Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Cup of Tea

Again I woke up at 3:30 on Saturday morning. The house is quiet and warm with summer's heat. I collect last night's dishes, start the dishwasher, and sip on cinnamon tea. I feel sad again. I do not understand why my mom has gone missing. I do not know where to place this emotion.

I woke up in tears. I had been hanging out with my mom. She helped me look for an apartment and then I needed her opinion on a dress. I guess it was for something significant but I don't remember. She came with me to see a few apartments but she was distracted. When I'd turn around to ask her what she thought, she would be on the phone or meandering near the edge of the property. I looked for Doug to see if he could help but all he gave me was a shrug and avoided my eyes. 

My mom and I finally sat down to discuss the apartments and make a decision about my dress. This time I thought I'd have her full attention for sure. But when I began explaining, she picked up her cell phone, a big plastic ridiculous thing that looked like a child's toy. I lost it. The water I had just sipped was now spewing out of my mouth and onto the TV. It flashed and whirred and finally went dark. I felt monstrous, fists clenched and hair wild. Those around us looked at me in horror. I began screaming. I wanted her opinion, I wanted her input. Why was she holding that from me? In a flash I realized I was not mad at her, logically she could not give me her opinion any more. She is dead. That woman in front of me, ignoring me was not my mother. She was a mirage my subconscious had created to bring her back to life for me. I immediately collpased into tears.

I woke up on a damp pillow and looked at the clock. 3:30 again. Standing over the sink, I examined my hair. My head felt like it was too small for the amount of material inside, as if the pressure of it would compress my brain and I would fall onto the floor in a heap. I took a deep breath and ran my wrists under the cool water. I told myself the pressure would subside with a cup of tea. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Don't Eat the Hummus (DANGEROUS)


I just wanted to tell you, because I could never say this to you without hurting your feelings, your hummus is no good. When I became a vegetarian as a teenager (which I still am today) you freaked out. I was very active and you insisted, rightfully so, that I needed protein. In the mornings before school you'd make me smoothies filled with fruit, milk, and tofu (sounds gross but they were good) and you filled the freezer with my favorite bean burritos. On the weekends you'd make massive amounts of hummus and divide them into little plastic take-out containers. You were never able to make anything "just for two." It was enough for an army, no less.

After I went away to college I had hummus at a dining hall, over at a friend's party, or maybe dipped into a roommate's stash, and I realized that it was a mild, creamy dip and unbelievably delicious. It was easily spreadable on crackers and it fit perfectly into the groove of a celery stick. I compared it to the bricks of flavorless garbanzo beans you'd insist I take with me. Crammed into those little plastic containers, they'd get lost in my freezer and a pang of guilt would hit my gut everytime I shuffled things around enough to find one. Sometimes they'd fall out and the containers would shatter and I'd think to myself, "Well, I can't eat that now! When I thaw it out it will have shards of plastic pieces in it! Surely mom wouldn't want me eating that." When I raved about the hummus I had at college you questioned me. What was so good about it? Did it have a special seasoning? What was the texture like? I was caught off-guard and realized I'd inadvertently admitted that someone else's hummus was better than yours. I stammered but couldn't come up with an answer, focusing more on your feelings than the actual hummus itself.

You made hummus up until you became sick, although by that time there was plenty stocked away in both my freezer and yours. I had been eating your hummus for almost a decade and I was in too far to tell you the truth. Instead, I encouraged you to make Roasted Red Pepper Dip or Aunt's Sue's Marinated Cheese, both of which are divine.

Despite this bad news (I know, I should have told you the truth about your hummus years ago), I am writing you to share good news: I am becoming more like you! In short, I've begun sewing, I have your bad taste in music, I have weird sleep hours, and I've inherited your cooking skills. I bought a sewing machine second hand and made a bag (but only to house my new hobby of knitting). I dashed around the house in my pajamas all last weekend with little pieces of fabric in my hands, destined to be flattened by the iron. My hair was wild and I'd shout at every victory and frustration. Next I'm going to make a skirt and an apron. I also have horrible taste in music. You once admitted that while everyone was jamming to the Beetles, you were singing your heart out to show tunes. I make a hodgepodge mix of songs that I listen to until I become sick of it. I forget about it for two years and when it is rediscovered I overindulge in the same way. Additionally, because of my different work schedule, my eyes insisted on staying open at 3:30 am.  I had dreamt you made a smorgasbord of mouthwatering vegetarian food for me, my friends, and the family just to celebrate me. You were not present in the dream (although you haven't been lingering in my dreams for a last few months). This is disappointing to me because in the months following your death, I would be so grateful every time I'd dream about you, positive or not. It was a way to know that you still existed, even if only in my hallucinations. You could say in the dream I had last night it was as if I were seeing you indirectly, as I was enjoying the food you made. Mostly I remember the gazpacho.

When you reached a certain age, your body decided when and how long you were allowed to sleep. You'd get up and by 10 am have accomplished more than I would all day. You'd stitch a little, work a little, and eat a little. By the time I meander into the living room, you'd be resting in front of your needlepoint and offer to make me some tea and a little breakfast. We'd have an early morning chat, which, admittedly, sometimes ended in a fight. I long for these conversations now. It was often a time to talk about something we loved and enjoy each other's company, even though they weren't always pretty. Now without you here, I am awake at an unusual hour and using the wee hours of the morning to cook for those that I love, just as you had. I'm making gazpacho, your recipe for which I cannot find but I'm going to do this from Cook's Illustrated.

I ALSO CAN'T MAKE HUMMUS. But these days I just buy the stuff.

I love you, Mom, and I miss you madly.


Aunt Sue's Marinated Cheese

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
3 tbs chopped parsley
3 tbs minced green onions
1 tea sugar
3/4 tea dried basil
1/2 tea salt
1/2 tea black pepper
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 jar diced pimentos (2 ounces)
1 block of Cracker Barrel extra sharp (white) cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
1 package of cream cheese (8 ounces)

Mix all ingredients together, excluding the cheeses. Slice the cheddar cheese into 1/4 inch pieces and assemble both cheeses in alternating layers in a storage container. Pour marinate over cheese and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, remove the cheese from the storage container and place on a serving platter. Pour excess marinate on top. Serve with bread or crackers.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip


  • 1/3 cup whole natural almonds
  • 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon shallot
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the nuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
Put the nuts into a processor and finely chop. Add pepper, vinegar and shallots to the bowl and process until smooth. While the processor is running, drizzle the oil into the bowl. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

I don't have a copy of the original recipe so I've lifted it from here. I've tested it out and it is just as I remembered.