and left everyone else to fend for themselves. On Thanksgiving I bought the ingredients to ensure the traditionalists were happy, but I myself, had not one bite of turkey and ate very little from the side dishes as I felt no pang of hunger. In fact as I sit here and write, Brian (my love) is asking if I’d like a stuffed potato for dinner–his treat courtesy the local barbecue restaurant–to which I give an emphatic “no!” …I’m not hungry and I don’t want to eat.

Living in loss, with loss, can make one feel quite lost. The person I have known myself to be is missing and with her is the desire for food. I eat out of a knowledge base to fuel the body (except for the sticky bun extravaganza which is more of a nod to past practice than anything else) and prefer to have food in its natural state such as rice, fish and vegetables (and I suppose a potato would work). When I think I am craving a food, as soon as I see it, the desire dissipates. I am not fond of this disconnect. But then again I am not a fan of this life without my son in it. So there you have it, my soapbox on food, hunger and grief just as my husband asks me again with a boy-like enthusiasm “are you hungry and ready for dinner?” I of course restate my first answer, but in yielding to the knowledge that fuel is a necessary agent for living, relented and promised to wrap up this post so we can talk dinner (or he can talk rather). I think in this regard a fairy god-mother of food would be helpful for me. I need a Rivka in my life who will assess my nutrient intake of the day, prepare the food I should eat, and tell me it is the only option. Sounds like I need a mom! I suppose this is a maternal retribution, Margie’s revenge…for I scorned her culinary influence once upon a time. Oh irony how thee doth sting.

Stuffed potato anyone?

Living Like the Queen I am

11 Oct

I had the BEST day today!

First I began my morning by waking up completely drenched with sweat.  For those who know me well, know that being cold is my absolute nemesis.  Thus awaking to warmth to the degree that I actually perspire is a welcomed experience, I assure you.  My son, Cole, likes to give me a hard time about the fact I do NOT break a sweat when relaxing in a 100 degree sauna (actually 104 degrees, & celsius).  It is true; the sauna has to be at about 113 degrees before I begin to feel ‘over heated’, when perhaps a trickle from a bead of perspiration will alert me to the idea that I might be too hot.  Oops, I have digressed; now back to my morning…  After changing into something dry I headed to the kitchen to start the morning meal.  Since Cole was still retired in his room, Esther at school, and Brian not in need of a morsel, I was able to conjure up a breakfast just for myself, the Queen!  I made myself an egg-white omelet, stuffed with Port Salut cheese from France, cooked in olive oil brought to me from Italia, and sprinkled with roasted kale which I had prepared the night before.  Yummmm

Omelet with Port Salut and Kale

Egg white omelet with Port Salut cheese, and roasted kale sprinkled on top. Yum!

I then ground my coffee beans and made a fresh pot of joe.  As I sat at the dining room table, by myself, with my delectable meal, I thought…”this meal is fit for the queen that you are, Rivka.” 🙂  And so I created my title.

And while masticating my last morsel, my boys emerged to the kitchen and were ready for the “royal” treatment themselves (though not exactly the queens portion).  They require a bit more goo for their palate.  But since Cole is beginning to meet with a personal trainer, twice a week, and the trainer has him documenting his diet, I ‘upped the ante’ to make sure Cole looks good on paper (and I look even better as the queen mother!).  Theirs was a 3-egg scramble with sauteed spinach, basil, scallions, and cream cheese.  I have decided, or learned from a dear friend rather, that keeping a basil plant on hand is a better choice than purchasing sprigs which tend to spoil quickly, even if kept in a glass of water in the refrigerator.  And mornings, such as this, proves her theory well.

With the completion of breakfast behind me, I pondered my next move.  Do I walk the dogs and then shower, or do I shower and walk the dogs eventually?  Amidst my pondering a rain, thunder, and lightening storm came upon us and forced the hand of my decision toward the shower now option.  I must say, I absolutely love it when nature or other factors, out of my control, guide my choices.  Sometimes I want to let go of being the one in charge, you know, the one who bears the burden of responsibility…you know, the queen.  And when lightening strikes and thunder rolls, and rain pours down, life is just that much simpler.

Post the upright bathing ritual, the storm began to move away.  The clouds were puffy and white, and the skies a beautiful azure.  I was ready for some real adventure, the only problem which presented itself is that I allowed my staff the day off.  A mid week holiday of sorts.  Okay, okay…I don’t have staff, but this was my “Queenly” morning, as my omelet could attest, and therefore within my royal delusion I had staff–only they weren’t around! 😉

HOWEVER, it seemed the good Lord was willing to tickle my fancy and allow me my fun.  I will explain…

As I hunkered down and decided to get with the ‘actual’ program and go out to the garage to get the empty laundry basket so I could begin tearing down the Mount Kilimanjaro looking pile of filthy clothes, I noticed four large trucks and one long white van, congregated within the area of our culdesac.  Bypassing the laundry area, I went out to the street to more easily check out the scene.  There were lots of men, in jump suits.  Some with orange, reflector vests.  And while the van was unmarked, the trucks showcased our city’s logo on the side of the drivers’ door.  Intimidated at first, I shrunk back and began to retreat to the laundry area where the empty basket awaited me.  Then all of a sudden my inner royal took the lead and urged me to investigate the scene further, more intimately, and to find out the issue which caused the congregation of men.  Lo and behold a city water main had broke.  The men, with their tools in hand, were shutting down the water for our entire neighborhood.

Well you can imagine their surprise when I jumped up and down with glee.  I was so happy!!  I even asked if they wouldn’t mind taking a week to complete the task–a forced vacation from the city was all I was asking for…it’s not like I was begging for the Taj Mahal!  The workmen laughed and looked at each other with an agreed expression of their happening upon  a nutcase; me.  No matter, not the first time I garnered such an expression from strangers.  I was too happy to care what they thought of me;  for once again, nature (or other causes out of my control) interfered in “my plans” and helped direct the day.

I ran into the house and told Cole to gather his things, we and the dogs were heading to the harbor.  Though he gave me a look of concern, I assured him the skies were clear in that direction and we were going to walk the dogs and enjoy the harbor facilities for we were “out of water!”  Or perhaps I responded to his scowl with the following battle cry, “obey your queen and get yourself into the car!”

Cole in action

Are you my mother?!

Which ever it was, I had a marvelous day and I thank the city, cheese imported from France, kale, and Italian olive oil for starting me off on the right foot.  Those are my servants, they are my staff.

And Mount Kilimanjaro?  It waits patiently beside me, knowing the water main is repaired and the time for conquering is drawing near.  Cheers! 🙂



13 Jun

There are several “markers” in my life which present themselves in such a way as to remind me of the fact the past five or so years have resembled that of a vortex, a whirling mass of something.  For instance, tonight I grabbed my ‘chili oil’ from the pantry to use in my dinner dish only to notice the expiration date was fall of 2007 (mind you I have used it several times since then).  Last month I began to wonder why my antiperspirant/deodorant was looking odd.  Upon closer inspection, “expired December 2010”; the probable cause of the yellowish hue and perhaps my new found “scent”.  Vitamins for Cole, expired November 2011.  ‘Get the Red Out’ eye-drops, expiration date of 2006–is that why it stung?.  I do believe I can even produce some well intended makeup which was purchased several years back when the inspiration to “do something about it” was a fresh idea…probably inspired by a glamorously airbrushed Vogue photo shoot.  Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing, out of date over a year ago.  And do you know what happens to yogurt when it is allowed to extend its shelf life several years?  How about lemon curd?  …let’s just leave those two alone because smelling the chili oil was bad enough!

Now when I come across such ‘expired’ items as the ones mentioned above, they serve to remind me that I have had cause, since about the beginning of 2007, to loose a bit of the hold on life that I once thought I had.  Now whether I did, or whether I didn’t could be discussed philosophically for hours…but that, my friends, would be a moot point.  And boring to say the least.  But if you take my word for it, you might come to understand–with a bit more clarity–how and why I could possibly be in possession of so many items which are used, and still useful, though quite past their guaranteed shelf life.  Just take a look at my week past, project the chaos of the days backward and forward and voilà, here I am.

The gist of the past several days went something like this:

Friday, June 8th–  Pick up car rental and head for northern California.  Get situated in the rental for the 6 hour drive to the bay area for the high school graduation of my nephew.  (Being the projected arrival was due to occur simultaneous to the processional, my long time friend planned to give us a dinner of salmon and flank steak to hold our position in the area of the school so we could meet up with the family afterwards).

1:00p.m. traffic on the 5 freeway north came to a halt.  We sat in one location for two hours; the perfect conditions for my ever loving husband to present to myself and our daughter the evils of marijuana smoking and his disdain for recreational drug use.  A “public speaking announcement” brought forth from his experience in the men’s bathroom just moments before at the Carls Jr. where we stopped for a moments relief and where he received more than his fair share of second-hand smoke.

3:00p.m. we were escorted off the freeway as the wildfire, which prevented our progress, continued to rage.  We were now faced with alternative routes.  Thanks to our friends in Bakersfield, we took a very long, though pleasurable, drive around the grapevine and ended up at their house for dinner somewhere close to 6(ish)p.m.  Tacos, friends, and a warm place to lay our heads…sorry to say goodbye to the salmon and flank, but glad to be so well received on such short notice with a hospitality that made the 7hour drive worth the while (it is normally a 3 hour drive tops, to Bakersfield from where we live).

Saturday, we finally made it to our original destination, Livermore, CA.  The house of my brother and the barbeque celebration of my nephew’s milestone.  We enjoyed the afternoon with family and then headed to the east bay for another party–a surprise birthday for my godmother.  We celebrated into the night and were part of the clean-up crew which continued the next day into the afternoon.  We had intended to leave for home on Sunday but were quite tired from the previous days events and two nights of intermittent sleep (no fault of our hosts, just the way it goes sometimes).  So it was decided, between the three of us, that we would stay another night in the bay area and then head home along the coast and take a couple of days for a leisurely Highway 1 adventure.  I was even willing to sleep overnight in the car if we couldn’t find a hotel along the way…the call of spontaneity was beckoning to me.

Monday morning, I awoke with a sore throat and we received a call from our son Cole.  Cole had intended to make the trek up north with us but hadn’t been feeling well a few days leading up to the trip and so opted out in order to rest.  His symptoms had continued to present themselves and he felt a visit with the doctor was in order.  Our friend (and neighbor) agreed to take Cole to the doctor at 10 that morning.  The doctor, alarmed by her assessment and Cole’s medical history, sent him directly to the ER for further testing.  And though we were on our way to the coast, via the 101 freeway, we instead took the Pacheco Pass (152) over to the 5 freeway and arrived at the hospital by 7(ish) p.m., in time to take our newly discharged, though not expired, son home.  After having a blood panel drawn and a CT scan with contrast, it seemed his symptoms are result of his brain tumor location.  And though we do our best to manage his diet for optimum health, the involuntary actions of the gastrointestinal system are under the mismanagement of a trauma induced malfunction.  We made it home, the four of us (our neighbor having spent his entire day with Cole, headed home upon our arrival at the hospital), Cole in need of drink and food and me, by this time, in need of my own personal box of Kleenex.

Tuesday (yesterday), it became apparent I had caught a flu bug of some sort which kept me in bed with a fever and my trusted box of tissues.  But even a day of illness could not stop the chaos…Esther called from the shoulder of the freeway, broken down on her way to work.  And after the car was towed home, Brian, while out test driving the car after making adjustments to it, was broken down and in need of a ride to the auto parts store.  Cole needed me to pick up a stool sample kit from the VA clinic and I just needed to sleep!

So you see, when I do grab something off of a shelf or out of a cabinet that in its ‘hey day’ provided a useful function of some sort but is now debunked by the outing of a date stamp, I am reminded that it is all Okay….yep, all of it.  I truly appreciate the notice of expiration because it validates the tourbillion of the past several years, and I wish each one of you were here with me as I toss the spoiled item, into the trash, and laugh at the ironic, but precious, reminder.  Ironic because I continued using the product as if it were fresh and viable while unknowingly its potency had been long exhausted.  And it is there, in its ‘invalidation’ that I find my own, ‘validation’.  Thank you FDA…

%d bloggers like this: