It’s Saturday, April 22, 2017 and I’m up and dressed in a skirt and heading out to do errands and then attend a funeral. On the radio, NPR is on as usual and Mary Louise Kelly is saying in a segment called:
Peanut Butter Bars To Soothe The Soul
The day President Trump tweeted that President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, I worked my sources on the story — and then I went home and cooked Swedish meatballs in brandy sauce.
The day the U.S. rained cruise missiles down on Syria, I filed for our Newscast unit and then made a pot of pumpkin soup, laced with cumin and parsley.
The other night, after long hours trying to persuade CIA officials to talk on the record about Russia, it occurred to me that my greater contribution to humanity that evening might have been the crust on a glorious chicken pot pie.
Lately it’s the recipes of my childhood I’ve been craving; my mom’s cooking. I grew up in Georgia, in the ’70s and ’80s, and her repertoire ran the whole range from green bean casserole to tuna casserole to sweet potato casserole. Pretty much all the recipes begin with, “Melt two sticks of butter.” Then Crisco shortening usually makes an appearance.
In her kitchen in Atlanta, I recently found a recipe handwritten in her looping cursive. The first ingredient: “Cool Whip, one large tub.”
I think of Fran at this point.What images and foods is she recalling as she awakes today to attend her mother’s funeral? After that one year of teaching at Janney ES, these three women invited me to join their writing club. All summer, we met weekly at a Starbucks. After initial hellos and catching up, we sat and wrote. After 20-30 minutes, we put pens down or stopped typing on the computer and took time sharing. Each bravely read aloud their writing. Then the 3 listeners offered feedback. Then we picked our next date to meet and departed. A few times, Fran wrote about her mom. I only met her through these stories shared in writing club. When she emailed me of her mother’s passing this week, I replied “I am treasuring the summer mornings when I got to hear stories you shared aloud inspired by your mom. I feel like I have met her and am sad too.”
I take time this Saturday morning looking through Fran’s blog writing found HERE. I love her blog title – Pencil on My Back Porch! Her very first story is called Flower Arrangements I realize it is about visiting her mom in her retirement home. She ends it saying , “I wonder what I will do when I am that flower lady. ” Today I guess she will know. As Mary Louis Kelly finds comfort in cooking, I think Fran will find it through writing and through walks in nature. I listened more to NPR:
Mom’s best recipe, though — the one she is justifiably famous for at school bake sales — is peanut butter bars. Carol Kelly’s peanut butter bars call for enough sugar to sink a ship, but they turn out like heaven, every single time.
Now, I mention all this because my parents are in town to visit this week. So Mom and I donned aprons. Got out the self-rising flour and the sugar and the Jif — did I mention you cannot use organic peanut butter? It turns out gummy. You gotta go old school Jif or Skippy — and Mom and I baked two big batches.
I brought one of them into the newsroom, to feed the Weekend Edition team.
I could say it was like watching vultures descend, but that doesn’t quite do justice. Vultures don’t return with spoons to scoop up the crumbs. So chalk one up for peanut butter bars, as respite from the demands of this current deluge of breaking news.
On the other hand, all this cooking has created a new demand on my time: I need to hit the gym.
Our Writing Club is coming over on Monday to my house. I am definitely going to serve some comfort food for us to share on Monday. It can be our “respite from the demands of this current deluge of breaking news”.
Friends, food, and writing will get us through.