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26 Jun

Just as I began my search in earnest for my love of all things food, my father is diagnosed with colon cancer.  It was a devastating blow to all of us.  There is the worry and concern for my father, and then the worry and resentment my mother is in no way able to take care of him.  There was one day of complete worry about the future for him or if there would be one.  Then he saw his surgeon and hope sprang eternal when he was informed he would have a less invasive surgery and basically resume a normal life.

My sister and I sat at the table with our parents, and we both pleaded the case for healthier eating.  My father is the type to eat a dinner, a second helping then a bologna sandwich an hour later.  Their cupboards are stocked with chips, sweet treats and enough carbs to fuel the Boston Marathon.  Their freezer is overflowing with frozen food and ice cream.  My sister and I insisted he needed to change his diet not only for this latest health set back, but also because of his twenty year battle with heart disease.

The first thing my mother did is angrily insist his diet does not need to change.  Our relationship now is cold and distant, there is resentment and anger simmering between us like a volatile moltov cocktail waiting to explode at any moment.  There have been several times I’ve pleaded with my mother to not bring boxes of Ho Ho’s and Twinkies into the house.  She insists my father should have more willpower and be able to not eat the things he shouldn’t.

When I first returned to Kentucky, I began cooking healthy foods for my father.  We attempted a strict heart healthy diet in hopes of helping him lose pounds quickly after yet another heart stint was necessary.  My mother doubled her efforts to bring home his favorite fatty foods and by the time I moved out, the diet was long forgotten and he had returned to enjoying fried foods with mom again.  My mother also refuses to smoke outside despite begin informed by a Cardiologist she should for my father’s health.  

So, I thought about food again but this time as a way to nourish and heal the body.  I’m making double steel cut oatmeal this morning and I wish I could convince my father how it’s not only healthy, but delicious.  I believe the biggest obstacle to my father changing his eating habits, is indeed my mother.  She likes the attention on her and her illnesses.  Yesterday, when we sat at the table, she began crying and everyone there completely ignored her.  Within seconds, her tears were dried and she stomped off to another room.  My father’s health has now become the focus of our attention and she does not like it.

I’m now not thinking about my love of food, but what it does for my body.  When I eat healthy, I feel healthy.  With the gene pool I’ve been cursed with, it’s more important than ever that I am mindful of what I do put in my body.  It’s not enough I’ve given up meat and maintain a vegetarian lifestyle.  I’ve given up coffee and have replaced my tea with decaf.  I’m insisting my daughter make healthier choices.  Who knows maybe by example I can convince my father to replace his ice cream with Greek yogurt.  

Wishful thinking.


How Laura Got Her Foodie Back – Day 3

14 Jun

So this morning I woke up exhausted.  The dog had to go out three times last night and my kid was way too chipper this morning.  I ate an egg with hash browns, which was actually pretty delicious and about all I really wanted.  I didn’t bother with coffee, so I drank water instead.  I packed a lunch, I thought pretty delicious looking, but once I arrived at work it was announced we were getting pizza for lunch.

Here’s the thing.  I am literally the only vegetarian where I work.  It is constantly pointed out and talked about because we get lunches a lot.  Everyone usually invokes me as the deciding factor whether or not there is something I can eat.  People act like it’s the dark ages and NOT ONE RESTAURANT serves a salad without some kind of meat in it.  I’m finding my food is more interesting to everyone else than it is me.  So today was pizza day and they got me a small vegetarian one loaded with olives.  

I love pizza.  Really do.  But I am way over cheese pizza.  I make it once a week for my kid, who scrapes off the cheese.  So, I pay for her to eat bread with sauce on it.  I personally think the cheese is the most important part, but that’s just me.  So it was nice having a hand tossed crust loaded with mushrooms and peppers and a generous abundance of olives.  Black and green olives, mind you.  So delicious.  This part is strictly for my beloved D – yes, I cheated and had a Diet Coke, but I’m only human!

Dinner time I found myself not that hungry.  I found these asian veggie burgers  and made one.  It was pretty good for a burger of that sort.  I know a lot of  vegetarians like tofu, but due to my thyroid, or lack thereof, I can’t really eat a lot of soy.  But soy is literally in everything we eat, sort of like corn.  For a side I had a big salad with feta and sunflower seeds.  I’m actually finding I prefer them to croutons.  

I did find something today though.  A perfectly salted caramel, so delicious and soft.  Nothing like the kind that sticks to your teeth.  I was going to take a picture of it, but I ate it instead.  It was EXACTLY what I had imagined in my mind when I wanted one.  So tomorrow, I’ll ask myself.  What do you really want?  Maybe I’ll be surprised.

How Laura Got Her Foodie Back- Day Two

13 Jun

So I woke up feeling fruity so I made a smoothie with almond mild (so yummy) and frozen strawberries and mango.  This time I didn’t include my usual two packets of Splenda.  I had my usual coffee sans cream.  For lunch, I had a salad with sunflower seeds and feta cheese.  Dinner was leftover butternut squash and greens.

Let’s be honest.  Nothing exciting about today’s food.  But the smoothie was delicious and the salad was filling.  Dinner was more of a throw together because I was exhausted by the time I got home.  I really wanted a piece of caramel, but of course I want a piece of salted  caramel, so decadent and delicious a Werther’s will not do.

I’m feuding with my parents again.  It’s a culmination of all these years with a dash of how they treat my daughter sprinkled on top.  But exploring food, brings me home again.  It was always food that brought us together as a family, that was a catalyst for a visit or celebration.  It was food my mother taught me was a balm for the blues.   Having traveled and explored, I learned to differentiate between good food and mediocre.  There really is no going back.  Not with food, not with my family.

So I’ll look for that salted caramel this week and try to be a little more adventurous.


How Laura got her foodie back – Day 1

12 Jun

This morning I asked myself what I really wanted for breakfast.  Instead of a cereal, I made hash browns with red pepper flakes, lots  of pepper and one perfect over easy egg.  Then I chopped it all up and ate slowly while I enjoyed an orange flavored  coffee.  It’s easy to cook on the weekends, but much harder during the week when I’m rushing out the door.

For lunch, I made a proper English cucumber sandwich with the crusts cut off fluffy white bread. I smeared the bread with horseradish sauce then layered on fresh cucumber.  A side of salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to dress it.  I sprinkled on feta cheese and sunflower seeds and it was delicious.  I then ate a bowl of fresh cut cantaloupe.  It was delicious and I was reminded I have not had it in a long time.  I remember reading somewhere you should only eat fruit before lunch and I’m wondering how true that statement is.

Dinner was our now traditional Sunday dinner.  I made a butternut squash and collard green stir fry and fresh ears of corn.  For dessert we sat outside in the heat and ate dripping organic blueberry popsicles.    

It’s easier to eat like this on the weekend.  I wonder how I’m going to fare during the week.


8 May

This morning I woke up to my daughter climbing in bed with me and wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day.  As is tradition, we ate eggs over easy, toast with grape jelly (I made this time because she’s nursing the flu) and then we settled in to watch Godzilla on Netflix.  She gave me a coffee mug this year that says “Mom, I love you more every day.”  She also made me an assortment of bead bracelets and drew me a picture for the fridge.  I am reminded just how lucky I am.

Motherhood, like everything in my life, did not occur in a normal manner.  I was married to someone who could not have children and I had just accepted this was my fate.  I convinced myself maybe I wasn’t meant to be a mother.  I had very little, if any, motherly instinct anyway.  And I’m a klutz.  I could not imagine carrying a baby anywhere.

The truth is, I always knew I would be a mother.  I had been almost five years older than my sister, and would like to think I helped raise her.  I knew I was capable and I knew it was in my destiny to have a child.  Sometimes you just have to accept things on faith, whether you are religious or not.  There was a plan I was certain of.

Then once upon a time, I had received a phone call from a friend who knew of a young girl wanting to find adoptive parents for her unborn baby.  She said she had immediately thought of me and would I want her phone number.  Without consulting anyone, including my ex-husband, I contacted the girl and she said she would like to meet.

I told no one but a friend I had asked to accompany me for courage.  We met at a diner in the subversive Bardstown Road area of Kentucky, Twig and Leaf.  It was a diner meant for the cool kids and I felt out of place as I sat waiting for this teenage couple to appear.  When they walked in, I swallowed whatever fear I had been trembling with and managed to answer their questions.  We talked easily and found we had a lot in common.  For the girl, the most important thing was that her baby would be loved.  I did not promise perfection, but I would love the baby as my own I had said.  She asked me what names I would like, so I told her a couple of girl and boy names.  We hugged goodbye and then I heard nothing from them.

For six months, no phone calls, no letters.  I mourned the loss of what I thought was meant to be, but I had accepted it.  Then one Monday night, I was up later than normal, the phone rang.  It was the birth father who asked me if I still wanted to adopt the baby.  I had felt the room spin as he told me it was a girl, she was a week old, and they named her one of the names I had mentioned.  He asked me if I wanted to meet her and we arranged a meeting for the next day.  I had sat down on the couch for nearly an hour, in shock and then began making phone calls. 

The first time I held my daughter, I knew it was meant to be.  She had been crying and the instant she was in my arms she had quieted.  She had looked up at me with those huge blue eyes and I instantly and irrevocably fell in love.  Leaving her that afternoon was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure.  Everyone kept telling me they could change their mind, but I knew they wouldn’t.

Five days later, after obtaining temporary custody of her and beginning adoption proceedings, I took my daughter home.  Despite being married, I knew she was meant for me.  I also knew her presence in our marriage would mean the end to it.  Not because he could not love her, but because he was in no way ready to become a parent, might not ever be.  But I was. 

I am not a perfect mother.  But I have lived up to my promise.  I love her as if she were my own flesh and blood.  There has never been a moment when I didn’t feel as if I was her rightful parent.  Our relationship has weathered our differences and our personality clashes.  Sometimes we are too much alike, and other times not at all.  If you met us on the street, you would never suspect she is not mine biologically.

I am sometimes a too strict parent.  I have smothered her with love and concern.  I have learned to accept she is not like every other person on the planet and I must nurture who she is to become.  There are days when I sit quietly thinking of the baby she was.  Looking up at me with those large doe eyes and always laughing.  I could make her giggle just by wrinkling my nose.  These days it takes much more than that.  The teen years are not kind to those going through it and those enduring it.

Today she told me she felt lucky.  It’s like winning a gold medal in parenting.  Despite everything we’ve been through together, she feels lucky because through it all we’ve always had each other.  I didn’t say what I was thinking, that she does not know anything yet about luck, about a woman who fell into motherhood like winning the lottery.  That no matter what has happened before or has happened since; I have never lost my gratitude for how fortunate I’ve been in my life.  I brought my daughter home one Saturday morning and life has been the most amazing journey since.

So, on this Mother’s Day, I say a thank you to the fate or to destiny or to whatever it was that brought us together.  Now, I’m off to watch more Godzilla and laugh with my daughter.  And smother her with love.


5 May

I love hotels.  The thought you can totally trash a room, go out for the day, and return to fresh towels and a newly made bed just appeals to the decadent side of me.  I especially love hotels that offer room service with metal covered hot plates and glass bottles of ketchup and syrup.  The thrill of sitting in a bed and ordering your food to be brought to you is what marriage should be, but never is.  In a pinch, I don’t mind padding down to the common breakfast area every morning at the crack of dawn to make homemade waffles and eat previously frozen fresh fruit. 

I stayed at a hotel once where you walked down to what you assumed would be a Unitarian kitchen to eat sugar pastries and stale cereal, and instead I found a chef making omelets to order.   For a brief moment I knew what the rich and famous experience every morning when they make their way to their kitchens and are greeted by personal chefs ready to cook to their every whim.   I’m not big on material possessions, but I could certainly get used to having someone cook for me.

I like hotels that exclaim they have down comforters and extra pillows.  I’m also a total sheet snob.  I usually insist on six hundred thread count or higher.  Sleeping in hotels means my delicate flesh will be chafed by less than buttery soft sheets.  It’s not my fault I was born with soft skin.  It’s one of my most marked characteristics.  I don’t need slippery lotions and potions.  I just have an ethereal epidermis.

I find sleeping in hotels is hard.  Strange bed, strange noises and the distinct sound of a paper being plopped outside your door every morning.  Some hotels are better than others at muffling the bachelor party next door.  I’ve been in some of the most expensive hotels and wondered why I could hear every creek of every door and what was that musty smell?  All hotels are not the same, even in a chain that promises you they are.

Now my anxiety regarding hotels has to do with bed bugs.  I’m sure you’ve heard of them.  Thousands of words and miles of paper have been devoted to these parasites that have surely been around for eons.  Suddenly, they have become a problem of epic proportion.  A pestilence worthy of locust swarm and termites eating away your floor boards.  You can’t see them, but you know they are there when you awake covered in what is tantamount to flea bites and itching like you’ve frolicked naked in a patch of poison ivy.  And then you unsuspectingly bring them home.

I just stayed at the Hampton Inn.  It was a business trip and I was not able to choose where I would lay my work weary head.  I was pleasantly surprised it was clean and the sheets were appropriately soft and pest free.  The breakfast in the morning passed for edible even when the dining room was appropriated by the Coast Guard for Mississippi levee recon.  So, you get a side of good looking young men with your reconstituted gravy and biscuits. 

I’ve stayed at a posh old money hotel in NYC before.  Overpaid for the same mixed fruit bowl and sniffed suspiciously at the mold smell emanating from the bathroom.  The bed was too hard and the pillows were too soft and paid dearly for both.  I’ve learned not to turn my nose up at any place that promises you a mediocre stay that will not cost nearly as much.

Well, that’s not exactly true.  I will never again stay at a roof of a certain color and you know who you are.  Every room looks like they filmed an episode of CSI there and you would be horrified by turning a black light on.  There is certainly nothing worse than flinging your top blanket to the floor only to find a stain on the sheet you are supposed to sleep on.  Well, finding a bug in the bed.  That has happened to me in a hotel in the backwoods of Pennsylvania, but what did I expect?

This time instead of hoarding the shampoos and lotions they put out every morning, I used them.  It’s all part of my consume less attitude.  I use to have a drawer devoted to the goodies I brought back from various hotel rooms on various trips.  As part of my purge the old me attitude, I donated them to a homeless shelter.  The new me makes sure I empty a bottle of something before I buy a new one.  The new me left behind the empty hotel bottles. 

I’m anxious to get back to my bed even if I’m sleeping with a down comforter.  I enjoy the towel folding and bed making by others, but there really is no place like home.  The sheets were comfortable, but they were not my impossibly high counted linens.  Maybe next time instead of just bringing my pillow, I should bring my own sheets.  Maybe then I’ll never want to leave.


17 Apr

I’m a vegetarian and a foodie.  One does not cancel out the other.  Today I went to brunch with a friend and my sister and enjoyed a fantastic meat free meal.  If you ever get to Louisville, KY you must visit Lynn’s Paradise Cafe.    It’s a funky restaurant with a side of kitsch and great food.

  For starters I had a Chocolate Gorilla coffee heavy with banana syrup and

 chocolate.  Better than Starbucks and enough sugar and caffeine to keep

 me buzzing all day.

You have to try the crunch cakes.  Light and fluffy pancakes filled with

cinnamon granola and stuffed with blueberries.  These were shared by

all of us and the consensus was they were the best pancakes we ever had.

I then had the mushroom scramble topped with a horseradish sauce with a side of

home fries and a homemade biscuit.

My sister insisted the bacon was the best she had ever eaten, but I thoroughly

enjoyed my meal without the need for it.