Treating Myself

Somewhere, someone said, “Treat others as you would have them treat you,” so on weekday mornings, in order to get Marika up on time to catch the early school bus, I made her breakfast in bed. Whatever I made for myself, I set out a portion for her on an enticing tray garnished with fruit. It was always delivered with a beautifully folded napkin, tea and love. It was easy and it worked. She ate, got out of bed, got herself together and got the bus. Food was my currency of love.

Last weekend I was in the Berkshires with my mother and my sister. When we get together we mostly shop, watch movies and eat every meal out in really good restaurants. During these visits to my mother’s house, we find our way to the kitchen and the fridge only to stow away doggie bags or get a drink to down our pills. But I remember when my mother cooked chocolate pudding regularly for us. Did you ever have chocolate pudding made fresh from scratch? My sister and I took turns licking the hot pot and the old wooden mixing spoon. Good food, especially chocolate pudding, could always tame us. Chocolate pudding was one of the first things I learned to cook when I left home. It evolved into pots de crème and became a staple in my repertoire when Abigail Dodge, The Weekend Baker, came up with a 10-minute no-bake version.

When I got home from the weekend, I brought a picnic dinner of sushi and cherries to my best friend, Celia. We ate by her pond and I complained that I was depressed. She pointed out to me that I am always depressed when I return from visiting my mother. We walked around her long country block with our dogs and then I went home to bed.

First thing in the morning, after a dizzying foray of Wegmans, I started to cook. Cooking is no longer a solid part of my routine, especially now that the house is mostly empty. A decade ago, if company was coming for Thanksgiving dinner I diligently started the day cooking early in the morning. When Marika was around I often cooked eggplant parmesan and steaks. But more recently, I am a sporadic cook. If Celia mentions the Strawberry Rhubarb Tapioca Pudding she posted on her blog,, I will not be able to focus on anything else until I am stirring my own batch and it is dripping down my chin. If the word “curry” comes up in conversation, I become haunted by memories of past stews scenting the whole house with coriander and cumin, fried mustard seed and fenugreek, and then there is little I can do to stop myself from dashing off to the spice isle in Greenstar, Ithaca’s Natural Foods Market.

So, in a frenetic cooking flurry this morning, before doing any of the pressing things on the day’s list, I made myself chocolate pots de crème, a spinach-asparagus soup (I couldn’t find sorrel for Celia’s Finger Lakes Feasting Sorrel Soup) and a yummy yam-apple-ginger soup I concocted to warm a sad heart whether served hot or chilled. I treated myself like I treat others I love. My mother said, “You can’t sing and eat soup at the same time.” But I smiled and sang over my soup and pudding today. And there are enough leftovers to keep me sated for the rest of the week.

What will you do to treat yourself well this week?

Yamappleginger Soup

Crudely dice 1 medium sweet onion, 2 large yams and 1 unpeeled apple. Finely dice 1 generous peeled inch of ginger.
Saute the onion in 2 tsp olive oil for 3 minutes. Add the yam, apple and ginger.
Add 32 ounces of veggie or chicken or beef broth, plus 1 cup water.
Cover and cook 25 minutes.
Blend with a speed hand blender or in a food processor.
Salt and pepper the soup if desired.
Enjoy hot, warm or cold.

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