Weighty Matters

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Mom and Food

on May 12, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are celebrating with your kids and/or moms.  I hope that you’re enjoying a wonderful time.

I have to admit that this is always a bit of a bittersweet day since I’m not a mom and my mother passed almost 15 years ago.  Sorry, sorry.  I don’t mean to be a downer.  I actually had a nice day today.  My furkids, Nat and Pyxi, and I enjoyed a walk this morning and we’ve had a lot of relaxing time here at home, which is something that I badly needed.  Both of them are cuddlers so when I need to hug, one of them is always willing.  The wind lay down enough that I could take out the boat for a pretty ride.  I learned to love the water and boating from both my parents.  Even after Daddy died, Mom learned how to captain the family boat here in Florida and took me out fishing whenever I visited.  Whenever I now go out in my own boat, I think of both of them smiling down at me.

When I got back to the house, I took a creamy rose out to the seawall.  I pulled off petal after petal and dropped them into a water, one by one. A thought of my Mom’s qualities and characteristics accompanied each one.  A petal for her generous spirit, one for her unconditional love, one for her support, one for her joie de vivre, one for her optimism (every rain was always the clear-up shower), one for her way of welcoming everyone, one for her effort to gain and retain sobriety, and so on.  I’ve never done a little ceremony like this for her, but it felt right to do so today in her memory.

I thought a lot about Mom and food too.  She was overweight when she was a young girl.  Her father, who died a couple of months before I was born, was morbidly obese.  Sometime in (I think) high school, Mom slimmed down.  She was a beauty with a fun-loving spirit.  She and her friends must have lit up those USO dances during the WWII, let me tell you.  Oh how she loved to dance!  Her drinking didn’t really turn into alcoholism and become a problem until I was in my mid-teens.

Looking back, with everything that I’ve learned over the years, I think the chain of addiction ran down Mom’s side of the family.  Even though Dad has his chunky times, as did his mother, not everyone who has weight issues has an eating disorder.  I’m positive that the disorder came down maternally.  I wonder if Mom had not lost weight when she was younger, if eating would have become her disorder too, instead of or even in addition to the alcohol.  I don’t know.

I only know that Mom’s relationship with food by the time that I was born was totally healthy.  She loved food and ate well, but didn’t overeat.  She was also a wonderful cook.  Even before we moved to France for a year when I was 9 and she took lessons at the school Julia Child founded with her cookbook partners, she could create wonderful meals for the family or for a dinner party of a dozen friends from their social circle.  Our meals ran the gamut.  Mom could embrace the 1960s-1970s casserole that used a Campbell’s condensed soup as its base, or turn out a sumptuous gourmet dinner of classic cuisine.  She loved doing a red Jell-O heart mold dessert for Valentine’s Day but would also put together a Charlotte Malakoff with homemade lady fingers, almond cream with Grand Marnier and fresh strawberries that wowed our dinner guests.

No surprise that today, on Mother’s Day, I’d feel a little nostalgic for meals my mother made us.  Whenever someone was coming over for lunch, one of her standbys was something she called an open-faced sandwich.  Velveeta cheese on bread with a slice of tomato and a slice of bacon, broiled until the bacon crisped and the cheese melted.  Yes, Velveeta.  To my knowledge she only used this product on these sandwiches and in one casserole recipe for turkey tetrazzini.  At some point, she discovered a casserole that was made with chicken breast, broccoli florets and a “sauce” of cream of chicken soup, mayo, and curry powder.  That was one of my favorite dinners.

Today, in Mom’s honor, I decided to have these foods, but did my best to lighten them up.  Instead of a plain old white bread slice, I used half of a Thomas’s “thin” made of whole wheat and limited myself to a little of Light Velveeta and a single slice of bacon.  (I used to eat two or three of Mom’s “Open Face” creations.  My version was half of an old serving in amount and lower on fat and calories.

I had the remains of a rotisserie chicken already in the house, so I picked that apart.  I used the light and low sodium chicken soup and light mayo and used those ingredients sparingly.  Lots of crisp broccoli and, for even more texture, some diced water chestnuts.  Plus, of course, the curry powder.  It wasn’t quite as delicious as Mom’s version, but it tasted pretty good.  I figure that I eat so little of it, that with the lighter versions and extra veggies, I didn’t do much damage to my food plan.

For dessert, I bought a single key lime tartlet.  Soon after my folks bought this house in the Keys back in the late 70s, I gave them a key lime tree for the yard.  Mom loved harvesting the key limes.  She’d slice them up to squeeze in her ice tea and always baked a pie for visiting friends.  She’d even bring home as many limes as possible and freeze the juice to make pies up home in Jersey over the summer and fall.  That tree lasted into the early 1990s.  We replaced it with another one that lasted until I’d lived here a few years before getting broken in a hurricane.  One of these days I might put in another one.  Anyway, when I saw the tartlets at the supermarket, I thought of Mom.  This thing is barely the size of a quarter.  I doubt it’s going to put me over the edge of my calorie count.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be marking the day with food.  In my defense, it wasn’t the entire focus of the day.  I have no regrets about what I ate today.  I reimagined the recipes in healthier ways and didn’t overeat.  I miss my mother a lot, and if preparing some of her recipes helped me bring her memory closer to my heart today, then that’s a good thing.

Overall, I want to remember the things that I said as I plucked off the rose petals and cast them into the sea she so loved.  This is for your generous spirit, Mom.  This is for your unconditional love and support.  This is for always making my friends feel welcome and part of the family.  This is for your courage and joie de vivre.  This is for always being my hero, my sweet, loving, wonderful Mom.

I love you.

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3 responses to “Mom and Food

  1. pinkpelican says:

    Hugs to you on mother’s day. I know it must be bittersweet, missing your mom, but I’m happy for you that you have such lovely memories of her.

    I know that one of the lifestyle changes I’m working on is not constantly using food as a reward. I’m working hard on finding other ways to celebrate good things and other ways to find comfort in hard times.

    That being said, I *do* think that it’s a mistake to completely cut food out of our celebrations & comforts. Food is awesome, amazing, & joyous, and it isn’t the food in and of itself that is the problem. Grin. Taste & smell are powerful senses & memories can be powerfully associated with them. Sometimes a celebratory dinner, a special brunch, an amazing treat, can be a wonderful thing. It’s learning how to achieve a healthy balance & accommodation with food that is the biggest challenge (at least for me).

    I think you did an amazing job of finding that balance for you, of connecting with your mother’s memory both through the rose ritual you created & the adaptation of her recipes (memories of clearly happy times with her) to your needs (and in a way bringing the memories of your mother into your new life).

  2. Skye says:

    What wonderful ways to remember your mom! I admit, I have avoided thinking about Mom and Mother’s Day today. My housemates are away visiting his mom for the day, so I took a long nap, have IM chatted with some friends, and in general am not being introspective. Don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I think it’s very healthy the way you remembered your mom, even to the eating of food that reminded you of her. I empathize with your missing her.

  3. Mimi says:

    Beautiful, Mary. As a seasoned mom, let me assure you there is nothing more to be treasured than the positive qualities of those we love. As a daughter who lost her mom less than a year ago, I know the pain of your loss.

    Blessings for your continued success!

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