the ideal kind of day

blueberry galette | the merry gourmet

A geriatric dog, a yellow lab, greeted us in the shade of the oak trees that bordered the orderly rows of blueberry bushes. She eased herself up off the ground and began slowly wagging her tail. Her movements were hindered by arthritis or old age, or maybe she just didn’t care to hurry.  I didn’t blame her. It was a beautiful Saturday morning on the blueberry farm. There was a warm breeze and only an occasional cloud in the sky. It was the ideal kind of day to take things in stride.

The man standing behind the folding table seemed to be in charge of berry sales. His table was piled with several stacks of large white buckets, a kitchen scale, a pile of white plastic grocery bags, and an open ledger. The tinkling of wind chimes arrived with the breeze. The man wore plaid, as farmers in storybooks do, but he was in his late twenties, or maybe early thirties, and had a head full of coal-black hair. He handed us two buckets, one for each kid, which would hold six pounds of blueberries each.

“They’re $6 a pound,” he said. “But don’t go overboard. A family earlier this morning filled four buckets to the top. They weren’t happy when I told them they owed $144.”

mother’s day and a fair warning

chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting | the merry gourmet

It was weekly card night, and Sam had just headed out to play cards with his friends. These nights used to annoy me, but now I look forward to an evening with the television turned off, when I can read in the silence of my sleeping home and go to bed even earlier than I normally do.  Or, when I can catch up on blog posts or Twitter or New York Times articles, without feeling guilty for not paying attention to The Voice or American Pickers.

I sat on the sofa, with a cat curled up on my legs, honoring me with her presence, and with my laptop open and resting on my lap. I came across this opinion piece in the Times, a short documentary about a woman whose mother died from colon cancer. I realized halfway through watching it, that my cheeks were wet.

In the Times video op-ed piece, author and filmmaker Judith Helfand, includes several pieces of footage of her mother. In one, she’s lying in a hospital bed in her apartment, her feet moving up as her daughter figures out to work the bed’s remote control. In another, she’s being serenaded at Rosh Hashanah. In the most poignant scene of them all, the narrator, struggling to keep it together, asks her mother how a person can live without her mother. There is a long, uncomfortable hesitation. “You just do,” the mother says. It’s clear she really doesn’t want to answer this question.

I would give anything for a video of my father, alive once more, if only on a television screen.

i was good enough

the big traveling potluck | the merry gourmet

My heart raced in my chest. I didn’t feel good enough to be reading these words aloud, but yet there I was. I held the microphone in my right hand, my palm clammy and damp, while my left hand held the page I was reading from. The paper quivered as if it, too, had heart palpitations, making my already messy handwriting all that much harder to read from. I stumbled over my words, looked up and saw a reassuring face and then another, and I started over.

I watched him move in the kitchen, pulling his wheelchair-bound body along the counter’s edge, hand over hand, until he reached the bowl of warm, boiled potatoes. I stood in the doorway, observing him quietly from the other side of the wood-paneled kitchen. He moved awkwardly but deliberately, wanting to do this for himself. This was the first time since his stroke that he had tried to cook. He was making his famous mashed potatoes recipe, the one filled with butter and cream and cream cheese, the one that was a staple on our holiday table. If I had known then that this would be the last time he would make these potatoes, I might have paid more attention.

Make eye contact, I reminded myself. Stop fidgeting. I heard my voice and cringed at the shakiness of it. I looked out over the room, bright with sunlight, into the faces of my fellow food bloggers, into the faces of my friends. I kept reading. And then I was done, and I remembered nothing that I had said.

It’s amazing what we’ll do when we have the support and love and encouragement of our friends.