Reflections of Abby

“Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, “you owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” Hafiz

In “Comedy Sex God” by comedian Pete Holmes, he introduces a character by the name of Duncan Trussell, another comedian and actor known for a popular podcast. His words strike me about some people. I know this type very well. He calls them “vampires”. The vampires he warns will keep you “stuck in the harbors of sorrow.”

Abby was no vampire. Like Duncan, Abby didn’t “drain life from people, (she) infused them, resuscitating their awe and bringing color back to their cheeks.” She was the most generous human I have ever known, generous to every person she was involved with, not just me. Generous to a fault some have said. But the fault harmed the giver, not the receiver. Ironically, or not, the cause of death was cardiomyopathy. In other words…. an enlarged heart.

Her gift to me now, after her death? “Go find yourself Bec. I am with you always. Life is so brief. Love yourself well and then wait to see what happens!”

Month of June: “My Berlin Kitchen” Recipe: Kartoffelsalat (Potato Salad)

Nothing to say today, just cooking.

Ingredients: 2 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes (I used petite golden), 3.5 tablespoons of butter, 2 yellow onions finely chopped, 1/3 cup of white wine vinegar, 2/3 cup of beef or chicken broth, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, freshly ground pepper, 2/3 cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley, minced.

  1. Wash the potatoes and put them in a pot of salted water just to cover. Boil with lid on and reduce heat to medium and cook until just tender. Depending on the size could be 20-30 minutes. Drain and cool. Per Luisa, Germans boil their potatoes the night before believing it helps retain a good shape. I might try that next time.
  2. Peel potatoes and cut in 1/8 inch slices (mine were bigger and they were fine.)
  3. Melt butter in 10 inch saute pan and add onions, mixing well and cook about 3 minutes. Add vinegar, broth, mustard, stir well making sure the mustard blends, about 3 minutes or less.
  4. Carefully whisk in the oil, pour hot dressing over potatoes and mix well. It takes a few minutes for dressing to absorb into the potatoes. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Finish with parsley.

Month of June: Book: “My Berlin Kitchen” Recipe: Ragu alla Bolognese (Beef Ragu)

I decided to opt for comfort today. What’s more comforting than a bowl of spaghetti, homemade sauce and grated parmasean cheese? This recipe for ragu bolognese will not disappoint but be patient: it takes 5-7 hours to cook. The flavors all come together like magic in the end. Like the way our lives come together over time. Like the way it takes time, lots of time, to have a good friend.

I cried about Abby today. I still miss her. She was so extraordinary! Open, authentic, honest, flawed, creative, adventurous, witty, compassionate, daring, outrageous, loyal and so perfectly herself. I was so lucky to be loved by her and to love her for 35 years. We were deeply connected, yet comfortably separate. And by that I mean, free to be ourselves! It was a beautiful precious gift. I didn’t fully realize how rare it was, until after she was gone.

Ingredients: 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter, 1 large onion and 2 large carrots finely minced in equal proportions, 1 pound of ground beef and 1 pound of ground pork, 1/2 cup red wine, 28 ounce can of pureed and peeled San Marzano tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt

1.Put the oil and butter in large cast iron pan. I used my Le Creuset. Add onion and soften about 7 minutes, but do not let the onion color. Then add carrots and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir.

2. Add the ground beef and pork. Raise the heat to medium high and using a spoon break of the clumps of meat until if breaks down uniformly. Cook until there is no pink but do not brown. About 8-10 minutes.

3. Add the wine and stir. Simmer 2-3 minutes.

4. Add tomatoes and salt, stir well. Lower heat to lowest setting, put on lid and let the sauce simmer for as long as you can. Per Luisa 7 hours would be wonderful, 5 is pretty good, but anything less than 3 and you are missing out. The longer is cooks the richer it gets.

I had time for 5.5 hours and it was delicious.

Month of June: “My Berlin Kitchen” Recipe: Poppy Seed Whirligig Buns.

I thought I would start out the first month of this grief adventure with “My Berlin Kitchen” by Luisa Weiss. Her wonderful book, which really isn’t a cookbook per se, was lent to me by a nurse colleague and it inspired me with a spark to start a food/grief blog. Her tale is about finding romantic love with a recipe after each chapter but mine is a love story of a friendship with a recipe after each post. So here I am. And you know what? It doesn’t matter if this is well received or not because I must do this. I am writing it to tell you about her, to honor our love and because I must rediscover myself.

Luisa explains that Germans love their breakfasts, apparently A LOT. I have Germanic DNA and I like breakfast so why not give this recipe a whirl? No bun intended. I have the day to myself. No reason to hurry. Beginner’s mind…time to understand yeast. It’s time to understand this grief.

I followed the directions on the package (hmmm…a good start) and guess what? Activation! Life! The dough came out pliable and supple. I was pleased. The result was delicious in my humble opinion. The poppy seed “pudding filling” was a cinnamony lemony flavor that contrasted nicely with the yeasty bread. I would definitely make these again. Thanks Luisa! (and Laurie for thinking I might enjoy the read!!) This book means more to me than you both could ever know!

Yeast dough: 3/4 cup whole milk, 1/4 ounce of fresh yeast or 1 package dry, 1/4 cup sugar, 4 cups all purpose flour, 2 large eggs, 4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling: 2 cups whole milk, grated lemon peel of 1/2 lemon, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/3 cup sugar, pinch of salt, 1/3 cup semolina, 1 cup fresh poppy seeds

  1. First make the dough. Heat the milk until lukewarm, add yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar to activate the yeast. Stir and let stand until mixture starts to get foamy.
  2. Pour the flour into a large bowl, add sugar, then begin to stir incorporating with each stir, Add eggs, butter and salt. Begin kneading with hands within the bowl. It will be sticky, don’t worry. Dump onto a lightly floured counter and knead 3-5 minutes until smooth.
  3. Wash out bowl, dry and rub butter into bowl, add dough and let rise until double in a draft free area, about an hour or more.
  4. Make the filling: Put milk in 2 quart saucepan over medium head, add lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and then SLOWLY add semolina making sure to whisk while adding. Cook 1 minute stirring all the time. Then add poppy seeds and mix well. Important: Make sure you find fresh poppy seeds, don’t use the ones that have been sitting in your kitchen for years. Remove from heat and let cool.
  5. Punch down dough and knead again. Roll out into a large rectangle with rolling pin to 1/2 inch thickness. Spread the cool poppy seed mixture on top evenly almost to edges. Roll up dough lengthwise into a log and wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze for 1 hour.
  6. Butter two 9 or 10 inch cake pans or sheet pan. Remove log from freezer and discard foil. Cut the log into 1.5 inch thick slices. Place in buttered pans and let rise for 45 minutes with a towel to cover. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  7. Mix one egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of milk together and brush buns with mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until golden.
  8. Per Luisa, buns are best the same day they are made. If you want to keep them, wrap the baked cooled buns in foil, in a freezer bag, freeze. Defrost unwrapped in 300 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Welcome to My New Food Blog

Warning: Not for the faint of heart.

Welcome to a food blog that is born out of loss. In it, I will cook my way through grief. My name is Becca. On May 19th, 2018 my best friend Abby died unexpectedly leaving me forever changed. This blog is a creative solo exercise in honoring her memory and healing my way forward through the comfort of a kitchen, a physical space where I feel alive and connected to myself. I am a home cook with a knack for finding exceptional recipes. The kitchen I will post from is in a studio apartment I leased for one year starting in June 2019 until May 2020. I do not live there. I cook and contemplate there.

I have chosen 12 cookbooks from my library. I will cook and bake my way through as many recipes as possible each month. The catch: each post will be a first trial recipe. Like life…no practice run. The idea is to begin with the books I have collected over the years but never had the time to seriously explore and learn. And what also occurred to me in this grief process is the importance of practicing presence. I don’t need anything more than a beginner’s mind and an open heart. That feels like an authentic launching point. Abby would have been pleased. Here I go. Let’s get cooking!

  • June: My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss
  • July: Purple Citrus Sweet Perfume by Silvena Rowe
  • August: Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown
  • September: 660 Curries by Raghaven Iyer
  • October: Market Cooking David Tanis
  • November: Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
  • December: Eat by Nigel Slater
  • January: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
  • February: Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibanez
  • March: Ottolenghi
  • April: Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat
  • May: Community Together