When I was a very little girl, one of our barn cats had kittens and I was allowed to keep one for myself. She was a calico cat—gray, white, and a little orange, but mostly gray. When my dad asked me what I wanted to name her, I said “Gravy” instead of “Gray,” and the name stuck. I don’t know how many times he retold that story, and so many others from my childhood, always with the same fondness and laughter. He was the best story teller. I wish I had every story he ever told recorded or written down.
My dad died on August 21st, 2018. He was 65. It was and still is the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. I am still trying to figure it out, still feeling like maybe I could have done something to change the outcome of those 9 horrific days in the ICU. Still feeling like maybe he will just pop out from around a corner and say, “surprise! I’m not actually dead!” Still hoping that he will haunt me. I talk to him a lot. I ask him questions and tell him how sorry I am that I couldn’t save him. I totally understand the stages of grief and how kind of crazy it makes a person feel. The most random things make me sad. I can hardly listen to music at all because every song makes me think of him. I still have the impulse to text him, especially when I’m cooking.
I’ve been struggling with writing again. I miss it and crave it, but I’ve been overthinking it and getting in my own way. Self-induced writers’ block. Writing is just so intensely personal and I’ve been afraid of it, afraid of it ripping my already broken heart apart even more. I need it though. I need to rip off the band-aid and just do it. So here I am.
My dad followed my blog. He’d send the sweetest emails after I had posted something. My Shepherd’s Pie post made him cry; He made Shepherd’s Pie a lot when I was little and I think my post made him nostalgic for days gone by. Also, I think he was overseas when I posted it so he was feeling kind of homesick. I think, actually, I know, a part of the reason I’ve been so hesitant to post again is that I know I won’t get an email from him, or from my grandpa, who was such a fan of my blog, too. I didn’t mention that my grandfather, my dad’s dad, died less than a month after my dad. We had a rough end to 2018 to put it mildly.
The night after my grandpa’s funeral, my husband and I were sitting on the couch, and I just let it all come out—tears, words, regrets, dreams, things I should be doing more of in my life—and food and writing were at the top. My father was without a doubt my biggest culinary influence, and he and my grandfather were both exceptional writers and advocates of education. Never stop learning and do what you love. It’s no wonder I have an English degree and am obsessed with food and cooking. My grandfather was so incredibly encouraging of his grandchildren (and great grandchildren). Of their educations and passions. When I was finishing my English degree, I would send him my essays and he’d give praise, criticism, and words of encouragement. I’ve never been more proud of myself than when I graduated in front of him. Then, when I started my blog, he hopped right on his iPad and subscribed. He was not particularly interested in food or cooking, but because I was, he was. If I hadn’t written in a while, you better believe he’d email me or mention it to me when he saw me. I loved it. I miss it.
So, these two wonderful men are gone, and I’m still here with the most loving, supportive man by my side and 5 beautiful kids. And with the realization that, if cooking and writing are my talents and my sources of therapy, then why the heck am I not doing more of both? Well, more writing at least. We’ve been making some great food around here, especially the past few days since we had the first significant snow of the season, and we all know how much I love snow day baking. I started making pretzels at the behest of my hungry, teenage boys. Like the delicious, buttery, shopping mall pretzels we all begged our grandmas for anytime they took us to the mall. I’m sure that wasn’t just me, right? We made a Vanilla Bundt Cake, Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies, and to satisfy the curiosity of a certain teenager, we made the same Chocolate Chunk Cookies minus the chunks. So, just a yummy, chewy, brown sugar cookie. He said it tasted, “exactly like a pancake.” Photos of some of these treats are at the bottom of my post.
What else… Oh, I made bread yesterday. I’ve been carrying on my dad’s homemade french bread tradition, using the double french loaf pan he gave me for Christmas last year. He had a matching pan, and he made bread so often. I wish I had his exact recipe, but since he did it all by feel there wasn’t really a recipe to be had. So I came up with one that is about as close to his as I can imagine and it comes out perfectly every time. I’ll share it soon, but this post is really just to say, “hi,” to you all again and to dust off these old writing bones. I’m going to start posting recipes again regularly and I look forward to your comments and feedback. If you aren’t following me on Instagram, I’d love to have you—I’ve been posting lots of yummy photos. You can find me by clicking here: instagram.com/cookonawhim.