Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cooking as Grief Therapy

Cooking is good grief therapy, I have discovered. For most of the week my grandmother has laid at the University Hospital. The first day I visited, the doctor checked in. Holding Grandma’s wrist, she asked conversationally, “And how are you doing today?”
“I’m dying,” Grandma said matter-of-factly, with only a hint of irony in her voice. The doctor quickly moved on to the business of keeping her comfortable.  Yet, how I love the way Grandma embraced the reality of her passing. Common sense, pragmatism and surprising good humour were her strengths in life.

In my first memory of her, she is descending from the Greyhound bus that had meandered its way from Edmonton to the Crowsnest Pass, stopping at most of the postal codes in between.  Instead of a scowl one would expect to see on one disembarking from this terrible trip, she wore a huge grin. “I got the seniors rate!” she said, terribly pleased with herself.

I’m sure she was happy to see her progeny. But she was possibly more thrilled at her deal. In fact, sometimes as I spring-clean my closets, and under the bed, and the downstairs ‘storage room’, I curse the bargain-lover in me. I have Grandma to thank for that trait. (Mostly its a blessing... ask me on any given day what I am wearing that is second hand and I’ll happily tell you what, where I bought it AND ESPECIALLY how much I bought it for. This trait is one shared by many of my maternal family. At any given reunion, compliment an aunt on her blouse, shoes, or purse and she will not thank you for the compliment but gleefully report how much she paid for it. Usually if its over $5 you can’t brag about it.)

After my husband and I moved into our first apartment, we invited my grandparents over for supper. I served Greek salad as a starter. We munched quietly away until Grandma bit into her first yellow pepper. “What is this delicious thing?” she asked. Never had she tried a yellow pepper. The more affordable green ones, she knew, but yellow peppers were a decadence that she hadn’t indulged!  I loved this about her. She remembered a time when expensive food and out-of-season treats were not an option. So she appreciated these foods in a way I can’t due to my laissez-faire approach (at best) and sense of entitlement (at worst).

She was someone who lived out the values of the type of Homesteaders that I respect so much. She lived conscientiously. Not only was she thoughtful about her finances and valued recycling over new, she was careful about her relationships too. She was committed to her community and dedicated her life to her family, church, neighbourhood.  She was creative about how to make resources stretch and she cheerfully dropped her agenda for the sake of other’s emergencies.  

On Monday morning, Grandma passed away. I made this pie in memory of her. It, as did she, made me feel warm and comfortable.

Squash, Leek and Corn Pie with Garlic Cheese Sauce
1. Heat oven to 350.
2. Thaw or prepare pie shell for two pies.
3. Cook and cool one medium sized Buttercup or Butternut squash (I cut it in half and place face down in roasting pan in oven at 350. Put a little water in bottom of pan to steam. It’s finished when edible parts feel soft). Remove pulp, seeds and skin. Mash squash.
4. In olive oil, fry 2-3 leeks (white and light green parts) and 3-5 minced garlic bulbs until slightly browned (about 5 minutes).

5. Add squash to pan plus: 2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 2 cups Corn (frozen or fresh), 2 – 4 Tablespoons Pesto (or herb mix), Salt and Pepper to taste.  Mix together.

6. Place mixture in pie shell and cover with top shell. Cook for 1 hour or until crust is golden.
7. Whisk following ingredients in saucepan 5 minutes before serving pie. Stir until thickened.
- 2 T melted butter, 2 T flour, 1 C milk, 1 C cheese, 1 – 3 t garlic powder (to taste)
8. Makes two pies. Serve pie hot with garlic cheese sauce drizzled on top.


Anonymous said...

I was definitely against the idea of squash pie when it was suggested as Monday lunch... I ended up eating two pieces.

Katy Splane said...

Anonymous?! I'm not ashamed! That pie was ridiculously good. Here's to Eileen.