A new year is moments away, and with it, a new me.
My original draft of this weekend’s column included a look back on the year 2011 in the food world, as well as a festive cocktail and appetizer. It is New Years Eve, after all. What else would a self professed Foodie write about on New Years? This year, I am going against the grain, forgoing this well traveled route.
Over the last few weeks my household has hit a series of speed bumps. The first was the death of our beloved Shih-Tzu, Caesar. He had been with our family for over 4 years, bringing more joy and good times than I thought any animal could. See, I am not a dog fan. They are loud, they shed, they smell, and they are so needy…I am not cut out to be a pet owner, but with Caesar it was different. He bounded right in to my life at just the right time and I will miss him every day. Needless to say we were unprepared. This was a hard situation to explain to our kids.
A new development was also trying to find a new caregiver for my grandmother. She, at 91 years old, is one of the most capable women I know. Strong, witty and fun to be around, her health has recently taken a nosedive. My family and I have been working together to find her a temporary living situation and decided that she will start living with my Uncle who lives nearby. We all have worked together to create for her a comfortable existence in this new location. Over the last several days, my kids and I have spent more time with her than we have in months, and it was as if her floodgates had burst open -she had so much she wanted to tell us.
She told my boys that she was so proud of what they are growing into. She spent time with each of them , alone, as they talked about school, swimming and Lego’s. I know this is something they will remember and made them feel a bit better about seeing her so immobile, all of the sudden.
Next, she spent a while chatting with her favorite family member, my husband. I think that she is of the opinion that if we won’t give her what she wants that he will sneak it in for her. Maybe that is because he does. She has always been drawn to him and that further confirms his place in my heart. I do trust her judgement, after all!
Lastly, she apparently had a prepared statement for me. Some of it was positive but as is her typical fashion, she led with the negative. She let me know that she didn’t like my hair so long, she thought I worked too much, and we didn’t vacation enough. Because she has a point there, I acquiesced to her opinion. She thought that I should take a moment to look up at the stars and see the light. Start enjoying some of the positive things around me and not focus on the task at hand all of the time.
I asked her what she meant by this. She explained that, in her opinion, as a family we had such a successful and prosperous 2011. I was still confused, as I explained that to the best of my knowledge we had not won the lottery. She went on to point out several blessings that I needed to focus on. My kids were healthy and doing well in school. My husband was also healthy, has a good and stable job in this economy and so did I. Since my surgery in January, I had a good progression in my health and that in and of itself was a reason to celebrate. I have a thriving writing ‘side-job’ that I enjoy and overall a happy family.
I’ve been so swept up in the loss of our dog, the bustle of the holiday season, and my worry for her health that I had stopped rejoicing in our good fortune. She really called me to task for doing this and I immediately saw what she meant. So for me, that moment was truly the beginning of a ‘New Year’. I needed her perspective to see what was right in front me all along, the wisdom that only a 91 year old can have.
So in honoring my grandmothers wishes, my new year and fresh perspective I decided to take this column back to the root of all foods: bread. What is more basic and fresh than that?
Hearty oats loaf is an easy bread recipe that I make often, because it doesn’t require yeast. It’s a great dinner accompaniment and it is great in the morning with a bit of real butter and fresh preserves. It is also super quick to throw together. Use any type of small, round baking pan to bake the bread in. I typically use an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan.
What a better way to ring in the new year than breaking bread together, as a family, at the table.