Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cooking through the Grief

by Kate Collins

Thanksgiving has always been my responsibility. My siblings and I started rotating holidays years ago, when our mother decided we were all grown up enough to assume the duties. Somehow along the way the rotation stopped with the turkey dial pointing toward me. I really didn’t mind.

This year, however, because of the recent passing of my husband, I was dreading it. The thought of celebrating without my Greek saddened and terrified me. We had been such a team -- planning, shopping, preparing, and cleaning up together -- that I couldn’t imagine doing it without him.

In stepped my children and step-daughter, who performed like the troopers they are.

Instead of purchasing a prepared bird complete with mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing, as I was ready to do, they decided we should make everything from scratch. So we started early Thursday morning with the turkey, then moved on to a homemade gravy mix, homemade stuffing using gluten-free bread, and skin-on smashed potatoes. Our last task was preparing homemade apple crisp, which we popped into the oven just as the rest of the family descended.

Sadly, the apple crisp was forgotten in the crush and nearly burned up. But it was definitely crisp.

Everyone brought a dish and a dessert, so we had plenty of food to feed the crowd. We came together as a family, prayed together for our absent ones, ate together, and, as promised, the kids cleaned up afterward. At the end of the day the four of us were exhausted. We collapsed onto the sofa together with a contented sigh – and then realized we’d had a good day. Good days are hard to come by when grieving.

Cooking together was our therapy. It allowed us to work as a team, sharing laughs, concerns, and hopes, even as the kids learned kitchen skills that will last them a life time. I was extremely apprehensive about undertaking the meal, to be honest, but now I’m so glad we did. One holiday down – and many more to go. I think maybe we’ll try baking as therapy for Christmas.

What do you think about cooking as therapy? Do you enjoy working in the kitchen with family or friends? Does baking relax you? Or would you rather order the food and let someone else do the work?