Upcoming Art Show and Open House

invite header Mom

Please join us as we celebrate the works of artist Marianna Y. Sullivan, lifetime watercolorist and pastel painter. New and old works will be shown and are available for sale. Refreshments will be served.

 

May 21st from 3-6 PM

Walking on Water Studio

2620 NE 113th Street

Seattle, WA 98125

For more information, please contact: Lesa at lesacooks AT mac DOT com/206-478-0562

 

 


The Dulce Life

Bah to days like this. It’s sunny and clear. It’s early June. The world outside is humming with life. It’s another oppressively normal, everything’s fine, whatcha-got-to-complain-about kind of Ordinary day that makes me want to say bullshit, and shut the door in its stupid face.

Three years ago around this day I was taking a quick catnap in my car. It was warm and sunny then, too. I had just wrapped up a cook date for my food allergies client in West Seattle and was about to consult for a catering gig on Eastlake. Right after that, I would be roaring up to Everett to teach a class on Cuban cuisine. Several hours later, after performing a full meal deal for my students,  I would lie down next to my husband on the couch, stretch out my feet for a footrub and dine on truffle popcorn and prosecco. I’d fall asleep on the couch, deeply exhausted and somewhat, maybe mostly, satisfied. This was my Monday, and the rest of the week was similar: work a lot, sleep when necessary, eat when able.

Not long after that early June day, my husband died. Two years later, my dad passed away and my dementia-stricken mom became my ward. The days are slow and sticky now, and seem to run together. There are no more allergies-sufferers, big parties or hungry students. I haven’t worked at my regular breakneck pace for almost three years, and recently have completely taken work off. It feels wicked and sluggish and sinful. If I were taking care of mom full time, -or working on anything– I might feel differently. But I’m laid flat by the grief, unable to deal with my mom’s turmoil, or my own. These are the days that I can’t eat real food-food. These are days that are consumed by sleep. Days that I cannot do a single task beyond putting kibble in the cat’s dish. But I can make dulce de Leche.

 By putting two unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk in a slow cooker, covering them with water and setting it on low, in about 8 hours (or most conveniently, overnight), I have the most delicious sweet treat for nibbling on… Or hell, who am I kidding… weeping into, sinking my spoon deep into the can’s caremelly heart and lifting it to my snuffling lips. Serving suggestions include sandwiching it between biscuits or pouring it over ice cream, but that’s for people who don’t want to kick a beautiful day like today right in the shins. I’m taking my lazy-ass can of dulce and eating until I’m too tired to eat anymore. And then I’ll sleep.


Tell it Slant

I have this particularly Irish habit. It’s not lying, exactly. It’s story-telling, or what my grandparents might have called “having a makey-up.”  It’s more like putting on a much-too-small pair of jeans, where the material is stretched to almost-splitting, flesh rolls out the side. It will cover me, but the sides of the truth are seriously blown out Hand-rolled Couscous and barely containing things. My general lack of discretion might make me more of a makey-upper than I ought to be, but sometimes I can’t help myself.

For instance, I have exactly zero Mediterranean roots, but I claim much of the region’s food as my heritage. It’s entrirely imagined. In my heart I really believe that at least my spiritual self comes from a climate with plenty of sun and delicious weather. My people actually ate a lot of potatoes and lived in rain and mud huts, and died young, but we do have some spectacular makey-ups, maybe for that very reason.

So when I say this kind of dish is my soul food, I mean it’s a dish from an imagined Mediterranean soul, one that laps up garlic sauce and swims in fresh lemon juice. I crave the flavors of a tagine in the way that I yearn for love. There’s something about the perfume of ras el hanout, olives and tomato broth that comforts my deeply. It’s like being in the arms of my momma, on one of the many times that I needed a good snuggle and loves. When the poop really hits the fan, I seek comfort for my soul in a bowl. One of my favorite comfort dishes on the planet, ever, is this  Vegetable Tagine with Couscous and Charmoula.

This feeling of yearning  is sometimes too awful for me to bear when I think of what kind of world my mom inhabits. She is in a confused and mysterious place where meaning doesn’t stick. The word dementia usually makes her mad at everyone. Her doctors are wrong and dumb. Her two friends who were afflicted with it don’t appear in her memory as sick any more. They sometimes don’t exist. When we talk about how she cannot go home again, she gives me that awful look of a pained, trapped animal and says she wants my brother to come get her NOW, and begins taking her pictures off her wall and packing her suitcase.

Miraculously there is no cat carrier for her dear Mr Shadow, or there is a letter on its way to her today, or the car is broken down. Currently, we have a single story we keep putting on for her: the house was damaged when she came out for dad’s hospital stay and it’s still being repaired. So far it’s been in repair for eight months.  I hate this particular pair of jeans, it’s cheap-as-shit material and embarrassingly visible stitching, the obviously not-brand-nameness of them. They don’t button right. I want to change them, but  I can’t change anything.

If I told her right now that she were never going back, she would be miserable. Then she would forget. Then she would go back to asking when she could go home. So I put on the pants, the big-girl pants that I hate, and I let my soul be comforted by the food of my imaginary home.

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —

Emily Dickenson


The Back Story

Three years ago my husband died in a climbing accident in the North Cascades of Washington State. My world turned upside-down in less than a day, and I morphed from what I was at the time (business owner, wife, step-mom) to this very strange and scary lonely thing, a Widow, without any advance warning or preparation. Just about two years later, my dad died from sepsis after a two-month stint in the hospital when his lungs and heart gave out. Mom and Me Mosaic Mom had been diagnosed with mild dementia some years before, but the reality of her condition was only fully understood when I spent a few nights and days with her. She was unable to care for herself in the most basic ways, and I made the decision to move her to an adult family home just a few miles from my house. I am now my mother’s guardian. I am still figuring out what else I am, but one thing I know about myself is that I’m a Discusser of Things, and a Processor, and I also do a lot of Working Thru my Stuff when I cook. I learned to cook when I was young and figuring out how to take care of myself. I’m still doing that, and so I cook a lot these days. I’m hoping to share some food and some thoughts here, and probably some cat pictures. Thanks for reading.