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My Mom, the Family Chef

I was thinking today about which recipe I wanted to post, but was having a hard time trying to decide - mostly because my mom had to make a very hard decision today. My mom has cancer. She’s been battling lung cancer for quite some time now. They first discovered it when she went in for her double-bypass. They thought they got it all, but during a follow-up visit to see if her heart was okay, they saw that her lung was not. They took a third of her lung after that. We thought we were in the clear. Mom got pretty healthy after that - healthy for a woman in her 70s, that is.

Well, about 13-14 months ago we got bad news. Mom’s lung cancer was back and it was back with a vengance. Not only was it in her lung, but it had moved on to her liver. Inoperable was what we heard. Let’s try chemotherapy. Let’s see if we can lengthen her life by reducing the tumors. Here we are, today, and Mom made the decision to agree to Hospice care. I can’t imagine making that kind of decision - it was hard enough being there to support her while she made that decision herself. Now it’s all about treating pain and the person - not the disease. All about gaining closure on the things that happen at the end of a person’s life.

My mom. She’s endured so much - many failed rounds of chemo, runs to the hospital, doctor appointments, meds. I see a woman who has been so strong the majority of my life now a mere shadow of what she had been. Walking is challenging - shoot, standing up is. She can’t eat - she’s down to 94 pounds. I know she’s in a lot of pain. Hospice will be good for both her and Dad. If Mom makes it to April 2, they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

I think back to growing up as the baby of the family. As is the case in most families, celebrations always centered around food. My parents had the opportunity to see so many things while my dad served in the Air Force - their tours took them to multiple bases in the US as well as bases in Germany and Spain. Mom has some of the best recipes from both Spain and Germany. Dad also brought back recipes from his tours in Thailand. I grew up in a house where cooking and meals were important. We always sat down to dinner together, no matter what was going on. Mom has shared stories of me, barely old enough to walk by myself wanting to help in the kitchen. Okay, maybe it was the batter on the spatula that called me, but I was in there, learning what Mom knows.

Without my mom’s influence, I would not have learned the "art" of cooking. She has taught me about how to make gravy, how to can tomatoes, how to make pasties, the importance of garlic and the clear impression that Jasmine rice is the best rice in the world. There are recipes that have been in our family for years that I will be able to pass down to my girl - and she’ll know that they came from her Nannie. These are the things I think I’ve taken for granted. Now that I know her time with us is limited, all of a sudden they are so important to me. I also think about the things I need to learn from my dad - like his secret Thai pepper steak sauce and that recipe for Carne Asada.

I want Mom to be comfortable, and to spend this time with our children, her grandkids, and reflect on the amazing life she has lived. Not too many people now can say that they lived through the Depression, multiple wars, life with no electricity to computers and convection ovens. I treasure the time I’ve had with her and only hope I can teach my daughter half of what she has taught me.