My Memories Cookbook for Mum – A poignant collection of precious memories and recipes for (and by) my mum. Most of the recipes are hers, or ones that I’ve adapted from her original recipes. Losing your mother creates a huge vacuum which fills up quite rapidly with feelings of immense loss and grief, so this is my attempt to remember her through her love of baking, cooking and gardening.
Coping with Bereavement
I lost my mum just over a week ago…..she didn’t wander out into the night or get lost whilst walking in the countryside, but she slipped away quite quickly and very suddenly after being admitted into hospital four months after suffering a major stroke. It was a huge shock to me and my sister, and our immediate family, we’d hoped so much that she might regain some of her independence and mobility after the stroke, and she did try so hard in the early days to achieve some of the daily tasks that all we take for granted, such as brushing her teeth and hair, but after four months she was mentally and physically exhausted and became very ill due to severe dehydration and a kidney infection. I’m still in shock and heartbroken, it’s a huge loss and especially coming so soon after my dad died.….each day dawns and progresses with new feelings of raw emotions which are brought on by smells, sounds, music, the breeze rustling through the trees, or the desire to call her up to ask a question about gardening or baking, none of which I can do anymore.
I’m technically an adult orphan now, with no living parents to support me, or talk through any problems I may have, and it feels very, very lonely. When your parents die, the last links to your childhood gradually go with them, the memories of happy Christmases, carefree picnics, jolly birthdays and being tucked up in bed with a bedtime story are still there of course, but they fade with time as you yourself get older and the time gap widens from the last conversation you had with your parents. The pain will ease as the years progress, so I’ve been told, but right now I am mourning the loss of an amazing father (just nineteen months ago) and I’m facing a gaping hole of losing an extraordinarily creative and exceptionally loving mother. Each morning I wake up and almost forget the loss, and then it hits me like a tsunami, flooding through me and over me and I feel as if I am drowning in grief. It’s hard to crawl through the day sometimes, it feels so long and empty……but, my parents would be sad to see me like this, and they would also hate the inertia I’m feeling right now as they were both very proud of what I achieved with my food and travel writing, and were hugely encouraging and supportive.
I have started to work again, although there is still the funeral to get through next week, but I need to be busy and active, it helps enormously with my feelings of loss and makes me feel just that little bit less bereft. And, as I walk out into the garden, or look up to the distant hills, I feel as if my parents are still with me, guiding me and encouraging me as if they were still here in a physical sense…..I can hear them, very clearly, both of their voices and their laughter. I can almost smell my mum’s perfume, (she wore “L’Occitane Rose et Reines”) and my dad’s citrus aftershave, it’s very powerful and heady and it soothes my aching heart. When I look in the mirror and I see them both reflected in my face – my dad’s eyes and my mum’s nose. I also see my grandmother in me too, my mum’s mother, it’s a continuation of family genes, a family legacy if you will, it’s comforting and reassuring, and it makes me feel less lonely.
Mum was an intensely private person, so I am not sharing her name here, unlike dad who was a true bon viveur, however, that’s not to say that mum didn’t love life and the good things in life, but, she liked quieter and more organic pleasures, such as gardening, flower arranging, baking, cooking, dress-making and anything related to art and crafts. She graduated from Durham Art College with a diploma in pottery and fine art, and went on to work in Royal Doulton, where she hand painted plates, and she was an extremely talented illustrator and painter. When she got married and had a family, she continued to paint and draw, selling her original art work to local craft shops and gift shops. She had a stint of making jewellery and hat boxes – there was always something she was making (or baking) when I visited her and dad at home. She was an incredibly talented and creative person who was very modest and quite shy, but yet she wasn’t afraid to voice her opinions about animal cruelty or unfairness in society – she would always stick up for the under-dog with intellect and compassion.
On entering an old country church a few days after mum died, I saw a beautiful summer flower arrangement on the stone windowsill….the flowers helped enormously as they contained some of her favourite blooms, flowers she grew herself in her own cottage garden. As I walked into the cool of this beautiful old church, the fragrance of these flowers and many more that were scattered around were a bittersweet reminder of just how creative mum had been when it came to florestry and gardening…..with one side of the flowers in the dark and the other side bathed in the summer light, it was almost like a symbol of eternal hope and a tentative start to a new life without mum in the physical sense, but with a myriad of happy memories of her to sustain me through the hard days and months ahead. And it’s memories that I am concentrating on today, as I share “My Memories Cookbook for Mum” in this post, a collection of photos and recipes from her kitchen, my kitchen and her cottage garden. Have a lovely weekend, Karen
My Memories Cookbook for Mum