Food and Love and What's Important
I have decided to give myself permission on Sundays to sometimes write something that is at least sort of related to breast cancer (that is, I could defend its inclusion if necessary), but is less serious or more fun. Thank you to Barbara for sending me this delicious and poingnant essay from The New York Times. All of us can talk about the associations between food and love, the importance of childhood kitchen memories, and great pleasure in feeding those we love. My own mother hated to cook, and was very fortunate (or maybe we were all very fortunate) that her life situation enabled her to usually have a cook. She often commented how wonderful it would be if we could take a few vitamins or supplements and be done with it, no need to think about food or shopping or menu planning.
As my own daughters will tell you, I am just the opposite. When I told my older daugthter that I was delighted she is such a good cook, she said: "Naturally. You are obsessed with food." I guess I am. The moment I finish one meal, I begin to think what I would like for the next. I read cookbooks at bedtime, have a huge collection of them, subscribe to various food magazines and hang around food websites. The only times in memory that this has not been true was during my two bouts of chemotherapy. What a disappointment and loss it was to totally lose interest and pleasure in food and cooking. Fortunately, I recovered and immediately picked up the newest issue of Gourmet.
Sometimes, given the nature of my work, I think about what I would choose for my last meal. Understanding that most often a last meal is not known to be the last (until there isn't another) and that usually people who are very ill are not so interested in the deights of the kitchen, I still think about what I would like. Here is my current choice: champagne for obvious reasons and oysters because they taste like the sea and a loaf of bread from Pollane in Paris because we all know that bread is the staff of life. Clearly, this is fantasy, but doesn't it sound wonderful?
Enjoy this essay and have a tissue nearby for the conclusion. Here is the beginning and then a link:
By DAVID SAX
On Friday afternoons, my father-in-law, Howard Jack Malach, would leave work early and drive across town to Grodzinski, a kosher bakery, before it closed for Shabbat, all for the sake of the babka. Yes, there were closer bakeries with their own babkas in this corner of Toronto's Jewish suburbs, but to Howard, Grodzinski's babka was king — a dense, perfectly moist loaf with veins of dark, sugary chocolate. At home, Howard would set it on the counter (where his wife, Fran, would inevitably tear a chunk off), slicing the loaf for the kids at the end of dinner. The next morning, he'd reheat the leftovers until the chocolate melted, then dunk sticky slices into his coffee.
Three years ago, Howard's prostate cancer, dormant for a decade, metastasized in his bones. As his appetite disappeared, he shed weight at a terrifying pace. The doctor prescribed hormone blockers as a temporary solution, and when the cancer retreated, Howard switched to a raw vegan diet prescribed by a naturopath.
This was tough for me. In the few years I'd known Howard, food was our strongest thread. We bonded over smoked-meat sandwiches and hamburgers, sausages and doughnuts. As hard as I tried, I couldn't feign appreciation for freshly pressed almond milk and cold pizza with walnut crust and cashew chèvre.