This week marks the 5th anniversary of my blog, The Lost Kitchen, which features the ups and downs of caring for my mom who has Alzheimer’s.
Mom was diagnosed eight years ago. And the blog was created a few years later as a platform from which to publicize a book I had started writing back then with my dad, The Man’s Emergency Cookbook. That’s what we wanted to call it, a humorous nod to all the men out there who had to learn to cook because their situations had changed drastically due to unforeseen circumstances. I wanted a way to work through all the emotions I was feeling while taking care of Mom, but that narrow-themed title could not tell the whole story.
The book has taken many turns, growing ever larger as my experiences piled up and began to sort themselves into categories and chapters. Many rewrites and rejections later, the book is being published this spring by Black Opal Books. Its title, The Lost Kitchen: Reflections and Recipes from an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, encompasses a combination of poetry, prose and recipes I use to tell our story.
We’ve been on this journey for a while now. The Lost Kitchen reveals the early part of that journey, those years that I spent traveling once a week—sometimes more—to take care of Mom in her home in Netanya, Israel. Each week was an act of discovery, because no amount of preparation could have equipped me for the crazy antics and situations that Alzheimer’s threw our way.
The main lesson I have learned is that Mom is still the woman who gave birth to me even though she seems to be the polar opposite of who she once was. Where she was once joyous and self-assured, today she is often grumpy and doubtful. Nonetheless, it is my obligation to continue to treat her with respect, to love her unconditionally, and to find the joy in each moment we have to spend together.
This is certainly not a path I would have chosen. Illness does that. It sets you on a trail that you must adopt and adapt to as quickly as possible. You must use all your skills to navigate and live as normal a life as you can, somehow finding balance in your actions.
And yet, here we are. It is with both pride and humility that I am able to share my thoughts and feelings about this disease with others who know my mom or who are on similar journeys. The Lost Kitchen is a tribute to my mother in all her glory. She is still my teacher, even in her reduced state, showing me again and again that life is too short to hold grudges or be angry. Love and compassion should be our guides in everything we do, especially how we treat others.
I don’t have information yet about how to order the book, but that’s coming soon. Keep reading! Your comments are well appreciated. They make me feel less alone on this most singular of journeys.
What I love about minestrone soup is that there is no set recipe. Use what you have on hand, add or subtract ingredients depending on your tastes. For this recipe, I’ve used barley instead of the more traditional noodles, and as I had fresh basil and parsley in my fridge, I used those, too, plus about ½ cup of baby spinach leaves that were orphaned from another dish. The end result was an aromatic, scrumptious and chunky all-in-one meal.
This might seem like a lot of ingredients for one soup, but it is worth taking the time to include them all. I start by creating a space on the counter where I can cut and chop all the vegetables and store them in separate containers until it's their time to be plunged into the pot. Then, when all the vegetables are washed and peeled, I go to work. This makes making the actual soup a breeze!
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 large squash, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
½-1 cup spinach leaves
1 330 gr / 12 oz can white beans
1 800 gr / 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
3-4 cups water
1/2 cup barley
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/8 cup basil, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onions and garlic in a large pot in olive oil. When onions begin to brown, add carrots and celery. Cook about three minutes, then add squash, mushroom, and chopped tomatoes. Add beans and barley and the additional water. Spice according to taste with basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to boil then simmer for up to 1 hour or until barley is cooked. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
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