Food in times of sorrow
- July 21, 2010 10:27 AM |
- By Amber Hildebrandt
Food, in my opinion, is one of life's great joys. And as I learned earlier this year, in times of sorrow it can be a great communicator.
In spring, a doctor discovered that my grandfather had glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest and most aggressive primary brain tumour, with a typical life expectancy of six to 12 months. Over the following months, I watched as its vicious web spread through his brain and ravaged his body.
For most of that time he was lucid enough to understand life swirling around him, as family members fussed over him and tried to soak in our last memories with him.
It was, for a time, food that connected us and allowed him to still 'live' instead of merely survive. Later on, it was his inability to eat that signaled to us the nearing end.
What I learned during that time is that life truly becomes about little moments. Tastes. Sounds. Touch.
Holding his hand was enough, when talking was no longer possible. So, too, was the taste of food.
I believe my grandfather in his last months - despite an increasingly useless body and foggy mind - still derived some small pleasure from food.
That he enjoyed his last taste of Paska, the sweet Mennonite-style Easter bread, as it crumbled between his teeth.
That he still derived some delight from the scent of my grandmother's famous wild rice pilaf baking in the oven.
That he savoured the sticky ribs we made, coating them in his very own special sauce recipe and following it with a finger bowl (a custom he always insisted on).
New traditions and old
During his final months, we revived food-related family traditions. We also created new ones.
He had an insatiable appetite in those final months for ice cream, a craving we were happy to fulfill, especially as words began to fail us.
And it became a ritual for my aunt and uncle to share Vietnamese pho from their favourite restaurant with my grandfather every weekend.
It is amazing the connections we make over food, the memories a dish can conjure up, and the pure delight we can get as we roll food over our tongue even as our other faculties fail us.
And I think that even if my grandfather didn't taste it all as much as we imagined (we needed to believe he did), I'm sure he understood the love that went into each dish.
What family dishes trigger the warmest memories for you?
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- Food in times of sorrow
- In spring, a doctor discovered that my grandfather had glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest and most aggressive primary brain tumour. As he battled the tumour over the following months, it was food that connected the family and allowed him to still 'live' instead of merely survive. Later on,... Continue reading this post