Mothers and Daughters


Every mother-daughter relationship is unique. Complex. Some of these relationships evolve over time, if there is enough time to evolve.

My mom in Bermuda, around 1938

I looked up to her, then I didn’t. I resented that she was so strict – my friends’ moms seemed so much cooler. More permissive, certainly. By the time I got to college, I distanced myself – I could do what I wanted without her constantly looking over my shoulder. I was free to screw up as much as I wanted.

My parents on their wedding day, 1955

I asked if I could spend my junior year at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. It was a program offered by my college, and many of my friends, all of us liberal arts majors, were going. Surprisingly, my parents said okay, and off I went.

On the day after Easter that year, my father died of a massive heart attack. My mother was a widow at 50. Three daughters – my older sister just out of college, me overseas and unreachable, and my younger sister still in high school. A widow at 50. Her parents were still alive. She had two brothers, but they both had their own issues. She was forced into doing all the things her husband had always done. Lawyers, accountants. Who will mow the lawn, service the car, pay the bills?

Mom around 1987, age 58

She learned to live on her own. Eventually her daughters moved out, she moved to a condo, and loved quilting. Her membership in the Narragansett Bay Quilters’ Association gave her purpose in her newly-single life. But she missed Jack every day.

Mom doing what she loved

It was around 20 years ago that my sisters and I noticed some changes in her behavior. She had no recollection of an event that we had participated in just a couple of years earlier. My sisters and I finally got her to agree to a test, and the diagnosis was fronto-temporal dementia. How cruel! This brilliant woman, who did crossword puzzles in pen, who taught me to love language and words, who majored in mathematics at Pembroke, was slowly losing her memory and cognitive abilities. I’m grateful that we, and my husband and brother-in-law, were able to surround her with love as she passed.

I think one of the reasons our relationship was a challenge (before I grew up and it wasn’t) was that we were more alike than either of us could admit. As she became more childlike with her disease, it fell to her daughters to be the caregivers, to mother the mother. We did, all three of us. We are Joyce’s girls, always.

Yes, But Would You Eat It? “Z” is for Za’atar


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

photo of za’atar and aleppo pepper from commons.wikimedia.org

Za’atar, or زَعْتَر‎ in Arabic, is an herb and also the name of the spice mixture typically used as a condiment, which includes the herb za’atar as well as toasted sesame seeds, dried sumac, and salt, as well as thyme, oregano, and marjoram. The name za’atar alone most properly applies to hyssop, a shrub in the mint family. Some varieties of za’atar may add cumin, coriander, and fennel seed. There are so many versions, depending on the region and familial history.

Za’atar, both the herb and the condiment, is popular in Algeria, Armenia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey. It can be mixed with olive oil and spread on a pita, or mixed in with hummus, or sprinkled onto meats and vegetables. A traditional beverage in Oman is za’atar steeped in boiling water to make a herbal tea!

I’m surprised Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry za’atar in little glass jars. Maybe someday soon.

So, last time I’ll ask – would you try za’atar?

Thank you for joining me on this culinary trip around the world! I hope you learned something from these posts, and perhaps you have found one or two interesting items to try.

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Yes, But Would You Eat It? “X” is for Xanthan Gum


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

photo from flickr.com

I don’t even have to ask you if you’d eat it (even though I will), because odds are you have ingested xanthan gum. It’s in some toothpastes. It’s in some salad dressings. It’s in some wallpaper paste. Yes, xanthan gum is a plant-based food thickener. So where does it come from? Well, it’s made from bacteria that infect numerous plants. So yes, it’s plant-based. And the finished product doesn’t contain any viable bacteria.

Some studies have found that xanthan gum, when added to foods, may help lower blood sugar. It may lower cholesterol. Because it helps to bind water, it can be used for its laxative effect. It has no nutritional value.

I’ll ask it anyway – would you eat xanthan gum?

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Yes, But Would You Eat It? “W” is for Wasp Crackers


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

senbei is a Japanese rice cracker, which most of us have tried at least once. You know, the kind that come in bags or containers of snacks. Rice crackers are light and crispy. These just have the added yumminess of…wasps! The wasps that are used in the senbei are farmed especially for human consumption (that’s comforting).

I searched on Amazon to see if they were available, but couldn’t find them. Bezos let me down – I thought he sold everything. I guess you’ll just have to go to Japan (once the Coronoavirus isn’t an issue – I’m writing this post on March 2, so who knows?) to find these rice crackers.

But it still begs the question, friends – would you eat wasp crackers?

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Yes, But Would You Eat It? “V” is for Vegemite


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

photo from flickr.com

Hey, it looks like Nutella, doesn’t it? Yeah, no. Vegemite is thick and dark brown like Nutella, but the two are not at all similar. Developed in Australia in the 1920s, Vegemite is made primarily of brewers’ yeast extract (not chocolate and hazelnuts!).

It’s salty and malty, and full of glutamates, giving it a slightly beef bouillon-y flavor. A common way to eat Vegemite is on toasted bread, with a thin layer of butter underneath. It’s loaded with thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate.

And, of course, it was made famous in the early 80s by the rock group Men at Work:

So, you’re out of Nutella. Would you eat the Vegemite?

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Yes, But Would You Eat It? “U” is for Umeboshi


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

photo from commons.wikimedia.org

The Japanese umeboshi is translated into ‘salted Japanese plums.’ It actually resembles an apricot more than a plum. They’re very sour and salty, but there are some umeboshi made with honey.

Umeboshi are traditionally made by harvesting the ume fruit when ripe (around June) and packing them in barrels with salt. The salt extracts the juice from the ume. And the liquid that comes out (the ume sit in the salt for about two weeks) is then sold as a vinegar.

Umeboshi is claimed to combat fatigue and protect against aging. Bring them!

Would you eat umeboshi?

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Yes, But Would You Eat It? “T” is for Tripe


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

file from commons.wikimedia.org

Mark your calendars – World Tripe Day is celebrated on October 24.

Tripe, if you didn’t know, is the edible lining of the stomach of a farm animal, usually a cow or a sheep.

Tripe is eaten all over the world. Some of the more popular tripe dishes include Andouille from France (poached, boiled, and smoked cold tripe sausage; Callos from Spain, a tripe dish cooked with chickpeas, chorizo, and paprika; Dobrada from Portugal, made with butterbeans, carrots, and chourico; Gopchang jeongol from Korea, a spicy tripe stew; and Kirxa from Malta, a dish made from tripe stewed in curry.

If you’re interested, here’s a recipe for tripe with potatoes.

So, how about it? Would you eat tripe?

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