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Abrazos! xox Penny

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hook, line and sinker

I could write a book about my experiences over the past 18 months…I really could. But, instead, I am going to write about here on this blog. How “modern”, right? These past months have done more to shape and redefine my life than I realized. I have morphed from being daughter, sister, wife, mom, friend, caretaker, Girl Friday, family advocate, estate executor at dizzying rates, sometimes with all roles colliding in the same moment and me, the “individual” sandwiched so thinly between all these layers that I felt like a pressed panini. Every emotion previously known to me and then some new ones surfaced. From deep joy to deep fear to deep grief, all the gang’s been here, either in my heart or head. I felt my own stress balloon and my so-far, so-good health start to roll off my back like a droplets of rain…not in a torrent of a hard shower but in a steady drip of a slow drizzle. Forever the optimist, I know that easier times are coming, but I have to get to that new place whole and healthy and bring along the “good” with the “bad”. My life’s passion is food and all that has gone on over the past year and a half (and yes, all that is to come!) will have some roots in food and nourishment! In my mind, at least. And so, here I go…

Hook, line and sinker…I made every mistake in the book this week and broke all my own “rules”. What did I do? I went to the grocery store hungry, rushed and desperate. What did I see? Everything that looked “convenient”. I nearly lost my senses, really. You see, I had just gotten home from being gone for over 5 weeks. My dad died very suddenly on February 27…just after I had come home from being with him for a month. He had lung cancer but died from a fall. We did not rehearse that scenario. Right before I left him in early February, his oncologist said he had between four and six months left and that is what I had written in my day planner. Not in ink mind you, but I left him thinking I would see him again. When I got the call from my mom at 5 a.m., I was deeply stunned as well as deeply saddened. In two hours, I was on an airplane headed back to my parents’ home with little more than two changes of clothes, both brown and drab. Maybe I absorbed the vibes from those colors and wearing them non-stop for five weeks helped muddy my judgment, too! From early morning until collapsing in bed at night, I sometimes sat, but never stopped. I felt “funny”…stress and the huge shift in how I was eating talking back, no doubt. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

Right after my dad died, neighbors and friends fed us with all kinds of casseroles and sweets. I am not particularly fond of casseroles. Most are too salty and too starchy for me but when cooked with love and delivered with kindness, they are irresistible. Even knowing that mainlining carbohydrates never feels good to me, I gobbled and re-gobbled, to keep my weight and energy up. I rationalized that at my age, weight doesn’t come off anywhere else but my face anyway! I have a big sweet tooth which needs little encouragement. It was in its glory with all the cookies, muffins, cakes and pies and I nursed each indulgence with an aspirin for my almost daily “carb” headache.

When I got home, all I could think of food-wise was fish and salad. The irony of it all is that my parents live in a fishing village. My mom does not like fish and so there you have it. When the casseroles stopped, we ate Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese and Welch Rarebit instead. These are her comfort foods and they did work for her. She has been making meals from Stouffer’s entrees for years. My mom’s favorite recipe is to make a casserole from a frozen mac and cheese casserole entrée. Phew. Can you imagine? Overload. It is amazing and frightening how chemicals can make a non-cheese entrée taste cheese-like. Anyway, all I wanted to eat for my first dinner home was fish. I figured it would also be appealing to my husband who, when left on his own, eats whatever his heart desires, but more on that later!!

So, not even waiting to unpack, I headed to the grocery store for my catch of the day. The seafood case was not exactly brimming with fish and most were “previously frozen”. When I am my usual self, I steer clear of anything but “fresh” and “wild” fish. However, there in the case, with a jaunty lemon cup perched among the plump fillets, was wild halibut…one of my all time favorites. I glibly ignored the “previously frozen” label. I thought to myself…how bad can it be? The color did seem a little off and the flesh did not glisten, but it smelled fresh, meaning that it didn’t smell at all. I got the fillets home and roasted them with some fresh herbs. Oh, my goodness…what a difference in texture. It flaked alright but the flakes were almost tough and rubbery, not silky like fresh halibut. The flesh looked grayish instead of the classic bright white. It tasted good enough but a little puny, not sweet and clean like fresh halibut does. Because I was desperate and by now, my husband was hungry, it was edible but I will not be making that mistake anytime soon! The sauce I used was a big hit and here it is. We had it the next morning with our eggs and then again over veggies. Yummy…a lifesaver!

Improvised Salsa Verde

2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
Fine sea salt
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Small handful of mixed greens and herbs (spinach, mint and fresh dill) all destemmed)*
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons capers

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, salt and mustard. Pour into a blender and add in greens, herbs, olive oil and capers. Blend until smooth. Taste for seasonings and serve over fish. The leftover sauce will still be delicious for about 2 days, stored in the fridge. To serve it again, bring it to room temperature and stir to mix. Sauce recipe makes about 1 cup.

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