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Category Archives: death

My first attempt at Carbonara

Italian cooking has always been a mystery to me. While some families have traditions based on rice or pasta my Irish/German family was firmly planted in all things potato. When my father did cook Italian it was American Italian like shrimp scampi or spaghetti and meatballs. Nothing too exciting and certainly never made with fresh pasta.

Certainly Carbonara isn’t the most traditional Italian recipe with there only be records of it since the mid 20th century although the first time I had it freshly made was when an Italian roommate at my school in the Netherlands made it for us. I remember how freaked out I was at her pouring raw eggs over pasta and worrying we would all get salmonella. Thankfully I put aside my fear to eat her lovely concoction that wasn’t made with any daily and just the smallest bit of butter.

Over the years I’ve gotten to eat many wonderful carbonaras, some with spaghetti, others with fettuccine, some vegetarian, others full of pork fat yet I never got around to making it. I think my hatred of dry pasta and my totally laziness and unwillingness to make my own pasta prevented me from making Italian pasta dishes. That was until I found a couple of shops in town that make their own fresh pasta. While I am sure it’s not as good as some people’s grandmothers one of my pasta favorites is the fettuccine from . It’s the kind of pasta you can eat with just some garlic and butter and it’s so satisfying.

The inspiration for making fettecine a la carbonara was when I saw some amazing wild lobster mushrooms at my local food co-op.
What do you think this is? No, it's not alien goo.  on Twitpic
Also nabbed during my grocery shopping was local duck eggs. There are few fowl that I love more than duck so there was no way I could pass up fresh duck eggs.

Having purchased this bounty of delights I set about trying to find something to do with them when I came upon this recipe . When I remember that I bought some langostino tails (other wise known in the US as squat lobster even though they are not actually lobsters at all) at Trader Joe’s I could help but have a dish with two ingredients that are called the same thing.

I followed the directions in the recipe pretty much as they were listed other than when the peas were added I also added the already cooked langostino tails and of course instead of chicken eggs I used duck eggs. I also used another tablespoon of butter and it only took 4 minutes to saute the mushrooms. The biggest challenge was adding the beaten eggs to the pasta with out it becoming scrambled and making sure all the pasta was coated in it.

All in all it was a surprisingly easy recipe to make and I loved how colourful and appealing it was.


On a mother I miss and one I never had

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Mother’s day for the past 20 years has always been a tricky day for me. Twenty years ago I left home at 16 to save myself and give myself a chance at a happy life. I succeeded pretty well, finishing high school while not have a permanent address, going to college and so far living on three continents and travelling most recently to the Arctic Circle in Sweden. I have a spouse of eight years and a home I’ve lived in for more than a decade. And all that time I’ve had a mother who is alive but who is often not a real part of my life. Even as a child I had an odd relationship with Mother’s Day. On the one hand I love a celebration especially one involving food and I truly wanted nothing more than to be able to give my mother one of those cards that has all those sweet sentiments and gratitude for all the love and kindness she showed me. Instead even as an honesty obsessed kid I would try to find a card that said only the truth. One that said I love you, thanks for the nice things you do and for being around sometimes. My mother’s mantra has always been “there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my kids” but her actions were almost always the opposite and the true mantra was “there is nothing I don’t expect from my kids other than perfection”. 20 years of being away from my mother and the intervention of some amazing caring adults when I left my parents’ home taught me that neither her goals nor her expectations are realistic or healthy. My relationship with my mother has been based on trying to have no expectations of her as a mother and expecting absolutely no true support or acceptance and for periods of time we can pretend to be family.

Now Mother’s Day is especially hard as my sister who’s main goal of the past decade has been to be a perfect mother and wife is dead because she didn’t live up to her husband or my parents’ expectations. The sadness and horror I feel that she tried so hard to be perfect and my own mother uses her supposed failings as a wife or mother to justify her husband murdering her in cold blood is magnified on a day that I know her children are spending with the grandparents who always judged their mother even when she is a murder victim. Will those children be raised with an image of their mother as saint or sinner or will they be given the gift of being raised knowing she was a complex person full of life and love? Will they be raised thinking someone wanting to leave a marriage is a genuine justification for murder? Will they blame my sister for being murdered? Will my toddler nephew even be raised with stories of his mother and how much she did for him and loved him?

My sister and I had a complex often contentious relationship as adults being almost opposites for the last tens in terms of politics, religion, beliefs and goals. We both left home at 16, too young and without support. We both put ourselves through college and moved far away from our home town but then we both went down different paths. She tried through two marriages and a rebirth in her Catholic faith to be as mainstream and conservative as possible while I didn’t try hard but ended up on the outskirts of heteronormativity due to my sexuality, my urbanization and my access to privilege. We both struggled to reach our personal goals and neither of us ended up exactly where we expected but neither of us ever thought that violence would be a part of our lives again. We always knew that we had the power to change the situations we were in and that was true until a man, her husband took that power away with a shot gun borrowed from our father.

My sister more than anyone in my childhood gave me my love of food and in many ways although she was only 3 years older than me she acted as a second mother to me, giving me what my own mother couldn’t. I learned early on not to cry in front of my parents or run to them if I was upset but my sister would let me crawl up on her lap and rock me in the lazy boy chair even when I was 12. She would some how make magic food out of the simple and basic ingredients we had in the house. We never had junk food except for my father’s stash of junk food which we were usually not allowed to have and my mother seemed to have a strict policy that all cookies must be healthy and weight at least a pound. My sister solved the issue by making potato chips from scratch and making donuts out of our generic bulk flour and then glazing them in fresh maple syrup. While I could follow a recipe, she seems to know instinctively how to make dishes from nothing. That was how she dealt with so many things. She would have an ideal and make it happen with food and with life. For me it’s taken so much practice to get to the point where I can look in my frig or at my life and see what I can make with with ingredients I’ve been given.

I feel so sad that her daughter and son will not have the years to come to get to know their mother as a cook and as a human. I think about how if she hadn’t left home at 16, I would have never been brave enough to leave home. I think about how when I was afraid, she held me and when I was too scared to defend myself, she defended me. Who will teach her children these things when the biggest lesson they have learned is that the person who loves you the most may kill you?

Death and Food: two things that seem to go together

On January I was enjoying watching the Aurora Borealis  in the Arctic circle of northern Sweden, while thousands of miles away my nice “Christian” brother in law was murdering my sister in front of their daughter in a small ugly town in Virginia.

As soon as I found out I flew back to the states and that small town where she lived. Back to Jesus land and my Jesus loving family and that hate for others that seems to go hand in hand with a love of Jesus. Back to the land of lard and factory food. Where as my spouse pointed out at the funeral there were almost as many sex stores as there were churches and there were churches on every corner.

In Sweden I had a freakout about the scarcity of fresh produce and the high cost of food, a trigger that goes back to a childhood of always feeling hungry emotionally and physically. In Virginia I was in the land of the buffet, every counter overflowing with the cheapest food cooked in the maximum amount of lard and oil. Yet there too there was the lack of the fresh produce and healthy food that 10 years in California and 10 years before that surround by folkies, hippies and environmentalist had made me consider as natural as clean water to drink and fresh air to breath. And in Virginia unlike my unfounded fears of scarcity in Sweden I was indeed starving for emotional and physical sustenance  just as my sister had been in the years leading up to her husband committing one final permanent act of harm.

While I was in Virginia for 2 1/2 weeks staying at a motel that the cab driver who took me to the airport confided to me was a a known crack den I ate from 4 buffet restaurants, two chain restaurants and my mother’s finest family food which consisted of some kind of breaded meat, canned veggies and lots o’startch.  The saving grace for me was the local Trader Joe’s but the food I got from them was more a security blanket than something that I actually ate. It greeted me every evening after spending all day with my tight smiled mom, my darling niece and nephew and my mental father. I lost almost 15 pounds in the 2 1/2 weeks I was there. I lost far more than that but pounds can be measured, people can not be.

I came back home having been gone for 2 1/2 weeks in Virginia after being in Europe for six weeks but in some ways I went back 20 years to before I escaped from my parents home. Yet it’s 20 years later and my sister who was the example I followed to leave the abuse and fear, is gone. Not just gone. Taken, murdered by the person that was suppose to protect her from the cold world and the starvation. The man that she converted to Catholicism and with whom she pledged to never raise her voice against nor he against her. No instead he raised my father’s shot gun and put multiple holes in her chest.

There are holes that we fill with many things. My family fills them with hate and Jesus. I’ve always filled them with travel and food. What happened is a constant thought, a hunger for a person who is gone and a hunger to understand what happened. While I figure how to even accept what happened let alone why, I think I’ll make some food.