I went to a lunch today for two of Mom’s friends who are celebrating their 80th birthdays. Talk turned quickly to aging and finding secrets to health and longevity.
“This is the best medicine,” said Ruth, laughing and schmoozing with her friends. She had almost stayed home but decided to push past her lethargy. “And it’s free!” said Bea, one of the birthday girls. “You should ask your doctor for happy pills,” chimed in Susie. What’s in a happy pill, I wanted to know. “Who knows,” Susie answered, “but they keep you happy!”
Even Mom got into the happy spirit. When I asked if she knew which glass was for water and which for wine, she promptly replied, “Do you hear it whining?”
While quite a few of the women complained about aches and illness, Mom is the only one who suffers from a brain dysfunction, the only one to innocently ask the same questions repeatedly, the only one who needs a care giver. These women, some of whom she’s known for more than 15 years, treat her with respect. They include her in their weekly coffee clutch and invite her to their celebrations. They know it is hard for her, but they go out of their way to make her feel comfortable.
Mom kept introducing me as her sister, and at one point referred to me in the third person. “You’re my daughter?” she asked incredulously when I tried to correct her.
Mom is their cheerleader, always saying how lovely and young they look. She bestows blessings of long life, happiness, and all good things. She gives them hugs and kisses when they meet and blows them kisses when they part. When they say something that reminds her of a song she knows, she sings for them. She may not be able to keep up with conversations happening around her, but she is intimately involved in their lives.
We met at a Moroccan restaurant and had a fabulous meal that included many salads, stuffed artichoke or couscous and meatballs, chicken with olives, grilled salmon, and ended with a birthday sparkler stuck in candied oranges.
“Eating out is what it’s all about,” said Ruth. In fact, food was one of the main topics of conversation. They had definite opinions about which restaurants were in and which to avoid. And they all enjoyed eating.
Well, who doesn’t? Especially if it’s served to you in a charming atmosphere.
It was so much fun to be included in this special lunch. When they decided they’d get together again soon, I offered to share my birthday as an excuse to celebrate. After all, I’m turning 50 this year. Gulp.
What we make at home is often of necessity lighter, less complicated fare. Here’s a Moroccan twist on a staple in Ashkenazi homes, Moroccan Tzimmes.
I first came across this recipe in Cook in Israel by Orly Ziv. It’s a beautiful cookbook that features Israeli cuisine. The stunning photos are by Katherine Martinelli who lived in Beer Sheva for a short three years.
1½ cups pumpkin cubed (about 400 grams)
3 carrots sliced
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 onion thinly sliced
½ cup cooked chick peas
½ cup dark raisins
1½ Tbsp date honey
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
As carrots and pumpkin do not take the same amount of time to cook, cook carrots and pumpkin separately in boiling water until soft. Sauté onions in a large pan. Add cooked vegetables, chick peas, raisins and spices and cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Add more water if needed. This dish is meant to be served hot, but its good cold, too.