Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.

Even Lava Cools Eventually


Photo credit: Nick Selway and CJ Kale (Caters News Agency)

Photo credit: Nick Selway and CJ Kale (Caters News Agency)

Last night I had this image of grief as a molten, bubbling, red-hot river of volcanic lava, unceremoniously destroying everything in its path and reshaping the landscape underneath. The image came to me as I was eating dinner and thinking about my relationship to food, and specifically the kitchen, in the last few years.

In my single days I used to cook for myself and have people over for dinner on a regular basis. When Kaz and I started dating, I cooked many meals (as any woman who’s good in the kitchen would). Cooking for him felt different than cooking for friends. It felt romantic and at the same time a bit old-fashioned. I would often think of my mother, who did most of the cooking in our family and was great at it. Kaz was an old school type of man. He loved both eating the food and watching me prepare it. Part of our courtship happened in the kitchen.

Once he became sick, he asked me to be in charge of his nutrition. I remember him coming home one night with some Cancer cookbooks and handing them to me. My job as “resident cook” had become official, and I took it very seriously making shitaki mushroom burgers, sweet potato soup, ginger lemonade iced tea, homemade granola with flaxseed, blueberry pancakes, apple pie, carrot cake, oatmeal cookies, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, and more.

One of the more painful aspects of his illness was how it affected his appetite and ability to taste things. At a certain point, he started asking me to order out instead of spending time in the kitchen away from him. Towards the end his appetite became a barometer of how he was feeling, of how close the end really was. I tried every which way to get him to keep eating, even though the hospice literature said not to. I couldn’t help it. Eating was a sign of life.

After he died, I lost my own appetite for a while. Food was just this stuff that I put into my mouth. There was no real pleasure in it. Then the appetite came back, but not the joy of cooking. I actually threw out most of the pots and pans (the cheap non-stick kind), thinking I would get new ones (iron or stainless steel). The trouble is I never got around to it, which left me with one small pot, a baking dish, and a cookie sheet.

Even if I had pots and pans, it wouldn’t have made a difference. I had lost the motivation, the energy. Cooking seemed pointless. Iwould only buy pre-made food, became an expert at heating things up, and would eat while watching television in the living room. I used to wonder if I would ever enjoy cooking or care about my own nutrition again.

Lately, I’ve started caring. Last week I made my granola for the first time. Some of it burned (the smoke detector went off), but not all of it. I also forgot how much granola the recipe produces. I now have a bucket’s worth of granola to eat for the next few months.

Last night I cooked myself an entire meal of baked tilapia with pine nuts, lentils, and green bean salad. The smoke detector went off again, but the fish didn’t burn. I sat down to eat at the dining room table complete with one lit candle and a glass of water (second week night without alcohol).  Instead of wolfing the food down, I ate slowly and savored each bite. I haven’t tasted my own cooking in over two years. It felt like being home again.

Cooking a meal and sitting down to eat it is something most people probably do on a daily basis without even thinking about it. For me, it was a moment, a sign of healing. I’m a long way off from having dinner parties, and I have yet to get through a meal without the smoke detector going off, but I trust these things will happen in time. Hopefully, faster than it takes lava to cool.

Author: nivaladiva

Freelance writer and independent filmmaker.

26 thoughts on “Even Lava Cools Eventually

  1. So true, in so many ways. I don’t think I’ve cooked more than 3 meals in the last 10 months; it’s mostly ice cream or frozen foods, or eating out. Food is love and caring and sharing and when that person goes away it’s really hard to rebalance (though somehow I’ve managed to pack on a few pounds.)

    Loved your lava metaphor; it works on so many levels. I’m glad that you can start exploring the new terrain.

    • Yes, it feels like a life-long quest for rebalance. I also got some Ben & Jerry’s last night. 🙂

      • I’ve been working on a post on how I instead of becoming waif-like and frail my grief was making me chunky and chubby – and how much less socially acceptable that is. Adding to that is living in Wi – with beer, cheese and ice cream readily available.

      • It makes sense, right? Comfort food while grieving. Our relationship with food is very emotional. I lost weight in the first couple of months, but have ballooned ever since. I look forward to reading your post.

  2. I can understand this except my diet has become more like his which is bad. Real bad. 😉

      • Well, my friend was a bachelor. We were a couple, but then we were not. I still worked for him and lived next door. My kids knew him for over 12 years. Anyhoo, he had a terrible diet. He are out a lot. And a lot of junk. Since he died, I have run the business. My hours are long and I have not much time to workout. If ever. My diet has gone to pot. I so not eat Big Macs but my lunch is crackers in my car while driving. I cook for my boys. Very well, very healthy. But for me – I have no desire or energy.

      • I was there not too long ago. It’s so hard to find that motivation again. You will eventually, but it takes time. I hope you can treat yourself to a good meal soon.

  3. Feel free to send me some of that excess granola!

    I loved this post. When my first husband walked out after barely 2 years of marriage — at 10pm on a Wednesday night — I could not put food in my mouth for a week. I lost a ton of weight and looked amazing, but could barely walk and cooking was unimaginable.

    I love cooking and eating, and my second hubby is never happier than when I am cooking a good meal for us both.

    I’m really glad you are able to start enjoying food again. You’ve been through hell.

    • I’d be happy to send you some granola! 🙂 I’ve been enjoying food (a little too much) but in restaurants. It’s nice to enjoy it at home again, creating something delicious and healthy from scratch.

      btw, you said a while back that you don’t feel the least bit inspiring, but I find your return to love and happiness after your divorce very inspiring indeed, as well as your career. Any woman who goes camping alone is badass in my book.

      • Yay! Feel free to email me again and I’ll send you my address. That would be so nice!

        It’s funny how this camping alone thing seems impressive. I was freaking surrounded by other people so the whole thing felt very soft to me.

        Finding a new love was a huge huge relief. I can’t imagine losing him, and yet you lost Kaz and here you are, kicking butt and taking names — and cooking!

  4. This sounds wonderful ” an entire meal of baked tilapia with pine nuts, lentils, and green bean salad.” I completely get it and how strong you must be!! Plus two weeks without alcohol. Bravo !!

    PS: Have you ever oven roasted the pine nuts until they are a rich brown? Yum!

  5. It’s great to hear you’re ‘on the mend’ – sort of, anyway. Plenty of time to get into cooking again.

  6. This was really a very moving post! It reminds me once more that it is the fundamental things in life that really resonate and the thought of you sitting down with good healthy food was a very clear metaphor for nurturing your soul and giving yourself the care that was perhaps exhausted on your journey with your late husband.

    Being gentle with each other, and with ourselves, brings the tears; it opens the heart and lets the emotions breathe.

    Good for you.

  7. What a HUGE milestone – not only the eating, but the “remembering” how to cook, and why. I’m so very sorry that you have to reach this kind of milestone, but I am glad that you’re reaching it.

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