everybody’s hands are different

img_2321This belonged to my grandmother.  And now it’s mine.

We lost her one week ago today, and since she and her influence are all over these pages, it only feels right to memorialize her here as well.

I’ve spoken before here and elsewhere about what a remarkable woman she was.  She raised 7 children, largely on her own, after my grandfather passed at a young age.  She was a voracious reader, finishing 3 or 4 books a week up until nearly the end of her life.  She never received formal education beyond 8th grade, but she was one of the wisest people I have ever met.  She started quilting at the age of 70, and she was both talented and prolific.  Her gardens were an oasis, and her beloved roses were still blooming last week in Michigan’s late October chill.

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And her food… her food.  Her food was as good as anything you could get in a restaurant, better, even, because she fed every single person who sat at her table with love.  She was a natural cook, who rarely used recipes, who measured things by sight, by taste, by feel.  “Everybody’s hands are different,” she’d say, as she gathered a pinch or three of salt or garlic or cumin, showing me how much to use in her cupped palm before adding it to the pot.  She just knew when it was right, and she taught me to trust my hands and my instincts, too.

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To sit at Grandma’s table was to feel safe, to feel cherished, to feel comforted, to feel connected.  I was so scared to walk in to that kitchen last week and feel that something was missing, but when we got there, I still felt her presence, her love all around us.  She passed that on to my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, my whole family.  There was abundant laughter alongside our many tears as we gathered at the table without her, eating, drinking, sharing our stories, remembering her love.  What an incredible gift.

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One of my aunts pulled me aside at the visitation on Friday and told me that she thought I should have Grandma’s cast iron skillet.  I’m sure you can imagine how I cried.  It was an honor to cook with my grandma, and a privilege to be fed by her, and while I have been sharing her food with others for years now, to have this little piece of her kitchen live on in my home is really something special.  I will think of her every time I use it.

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I simply would not be the cook that I am without my Grandma’s lessons, her guidance, her encouragement, and her love.  She made me a better woman, a better mother, a better human being in countless ways, but our shared love of cooking, and of feeding people, was an incredibly special bond.

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I am so grateful to you, my beloved abuelita.  I will miss you so, so much.

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appetite

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So somehow in the middle of my recent spate of 50-hour work weeks, I managed to get pregnant again. No burying the lede this time, I’m just putting it right out here, and letting you all know that baby number two is set to join us in October, a month after Julian’s second birthday. We’re thrilled of course, though my tiredness has reached a whole new level, and my appetite, to my chagrin, is all but gone these days.

I had no such trouble eating throughout my first pregnancy. My first trimester nausea was just mildly bothersome, and I had no real morning sickness to speak of. I ate well and often: lots of fruit and fish, big salads and eggs and nuts by the handful. Indian food, Mexican food, any kind of spicy food – bring it on. Just about everything tasted great, and physically, I felt better than I had in years.

But things are different this time around – not drastically so, just enough to throw me for a loop. I feel a little bit queasier, a little more fatigued than I remember being last time, and I just don’t have much of an appetite. For anything. Frustrating for many, but downright maddening for a typically food-fixated sort like myself.

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It doesn’t help that I feel guilty about not eating. I’m building a baby, after all.

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I’m in a lull between trials right now, and my schedule has cleared up a bit. Mike has taken on the lion’s share of dinner prep in recent weeks, between my work commitments and lack of interest in eating, but I was eager to get back in the kitchen over the weekend, even though I had no clue what to make for us. Inspiration came, as it often does these days, via Pinterest, and a beautiful panade from Emily of Five and Spice. Since I’ve been able to reliably keep down bread and cheese, and we had a fresh batch of rich chicken stock in the fridge, it seemed like a good bet.

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So I headed into the kitchen yesterday afternoon while Julian napped and Mike took care of some things around the apartment, and I sliced onions and trimmed chard, grated cheese and massaged stale bread. I sauteed the greens and alliums in batches, built some layers and moistened them with stock, then I set my covered pan in a low oven to bake for a good long while.

And then I put my feet up.

The three of us sat down to eat together as the sun set, something I have missed more than anything else over the last few months, and as I watched the boys tucking into their respective portions, I was happy that at least they were enjoying their meal. I still wasn’t sure if I would. But I took a spoonful from my own bowl, satiny greens and wobbly bread, the aroma of stock and cheese and onions set aloft on a pocket of steam, and I closed my eyes as I took it into my mouth. I took another bite, and another, and another, and soon, my belly was as full as my heart felt.