I am finding myself in such a weird place lately. The full-out onslaught of grief I felt when Mama died has passed, but in a way, I miss that. It was all-encompassing and I was too exhausted to think, which in retrospect, is a very fine side effect of grief. Thinking blows.
I also, in those early days, peppered my waking hours with bursts of manic, busy energy. I just needed to move, man. Even if I was destroying the kitchen making sad, futile food that nobody would eat, I was busting my ass doing something.
Beware of the phase when you no longer feel like busting anything.
I call this phase, “couch surfing,” because that’s pretty much what I do all day: surf between couch and necessary activities and back to couch again, preferably under blankets, even though it’s summer.
It goes something like this: Wake feeling half dead, even though you went to bed before 10pm, make coffee, hang on couch. Feed dog, back on couch. Make eggs for husband, toast bread, back on couch. Make breakfast for early-rising Minx, rinse dishes, couch. Collect laundry, put in washer, couch. Ingest rather nasty probiotic kefir shot for unknown but hopeful health benefits, pop bazillion new medications for medical oddities, couch. Assemble fruit bowl for teenager, couch.
You get the idea.
I’m on the couch a lot, between bursts of necessary tasks.
Sometimes I nap, most of the time I read, I spend an inordinate amount of time making out with the dog and if I’m truly desperate, I will even watch Guy Fieri inhale burgers the size of an elephant’s backside. Sometimes I think, which is not a good thing for me to really do, but how can you help it?
One thing I think about is how thin Mama was before she died (actually, she was thin her entire life–she made a sport of it–but it’s the last few years that really get me, when I think about it). She was so, so thin. She hardly ate anything, and I think she ate more in my presence than she did in front of anyone else, because she knew I’d needle her about it.
Even in her late 70’s, Mama was strict with her diet.
She was constantly vigilant about what she put in her mouth, hated even the smallest amount of jiggle or skin around her thighs or midsection.
And now it makes me so sad to think about that because really, what is the fucking point?
I guess the point is: You get to die thin.
Should we put it in the obituary? “Blessedly, she died skinny, according to her wishes.”
On her epitaph? “She passed away in True Religion jeans. Size 26 waist.”
I get so worked up about it that I have dreams, crazy-ass dreams, where I’m in the kitchen, over the stove, putting plates in front of her of all the food I want her to enjoy before she dies.
There are so, so many things I want to feed her, now that I can’t. Things I meant to make her, even though I knew she wouldn’t take more than a few bites. But those few bites…
Things that were swoon-worthy to her, things that meant something to us because there was history behind them: hotwater cornbread, strawberry shortcake, pasta primavera, risotto with saffron and peas (ugh, I tried with that one), pork chops with pan gravy, carrot cake with secret frosting, summer ratatouille, kitchen counter spaghetti, deep chocolate brownies with real vanilla ice cream.
I mourn the loss of those dishes, mourn the loss of the chance to feed her well, one last time.
So I think that this summer, I am going to make them. All of those things I dream of feeding my mother. It’s going to hurt. Maybe a little, maybe a lot, or maybe it might bring me comfort, which is the outcome I am hoping for.
Heck, if I make all those things, and eat them, I might die a plump woman. But there’s nothing wrong with that.
I started, as all good humans should, with the deep chocolate brownie part of the equation. I am a lemon girl, like my Daddy-o, as far as dessert is concerned, but Mama adored chocolate. I made these brownies for her several years ago on her birthday, and she parceled them out in small doses (usually for breakfast, with a cup of coffee). She declared them her favorite brownies ever. But I think any brownie my mother allowed herself to eat was her favorite brownie ever. Still, these are remarkably good. Use the good chocolate–the Ghiradelli or the Scharffen Berger. You’re worth it.
Triple-Chocolate Fudge Brownies
makes 2 dozen
from The Gourmet Cookbook
6 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch pan and shake out excess flour.
Melt bittersweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and butter in a medium metal bowl set over slightly simmering water (or use a double boiler). Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
Stir sugar and vanilla into chocolate mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add salt and flour and stir just to combine. Stir in chocolate chips.
Pour batter into prepared pan and even out the top. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely and cut into squares.