There’s this thing about grief: you need to eat what you need to eat when it hits you. But you also need to feed others, if that’s the role you have, and this is a juggling act. In my case, I have a Beloved Vegetarian to feed, and I’m happy to do so–but when grief, or indeed, any other trauma, hits me, I really have to go with what nourishes me. Which is, in this order: blue cheese. unsalted butter, sourdough bread. red meat. And that last is the one that is usually most readily to hand.
So, when someone dies–and in the most recent case (though Goddess knows, we’ve seen a lot of death around here the last few years), the someone being my father, after a traumatic week of his being constantly, conscientiously, and painfully attended by the medical profession–I really really really need some red meat. And some wine. Together. Yes. In a vegetarian household.
You know the way I serve myself here. A big salad (in this case, tonight, a garlic/sherry vinegar/walnut oil dressing mixed with diced avocado, diced tomato, one scallion, torn basil and marjoram, roasted pine nuts, and grated parmesan, tossed with greens), accompanied by a seared piece of rib steak topped, at the end, with a mashed garlic clove in a tablespoon of butter.Well, that was for me. The Bereaved. Also accompanied by a honking big portion–indeed, a half bottle portion–of beefy red wine.
But for the loved one. No matter how carried away I get by my own grief, or even my own worries, I still constantly consider the meals of my Beloved. And this was no exception. So this is what I did:
Stuffed Baked Potatoes to Be Served to One’s Vegetarian Loved One on the Eve of One’s Father’s Death:
Shove three potatoes into a toaster oven at 450 degrees, after they have been scrubbed and pricked with forks to keep them from exploding.
Make the salad dressing, add the greens on top of crossed salad implements to be tossed at the last minute.
Sit down for an hour or so while the taters cook and have a few glasses of red wine. Speak freely about the Loved Dead.
When the potatoes are done (and they are done and well done for more than an hour after they are actually done, so don’t fuss too much about timing here), take them out of the oven, split them, and scrape out the potato insides. Mash these with a mashed garlic clove, some sliced green onions of some kind (scallions, onion tops, chives…shallots…whatever you have), some chopped herbs (parsley? cilantro? whatever’s in the fridge), some butter, some milk or cream or both, whatever you have, salt & pepper…and the pile these mashed insides back into the potato shells.Sprinkle with paprika, or, better yet, smoked Spanish paprika. And ten minutes before dinner, put back in a 350 oven to reheat. Stick under a broiler if you want browning on the top.
In the meantime, if you are a worried carnivore, broil your steak.
Then serve your Vegetarian Beloved with salad and potato, and yourself with steak and salad.
Glasses of wine for both of you, at will.
Most important of all: TURN THE PHONES AND COMPUTERS OFF.
Eat in silence, appreciating the flavors, and each other, and the fact that you’re both alive.
And then sleep well before heading out for the funeral, and all that entails.