After my mom died — just a couple of weeks ago — I really cherished all the warm expressions from friends and relatives. There were cards, e-mails, phone calls, flowers.
And there was food.
When we got home from Chicago, exhausted, Martha brought over a big eggplant parmeggiana casserole–enough for a few nourishing and delicious dinners. (And she brought homemade madeleines for dessert too!)
Maggie and Scott sent a box of Seckel and Bosc pears from their orchard that satisfied my craving for fresh fruit.
My students gave me a big dark chocolate bar (and flowers and the sweetest card) and told me not to share it with anyone.
And Laurie drove over the mountains, bringing a box full of the last vegetables from her garden.
We tossed the chunks of squash, beets and carrots with some olive oil and salt and put it in the oven to roast to tenderness, adding some onion and garlic after the root vegetables were softened. And that was our brilliantly colored supper, so simple and warming.
All of these were comfort foods, coming as they did with so much kindness and thoughtfulness.
My sister Milly and I were reminiscing about the Old World comfort dish Mom used to make–as did, apparently, all other Jews of Eastern European extraction: Kasha Varnishkes. It’s composed of kasha (buckwheat groats), lots of onions cooked in chicken fat (or oil) and bowtie noodles. Mark Bittman has a good little article about this dish and an entertaining video on making it. Mom often made this as a vegetarian dish (using oil) and added sauteed mushrooms.
I will be making some soon.