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Welcoming Life

September 2012

In honor of lobster and those who fish the sea

There is a story entitled "Half a Pair of Scissors" in Above & Beyond Wellfleet that honors my grandmother and what an inspiration she was to me. She was a widow  (still hate that word) for over 50 years; her husband died when my father was eleven.
Part of her "moving on" with her life after my grandfather died was to secure for her and future family generations a magnificent cottage located in the small lobster fishing village of Friendship, Maine. My grandchildren are the sixth generation to have gathered memories in this cottage. Part of grandmother's legacy was that she taught her family to respect all of our neighbors--not just those who were summer neighbors--but those friends who lived in the village. Those who helped her through the arduous transition of becoming a beloved wife to grieving widow to strong woman on her own.My siblings and I got to share in the village friendships that she forged.There were friends of hers that I had the privilege of knowing--Agnes, Les, Nels, Marie. Two of my grandchildren were watched over when they youngsters by Marie and Nel's great granddaughter. My son Rob as a six week old infant was never happier than when I saw him being held in the ample arms of Marie --who among others enjoyed her fabulous cooking (blueberry gingerbread--a recipe I don't believe exists-but whose taste cannot be forgotten). These families all made their living from lobstering.This year, all the families (especially Maine families and in particular Friendship families) were crushed by a perfect storm of making their catches abundant--but gave them no abundance. That is a long story--which I will not go into. But it is their hardship which inspired the first recipe on this blog.  I am a "pinch of this and a pinch of that" cook. So please bear with me.  I think you will get the essence of this lobster stew. Here goes:  Sautee the meat of  four shelled, cooked lobsters cut into one inch cubes in about 3 tablespoons of butter (or add another tablespoon, I love butter).I think the lobster is the most important ingredient so I don't use as much milk and cream as most recipes. Heat gently about four cups whole milk and cream--3 cups milk to one cup cream. Combine the sauteed lobster meat and the milk mixture and heat--but be very careful not to boil--so maybe on the burner for about five minutes (watched carefully). Pour into a heated bowl-milk mixture first and then mound the lobster in the center.Sprinkle paprika around milk and THEN add one tablespoon of Drambuie on top of the lobster meat (if you want it unadulterated--that's fine). Sprinkle a few sauteed green onions on top of it all and there you have it. How many does this recipe serve?That depends on who you're serving. Could be four one cup serving-or whatever pleases you and your guests.Martha Stewart would cringe at the writing of this recipe--but I hope you get the gist of it. It is about the food--but it is also about paying homage to people who work hard to give us the luxury of lobster.


The Nest

Apparently, the "nesting instinct" refers to the urge pregnant women feel when they are about to give birth---getting things organized in the nursery--tidying up the house getting ready for a new member of the family. I remember that feeling and the pleasure I got from organizing the bureau drawers before both of my children were born. After they were born the drawers NEVER looked that way again. Socks were with onesies-bibs were with overalls--but for that one moment I loved looking at the neatly stacked undershirts and matched tiny socks.
What I realize at age 66 is that I still have that nesting instinct, but it has taken a different tack from organizing bureau drawers. I refer to my home as my nest frequently. When I wrote Above & Beyond Wellfleet, many of the stories centered around seeking and relishing the comfort a home could provide. I referred to my mother in one story about how she always created a warm, beautiful and calm environment for our family--no matter where we lived or what kind of a budget she had to work with. I wrote that she taught me "no matter the circumstance, feather your nest with love and dignity."I have kept that lesson close to my heart. My home now is a condo I chose because I realized that I could use every square inch to enrich my daily life--inside and outside. Some of this blog will be devoted to expanding on how each corner of the condo has a purpose. The accompanying photograph is a tiny outside nook where I begin my day. It faces a beautiful little community garden and the early morning sun. It is where I have my morning coffee, write in my journal or read. It is a morning ritual that lasts about a half hour. Because this little outside nook receives the direct sun, I have been known to put on a warm coat, hat and gloves in the winter and have my morning coffee. It might be obvious through some of what I've previously shared that I quite fancy ritual. It helps--or at least I think it does- to bring beauty and structure to the day. 

recipes

I just returned from the Newburyport Farmer's Market laden down with bags of red, yellow and heirloom tomatoes, two different kinds of basil, organic cabbage, and lavender honey. All just for me. Cooking for one which was one of the adjustments I had to make over the past ten years and talked a bit about in Above & Beyond Wellfleet did not come naturally. I don't think it does for most folks who are used to sharing the table with family and partners. "What's the point" is a phrase that creeps into the mind. I will be the only one enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor. But that really is the point--seeking out enjoyment wherever it can be found.But the exercise is especially hard when years of experience in meal preparation are entirely different. When my husband was battling his cancer, my kitchen was my laboratory. I researched any food to make what I thought would build his stamina. When he died, one of the things I couldn't face was the kitchen where my efforts had failed. I never realized I put so much faith in the food I served to help enable his cure. But I had. It took me some time to treat myself with the same kind of care--honoring food as building stamina. Food does build strength and the grieving mind and body needs all the strength it can get. I forced myself to understand this and now I've taken it to another level. I take pleasure most everyday in enjoying my evening meal. I create some pageantry out of it--taking care to make healthy dinners, that look appealing, lighting a candle and pouring myself a glass of wine. I had the pleasure of meeting  Judith Jones (she who convinced Knopf to publish Julia Childs -Mastering the Art of French Cooking) at the 2011 Key West Literary Seminar. I told her how much her book The Pleasure of Cooking For One (a book she wrote after her husband died) meant to me. Her inscription to me was
"It makes a difference". Yes, it does make a difference. In this blog, I will share some of my favorite recipes--they can be made for more than one person. The companion photograph is a salad --Boston lettuce, gorgonzola cheese crumbles, sliced tenderloin, topped with a sweet onion relish, sprinkled with a few sliced kalamata olives. Bon Appetit and remember to treat yourself kindly.

Hope

Last evening, I was on Commercial Street in Provincetown, MA. As I was walking to meet my friend Carol Courneen, I turned my head and saw a rainbow highlighting the American flag. The rainbow gracing the flag struck me as a hopeful image as we all reflect on the tragedy of  9/11.The horror of that day cut deep, and for the victims' loved ones the wound will never heal. We all searched for some shred of hope eleven years ago,  and I felt it rekindled last night--hope along with a wish for peace.

Travel

This photograph of Varenna on Lake Como in Italy was taken by my 14 year old grandson, Sebastien. It was the first of many photographs taken on a 2 week dream of a family trip to Italy and Switzerland planned by my daughter, Katie and her husband, David in honor of their 20th wedding anniversary.There were five of us including--their two sons Sebastien and Ethan and the grandmother--me.
It was not only the trip of a lifetime, but for me it was the continuing affirmation that one's sense of adventure does not have to diminish when a part of your life has through loss gotten smaller.
I wrote in Above & Beyond Wellfleet that traveling to interesting and beautiful places helped to spark a renewal and recovery. I began to forge a different dream. Ten years ago, I realized that I could appreciate new vistas and cultural events alone. I missed the repartee with my favorite traveling companion--my husband--but I learned to enrich myself and be grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the world or to simply discover what a nearby neighborhood had to offer.
I have quite a bit to say about this category "travel"; I hope I will not bore you. My view is written as a widow--which I believe is such a depressing  and potentially limiting word. I hate it, actually, and think it should just be reserved for spiders.
In the words I share in "Welcoming Life", I hope to blow the lid off the limiting aspects of the word "widow (and widower). Taking advantage of travel opportunities will be just one aspect of encouragement.
The past two weeks I spent with my family seeing two countries I never expected to see--Italy and Switzerland-- emphasized just how unexpectedly fortunate I am. In the past two weeks, I saw the thrill expressed by my grandchildren at seeing one of the highest mountains in the world. On my refrigerator, I see everyday the thrill of my five year old grandson catching his first fish. It just doesn't get better than that.
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