Friday, August 12, 2011

A Delicious Dedication

He's gone. [And] my heart is shattered in a million pieces.

Above is a tweet I happened to see during my usual Sunday evening routine of working on the computer while watching 60 Minutes. I didn't know Jennifer Perillo very well; we had only met briefly at the Eat Write Retreat Conference early this summer so I didn't understand what she was writing about. It's weird how social media lets you track innumerable people, whether they be old friends, strangers or acquaintances and I knew she and some other members I knew from the food writing community had just attended another great conference called the Big Summer Potluck. Guess I wasn't the only one who didn't know what was going on because other tweeps inquired what that meant until Shauna Ahern (aka @GlutenFreeGirl) broke the news that Jennifer's husband passed away suddenly from a heart attack. Soon after, the outpouring of sympathy on the internet over the next few days was unavoidable even from my own little sliver of the community that I know. I can't imagine how saturated all her message-media must have become with notes expressing support and offers to help in some way, any way.

Even during such a devastating time, Jennifer responded with absolute brilliance. Late Tuesday night, she posted on her blog about something she'd been wanting to do for some time, make his favorite pie. For those who were asking what we could do, she aked us in return to make Peanut Butter Pie on Friday (today) and share it with someone you love.

While I couldn't think of a more perfect dedication from a food writer/editor/maven, I hummmed and hahhhed about the idea for a while. Speaking of love and loss, my love of cooking was lost during my own marriage, and since it ended, I've spent the past few years coping with a slight form of stage-fright whenever I start cooking anything beyond bacon and eggs. But this is about healing, right? Even though I, too, had been flung off the flying carpet of love into what felt like a never-ending free-fall, I've had to force myself to figure out how to walk on solid ground again. While I still can barely crawl in the kitchen, I decided, whatever I can do to help someone in her healing process, is simply what I must do.

Folding in whipped cream to lighten up the PB mixture
as my laughs with Veronica lightened me up.
(Photo credit: Veronica Silva)
Last night, my friend, Veronica, in town from Chile, was coming to stay with me and I thought she'd be a perfect person to share the pie with, and even better, to share the pie-making duties with. Interspersed through our laughter, were memories of those dishes I'd been holding off on making that eventually became too late: pastitsio for Tomi, who went back to Croatia to care for his sister during the Yugoslavian Wars and never came back; sloppy Joes for Eric before I stopped cooking; the final version of my "Everything Tastes Better with Bacon" Apple Pie for the patient neighbors and colleagues that helped me recipe-test for the Queen Anne Farmers Market Blue Ribbon Pie Contest before I moved out of Seattle; or that dinner I was thinking about cooking for a friend after returning from the Middle East, but now won't.

Cooking for others is notoriously one of the two most unselfish acts one undertakes. (You'll have to read Anthony Bourdain's books or use your imagination to figure out the other.) Seeing others enjoying my cooking, that I admit is a completely selfish joy. Cooking together, on another hand, can be one of the most joyous experiences -- as long as it's with the right person. Veronica was heaven-sent, no pressure, just full of fun and light.
Needless to say, it was a slight roller-coaster for me last night, and even today as I write this and taste the pie. While I may think of love and loss, I feel only love. Today, while I may not be sharing my pie with that "special someone," I am sharing it with many special someones, that bless my (almost) every day. For my roommate, my neighbors, my colleagues and friends, I love you.

I modified Jennifer's recipe a bit by subtracting half the sugar,
but adding Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on top.

If anyone ever wonders what makes me happy,
it looks something like this.


Jenni said...

That is beautiful! And that Jennie's tragedy has some small part in your getting back in the saddle in the kitchen is a wonderful thing. Another silver lining at this very sad time. :)

Daphne said...

Thanks Jenni. True, it is encouraging to remember that we can find blessings in the least expected places.

The Experimental Gourmand said...

Hi Daphne -

So great to see the pies from the other EWR11 folks! At this sad time, it is nice to see that food helps us bridge the miles.


wendy said...

Daphne -- The older I get the more I realize that life isn't easy, but I appreciate your uplifting outlook.

Mike + Desi said...

What a sweet post. Peanut butter is like gold over here (plus, my kitchen is in a closet. seriously), so I don't think I'll be able to participate, though you make it sound fun. When we get back to normal after Mike has graduated (and have a place with a decent kitchen and counter space), I'd love to make this pie. Sounds great!