The day after my paternal grandmother died, I started cooking. A lot. After losing both of my grandmothers in the span of a few months this summer, it was the only thing I could think to do. It was the only thing that comforted me. Apparently, when I grieve, I cook.
Since then, I've made dishes like, Lemony White Beans with Grilled Onions, Raw Green Veggie Soup with Avocado and Cilantro, Avocado and Tomatillo Salsa, Three Ingredient Chocolate Bars and Homemade Oat Milk. It is not beyond me to spend hours on the internet scanning for recipes. While on a week long retreat at the Austin Zen Center in August, I spent an entire morning reading through a cookbook by Ed Brown. When I got to the end, I hugged it.
Finding my own way in the kitchen has been incredibly healing. While I would love to recreate the incredible fried apple pies my Mema used to make, I've found myself leaning towards green leafy vegetables, fruit, fish and alternative grains. I haven't really spoken much of my health journey this year, but it's involved radically changing my diet. I mean, I gave up coffee - coffee! I've also cut back and eliminated a lot of other things, in my quest to heal my body from the inside out (chocolate is not one of them, just so you know).
It hasn't been easy. It takes time to cook. It takes time to prepare and shop. It takes forethought to remember to soak your beans overnight and it requires looking up terms like "chiffonade" and "Chinese rolling cut" (I highly recommend looking up these terms - they're quite fun!). But it has been worth every minute. When I cook, I feel like I am offering something, even if it's only to myself.
The other day, in the middle of a random mundane task, I had the overwhelming feeling that my grandmother was speaking straight to my heart. And she told me that she was okay. I don't know if it was really her or if it was just me, but as I listened, the tears came. That was all I wanted to hear.
(A little something extra: China, TX and below, a poem)
Plump apple, smooth banana, melon, peach,
gooseberry ... How all this affluence
speaks death and life into the mouth ... I sense...
Observe it from a child's transparent features
while he tastes. This comes from far away.
What miracle is happening in your mouth?
Instead of words, discoveries flow out
from the ripe fruit, astonished to be free.
Dare to say what "apple" truly is.
This sweetness that feels thick, dark, dense at first;
then, exquisitely lifted in your taste
grows clarified, awake and luminous,
double-meaninged, sunny, earthy, real -
Oh knowledge, pleasure - inexhaustible.
- Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Sonnets to Orpheus (XIII) (trans. Stephen Mitchell)