Wednesday, September 14, 2011

REMEMBERING

The small flag we found planted in front of mom's house the morning of 9/11

For some, life is divided into pre-9/11 and post-9/11. For others, pre-Katrina and post-Katrina defines their world and dots their conversation. In my own private world, everything changed the day my brother died.




10 years since 9/11, 6 years since Katrina, just 2 years since ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, took my brother from me and tipped my world askew. Tragedy and disaster come to each of us in ways both large and small and split our life in two. Before and after are the only words we find to give expression to the pain, articulate how the sadness and loss fill our days and nights, communicate our incomprehension. As I sat and watched the families of those who died on 9/11 collapse into tears even ten years later, all that I felt bubbled up uncontrollably to the surface and I understood how they felt. The wound remains fresh and bleeding, a gaping hole filled with hurt and memories.

And we hold on even as we counsel ourselves and each other that time will heal the pain and we will move on. We revisit the memories, coax up the answers to Where were you when? and What were you doing when? We may feel guilty for letting go, feel a responsibility to those whom we lost. We analyze over and over, relive the moments before, during and after again and again, wondering if we could have, should have done things differently, helped more, been aware of the signs, taken precautions or been there to hold someone’s hand. And maybe we are simply afraid to let go, fear the forgetting. We dread the moment we forget the sound of their voice, the touch of their hand, as their laughter fades into wind and we mourn the loss of childhood memories one by one. And so we turn back and hold on in as tight a grip as possible.

August melts into September and autumn appears on the distant horizon. I wait for the magic of leaves turning to gold and ruby, the gentle kiss of the breeze cool against my skin and the dipping of the sun leaving a burning pink smear of brightness across the late afternoon sky as it does this time of year. Images of Katrina splash across my television screen for days, weeks then quickly metamorphose into billowing puffs of smoke framing streaks of silver against pale blue, searing heat orange and black to a soundtrack of fear. Leaving, now, as quickly as it arrived, reliving the past, honoring the heroes and wondering how these tragedies changed our lives. Are we stronger, more confident in our purpose, more determined to live each day to the fullest? Or are we wary of the world, feeling betrayed and confused, angry that something or someone, that our dream was taken away from us? We deplore the loss of our own wide-eyed innocence, that magical part of our life, the end of childhood.


I often think about what purpose serves a food blog and what is “permissible” to write about. Am I limited to talking only about food and restricted to discussing why I baked this dish or that cake? Pretty photos of farmer’s markets and mouthwatering images of rich desserts framed by a flawless life, laid out to perfection on a picnic table strewn with rose petals and cheer are certainly what we aim for, titillating the tastebuds and teasing the imagination, inviting each and every reader into an always-warm, cozy kitchen or out for a exciting voyage. But what do we do with the sadness and hurt, the destruction and the failure? How do we share the unsavory events of a life while passing out plates of sweets? Do we treat our readers as friends or as simply clients come to have a good time?

Should my life be an open book with all the ups and downs, the successes and failures, the dilemmas, tragedies and loss nestled in a cozy embrace with the sweet memories and happy times? Or should I portray a perfect, fairytale life where my sons are always delightful, my husband always loving, my kitchen always clean and my world always utopian? Shall we stand at the door of each and every 9/11 or those last few days of a dark and watery August and only talk of hopes and dreams, the blessings that we count every day or do we ponder the destruction, commemorate the heroic and cry over the dead? I find it incomprehensible that some can smile and look on the bright side without understanding the dark events of a lifetime. Contentment is often born of anger, happiness delivered on a bed of misery and loss. That perfect romantic dream, that ideal home and family is illusory. We are all just a little broken somewhere, and I love my friends who don’t try and hide their faults or their scars, who, like me, laugh at their own foibles and live their honesty on their sleeves.

Joy and love fill my life, touch it every day, yet that life is truly incomplete without the sadness that allows me to appreciate how wonderful the happiness is.

Michael and his dog Buster

Another photo of me and Michael

As I stood over my brother’s grave, brushed wisps of dead grass off the headstone, as I measured the footsteps between him and our father lying under a similar square of bronze, I thought about what I owe him, not only my responsibility to keep his memory alive but all that he had done for me in my life, his never-ending support and encouragement, his laughter and his jokes, his wisdom and guidance. I weep in sadness and clench my fists in anger at the injustice of it all, and know that before and after shape my every day, pepper my thoughts and color my world in shades of soothing pink to steely gray. September 15 comes but once a year yet I mourn his passing, my loss, every single day. We remember so we never forget.

August 29

September 11

September 15

The walls we build around us to keep the sadness out also keep out the joy.
- Jim Rohn




Just a few announcements:


I am flying off to the Sultanate of Oman where I have been invited by the Young Presidents' Organization to be the keynote speaker for a chapter cultural event. I will be speaking on Food & Culture.


This week, I and Life’s a Feast have been featured on Toronto Cooking. For their Spotlight on Italian Cuisine, I offer you my own take on the much-loved Torta di Ricotta with a delightful, creamy Plum-topped Ricotta Tart.


From Plate to Page has a new look! A nod and a hug to Meeta, Ilva and Jeanne along with two of the men in my life who together have created a new Plate to Page logo and website! The look has changed but the content is just as exciting: the original intensive hands-on weekend Food Writing, Styling and Photography Workshop as well as guest posts by professional food writers, food photographers and stylists, prop stylists and more offering you their look into their own fascinating world. Stay connected for all the news and updates!

43 comments:

Katrina {In Katrina's Kitchen} said...

I'm always moved after reading your posts. I can honestly say this was a thinker. I'm just sitting here thinking. While I've been affected by many things I don't truly have an "after" event. I know I will. God give me grace to not fall apart.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A beautiful post! Your blog offers food for thought, for the soul and for the stomach. A perfect combination, in my opinion.

I wish I could come to Tuscany... :-$

Cheers,

Rosa

Sarah said...

Gorgeous sentiments, Jamie. I find that putting emotions on the page not only serve as a method of healing for the writer, but also for the reader. Thank you for putting yourself and your thoughts out there!

LaDue & Crew said...

I love you Jaime. All that you write, and all that you do ;) Miss you my friend...

Elra's cooking and baking said...

I can relate to what you're feeling, as my family and I too had loss someone very dear to us. Take care, Dewi.

Joy said...

(Hugs) You always inspire, my dear. As I sit here with my tea and read this, I'm always thankful for the things you share with us on your blog. The stories and sentiments you share have so much love and joy (sometimes sadness, but always there is love) -- so much heart. I love how you have a way with words to make me pause and think. Just now the floodgates of before's and after's just opened...it's true, there are certain pivotal events and moments in our lives that change us, and hopefully in ways that make the fabric of our lives more meaningful. xoxo.

SMITH BITES said...

yes, it's been a while since i've visited this place . . . i feel as if we're all so busy trying to 'make' it, to be 'successful' that sometimes we don't have the time to nourish the friendships, the relationships we have, right now, at this moment. and i think that this is where we get caught when tragedy strikes, Jamie . . . because we only pause when we lose something dear to us . . . that seems to be when the questions come: 'did i? should i? why didn't i notice? where was i?' and suddenly, we are defined by the 'befores' and 'afters'

i'm soooo guilty of this in my own life . . . and i must admit to being sad about the relationships i've let slip through my fingers . . . am trying to do better . . . your post is a wonderful reminder of what's important.

and no, i do not believe we should only write about food, rose petals, slicked up kitchens and perfectly decorated picnic tables . . . leave those for the magazines . . . i come here, to your blog, to learn . . .

WiseMóna said...

You know the way I feel about your blog Jamie. It is yours, to do with, and write about, whatever you darn well want to. The Chef & I were in NYC two weeks after the 9/11 tragedy. I will never (ever) forget the layers of dust and the looks of death on peoples faces. It was so hard to be there but we felt we had no choice but to go and show support for a city that we love. I was not able to watch the TV anniversary specials. Lovely thought provoking post Jamie. And best of luck with your travels and P2P. I am sure it is already a rousing success!

Dianne Jacob said...

This is what we talked about in New Orleans -- what is appropriate on a food blog. And this is why I love your blog, because you ask big serous questions. I prefer it to fake perfection any day.

So sorry to read about your brother. What a huge loss.

Jamie said...

@Dianne Jacob - Yes, I picked up the thread from where we left off in New Orleans because so many of our audience responded so positively, agreeing with the thought. And I know that it is something that needs to be discussed more. And I think when I began this post I didn't expect to go there but the question basically posed itself as I got deeper into my topic of loss. Thank you...

La Table De Nana said...

I love this heartfelt, truthful.. post.The wonderful pics..
I have had before and afters..and am living a" Before this"..I was..period as I write...

I hope to have an AFTER this.. I am..

Great great post.
Thinking of you..w/ compassion~

Cake Duchess said...

I feel I get to know my friends better through reading their posts that are more revealing/real-life. Not just posts about a recipe and how amazing it was (those posts are great too). I know not everyone thinks a food blog should share non-food stories. Your feelings for your brother are beautiful and sweet. It makes me want to call my brother to come over for a coffee. xxoo

Sanjeeta kk said...

Your post brought tears in my eyes, Jamie..I come to your blog not as a client seeking happiness and sweet somethings...I come here for your thoughtful write ups, which never fails to enlighten me about Life!
I truly agree that our blogs should reflect not only the food we create but also some of those unsavory events of a life which we go through. And as a reader I keep coming here to know about more about how you face life and learn a lesson or two from you.
Love you, tight hugs.

Junglefrog said...

What a beautiful post Jamie! I love the way you can always make me think with your posts and share emotions in a way only you can. This year for us has been pretty heavy on the before and after front. I definitely think that our blogs are meant to reflect our lives both the ups and the downs.
Great news on your speaking job! Good luck!

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

That's what I admire most about you Jamie, you aren't afraid to question things and dig deep into issues and life for that matter. I think what we share on our blogs is a very personal decision. Each of us has to evaluate what we get out of the process of blogging and how much of ourselves we feel comfortable sharing in such a public manner. But there is no right or wrong answer since I think there are readers that will come for a variety of reasons not just the recipes.

Lisa said...

Beautiful post. I prefer those who show their occasional bumps and bruises, but to each his own. Maybe writing about a perfect life is partly a deep desire for a more perfect life? I wish I could write more in depth about my life, but I'm a bit restricted for the time being, and I hate it.

Congrats on all of your successes (Sultanate of Oman, wow!)

Lora said...

A deeply moving post Jamie. So beautifully written. I knew you lost your brother but I didn't know it was to ALS. My cousin has ALS. I am amazed and her strength and fortitude. And I can definitely feel a piece of my NYC soul missing after 911, especially being here on the 10 year anniversary. Those ghostly twin beams of light were both sobering and traumatic.

Jamie said...

@Lora: I am so truly sorry about your cousin. It is a horrible, horrible disease and no one deserves to suffer so. Peace.

lisa is cooking said...

So true that we know happiness better by knowing sadness. And, the wonderful thing about blogs is how personal they are. It's always a pleasure to learn about your life along with the food.

Gabi said...

Thank you Jamie for the tears and laughter and all that a heart can contain. I wept as I read this post. You write so beautifully in a way that creates true connection and I think that's truly what a food blog (or any other) is about. Blogs are not static cook book pages but are about sharing through the food we plan, prepare, style and photograph with a glimpse of each life thrown in. We could not form friendships if nothing more than a photo and a recipe appeared. I am thankful for the opportunity to connect with you and the things that touch me the most are the parts of your heart that you write about which are perfectly human and which are perfectly beautiful.
xoxox

Jayasri Ravi said...

hi Jamie, I am not a regular visitor to ur blog, I have visited in the past and loved your photos, today I was on twitter by chance I read rememberence so I came out to check out, and look I couldn't get away reading the whole thing, I am immensely sorry about your brother, how true are your words, your write up made me cry inside, as my kids are sitting in front of me and I don't want them thinking what's wrong with mum.
Best of luck to all your future endeavors, take care, as you said nothing can heal the scar in your heart..., God bless you, just few days back I was talking to my dad and saying I should do some meditating which might keep me off from my miseries, he was saying we can't erase all those thoughts the only thing you can do is block your mind you need to control and stop worrying about things, whatever it is I have to be true that your write up was like a solace to me.. love you hugs, will be visiting you often to enjoy your write ups

Jamie said...

@Jayasri: Thank you so much for visiting, staying, reading and leaving your touching comment. My heart goes out to you. I do think that if more people opened up and shared the pain it would actually help each of us get through our own tragedies. And brighter times are ahead. But don't try and forget, just try and accept it alongside all the beauty that comes into your life. Hug your children. Hugs to you!

Winnie said...

Jamie I am so sorry about your brother...ALS is such a horrible disease :( I love reading ALL your stories...happy, sad and everything in between. Thank you for sharing.

Eggs on the Roof said...

I want to read a blog that reflects the joys, tragedies, comedy and imperfections of life - you're so right Jamie. This post, as ever, radiates truth and integrity. Thank you. x

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Jamie, you write about whatever you want because we read it for you. Not just the delicious recipes but for you and your personality and luscious words! :)

Taste of Beirut said...

Moving post and one we can all relate to; I am not good at sharing personal things, especially when pain is involved so I am so glad you can do it for all of us. Enjoy your time in Oman, I hear it is a fascinating place/

Marie Lancup said...

As I read your article on love and loss, on the joy and sadness that flavours our lives, and on the very personal loss of your beloved brother, I felt moved to tears. Thank you for sharing these touching, personal thoughts, Jamie ~ be well

marie x

Nicole said...

Hi Jamie,
I have no space left in my life for fakeness and perfection. It's not realistic and it doesn't make me feel good! I prefer people who portray themselves, their lives, their cooking honestly and authentically. The good, the bad, the happy, the sad. Without that, who are we?
Glad to see it in print through your eloquent words.
Many hugs.
Nicole

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

After reading this and viewing the poignant photos I have a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach. Deeply moving.

Good luck in Oman - it's a lovely country and you'll be given a warm welcome. If your journey takes you into Dubai please do not hesitate to get in touch - you'd be given a warm welcome here too.

THE Tough Cookie said...

What a poignant post, Jamie. I think posts like these are very appropriate on a food blog. After all, as living beings we all need food to survive, we all experience love and loss. It's writers like you who express so eloquently what many of want to, but can't. You help nurture and comfort us in so many ways.

Neil | Butterfield said...

It is sad when we lose a loved one, especially if the person was still young enough to enjoy a long life. Thinking of you during this time.

howard cohen said...

Thanks for keeping your Dad and Brother's memory alive.
Barb is looking for an EASY recipe for Rosh Hashonah desert

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Fantastic and emotional post Jamie. You wear your heart on a sleeve or rather on your blog and it makes this place special. I'd rather have you tell me these stories when we next share a bed ;o). The world has changed after 9/11 - it's become tougher and people are not as open as they probably once were. However it is amazing to see how people have worked their way through this and faced the hardships after such catastrophes with such grace.

Nuts about food said...

A beautiful post, a touching way to remember your brother and all those who have passed sooner than they should have. I think a foodblog is what you make it; some people just post recipes, others open up and use it as a journal. Personally I prefer knowing the people who write the posts and it is a big factor in my loving a blog or not.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a lovely tribute to your brother Jamie. I know you must miss him terribly. I'm not good at talking about personal things on my blog. You've given me food for thought.
Sam
P.S. I've been keeping up with your travels on FB.

Shulie said...

Aww Jaime. Sorry about your brother, you and your family's loss. Being back home probably intensifies the feelings and emotions. Thinking of you. Shulie

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Great post, Jamie. We've had this discussion many times before, and yes the blogs I prefer to read are about more than just the pretty-pretty side of life. In 2 weeks time it will be 8 years since my mom died and I can't imagine a bigger before and after divide.

Jamie said...

@Jeanne @ CookSister - Funny how, after our discussions, you just mentioning it, mentioning your mom and tears well up in my eyes. xoxo

A Spoonful of Yumm said...

truly sorry for your loss jamie. almost lost my brother years ago, just glad he is ok. yes it doesn't have to be happy posts all the time, your posts always make me think. you dig deep and raise sensible questions. always good to remember loved ones ....at least you have memories :-)

Ishay said...

Hi Jamie
I won't be surprised if I've posted a comment here already, as I've read this piece a few times.
There isn't a life that is perfect, though there are blogs that would make us think it.
I think you balance the line between private and public so well. Thank you for sharing the good and the bad- I hope you feel encouraged by the love and support you receive, post writing this. To your brother's memory and to you. He must be so proud of you! A huge hug from Cape Town x

Elizabeth said...

It's the very fact that you write about everything rather than simply "look at this beautiful pie/cake/soup/placesetting" that keeps me coming back. It's these glimpses into another family's life that make me think of my own family and the sorrows and joys that we have endured together.

I suspect that we never forget the people we love most dearly. My mother, who is in her late 80s, has never stopped thinking of her twin brother who was killed in WWII. Over the years, we've heard countless happy and sad stories about him - but most of them happy. There he is in the few photos she has, frozen at the ages of 4 and 20 and yet in my mind, I see him vividly at all ages.

I applaud you that you write about the sad times as well as the happy ones and hope you will continue to do so.

Barb | Creative Culinary said...

I think each of us develop readers that in some way must be in tune to us as individuals; not just recipe generators. Withholding those moments of our lives that touch us enough to want to write them down do a disservice to both ourselves and our readers. While a food writer might lose my attention (or never get it in the first place) if their blog is filled with too many woes, I want to hear more else it's a meaningless relationship so keep doing what you do. I've known for some time just how hard hit you have been by your brother's passing; to not mention it when you are so affected would be a disservice to all those that think they know you and have a relationship with you.

I've had to think about your query; about our own moment of before and after and I'm at a loss. Maybe my own life which has been filled with too much heartache and loss has segmented them somewhere smaller where I am not so emotionally affected. I would not hope that for you but I do hope that one day, with more time, that your remembrances will be filled with memories that can make you smile and not cause you such heartache. Sending you a big hug!

bellini said...

Said so poignantly Jamie. I don't think we will ever get over the loss of those special to us whether they have lived a rich full life or are taken too soon. Their memory lives through us.

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