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
Mum’s Bilberry Plate Pie and Clotted Cream
My Mum’s “Teacup Apricot and Honey Porridge”
Mum’s Cheese and Potato Pie for Family Suppers
Mum’s Scottish Morning Rolls – Baps
A Kaleidoscope of Fancies
Fancy Little Cakes & My Mum’s Cake Shop
My Mum’s Home-Made Lemon Curd
Heirloom Apple or Fruit Tart Recipe
Holiday, Piers and Baking with Mum – Fresh Blueberry Scones
Cheese, Onion and Potato Pasties
Baking with Mum and Wee Whisky Doused Hogmanay Dundee Cakes
Keep Calm and Fanny On says
Sorry to hear about your loss, it’s a very reflective time. I hope you gain some strength from the funeral, for yourself and for those around you. Your memories will remain as strong as ever, thanks for sharing them here. Take care x
Thinking of you as it is never easy to lose a loved one. Cannot say that I fully understand as not been through this yet, but my heart goes out to you and trust that the lovely memories that you have of them will keep you going through the days ahead.
I love your recipes and I hope that I will find more time in future to try them all. Keep writing and sharing with us all!
Janet Hoole says
With sympathy on your sad loss, but thank you for a lovely post with such beautiful photographs. What a wonderful tribute……..Very emotive for those of us who will forever miss their Mum.
Stuart Forster says
Thinking of you.
Merle Mosse says
Oh my dear, please accept my sincerest condolences.
As you reflected, it is scary to realise that you no longer have the safety net provided by your parents. It is so hard to know that the two people who loved you unconditionally are now no longer there to give you their support. I know that people often think they love people for their physical attributes, but what we actually love are their spiritual qualities, their kindness, their love of nature, their sense of fun and love of life etc. As these are all spiritual, they can never die but continue to be with us for as long as we live. As someone once told me when my parents died (death is but an horizon) My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Heather Brew says
Thinking of you and sending sympathy at this time of grief and great loss. Treasure the wonderful memories..Completely empathise having been through this. Can only say that time DOES heal though hard to believe right now. Blessings.
Marcia Summers says
I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your parents. You are in my thoughts and prayers!
barbara constable says
I know the pain Karen but I also know the pride of having a lovely mum. Having met your mum I can confirm what a great cook she was, oh the array of cakes she made for my pop in for a cuppa! And she was very talented which lives on in you!
A lovely tribute to her. xxxx
Susie @ foldintheflour says
Ah Karen, I’m so sorry to hear this. Having been through this when my mum died I have enormous sympathy for you and send you my heartfelt condolences. I found great comfort in honouring family traditions and cherishing memories – I felt that helped keep me close to mum. I think what you’ve done in this post is lovely, and I think it will bring you some comfort too in the days to come. It’s a cliche, I know, but I found that while time didn’t necessarily heal it brought acceptance – it just took much longer perhaps than I envisaged. With hugs and best wishes, Susie xx
Anne Stern says
Thank you for sharing a few of your Mum’s favourite things, and with time, may your memories bring you comfort and solace, darling Karen.
With much love,
annie graves says
A very moving and poignant post Karen, but also such a lovely tribute to your mum, who sounds like a wonderful person. xx
That is one incredibly touching and loving and beautiful tribute. I know how you feel, as I am sure everyone who loses Mom and Dad knows. It is a natural progression of life, but that does not help at all. It is painful, sharply painful
I consider myself lucky in that when my parents died I was already living away from Brazil for many many years – so they were not as present in the concrete sense of the word in my day to day life. But then there is the guilt, the guilt of the emigrant which is a whole other story that complicates things.
I know only time will ease your pain, and I know you will soon have only warm memories with you, the sharp pain will subside… but until then, surround yourself with friends and loved ones, and let them help you through…
As I read your post today tears filled my eyes. You touched me with your warm heartfelt writing today. You see, I too I’m a adult orphan. I still smell things that remind me of my mom. I open a china cabinet that was hers and the fragrance of the potpourri she used still lingers in the wood. Or, I hear a song that reminds me of my dad. I feared that one day I forget what they looked like or things about them, but I was incorrect. For me it just gets stronger as time passes. Reading your post was one of those things that made me remember. Grieving in my mind is a very important thing.
Janet McClumpha says
I too am an adult orphan and have been for a long time. I always remember one if my Dad’s cousins saying at Mum’s funeral, you are the head of the family now. It does get easier and we have our memories. Trite but true. My problem is that my twin sisters are nine years younger than me and I have memories that they don’t and arevinable to talk about.
So sad, but try to enjoy all the fantastic memories and be happy in the knowledge that you had such wonderful parents. They will always be with you in one way or another, and their absence will become less raw as time goes on. I hope the funeral is not too painful and that it gives you a chance to spend time with lots of other people who share happy memories of your parents.
Such beautifully emotive words Karen. These recipes are such a precious legacy, thank you for sharing them. My thoughts are with you.
My condolences! I too am a orphan of parents who are in heaven. It takes a long time to grieve, but day by day, you will become stronger…
johanna @ green gourmet giraffe says
Condolences Karen. I am so sorry to hear of your mother and your father dying so close together. What a lot of grief for you to go through. (I once read someone say you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you must go through grief and it took me a long time to understand this.) It is so lovely that you have all your beautiful posts to remember your mother, as well as lots of wonderful memories. Warm wishes for the funeral and the months ahead of adjusting to life without your parents. I am sure you will do them proud!
What a beautiful post and tribute to your mother. I have my mother staying for a short time while we sort suitable accommodation for her. We lost my father in early June and she will not be able to cope on her own in the house. We have been sorting and putting boxes of photos into albums with her and crying/laughing over many memories. The first weeks were full on with so many things to organise and that helped us all cope but I am finding it harder now I am less occupied.
Your food photos brought back memories for me of seeing the trugs of bilberries in the greengrocers. Where have they gone? My mum used to make cheese and onion plate pie and something we called cow pie but was really meat and potato pie that she made in a ceramic mixing bowl.
Losing your mother is such a hard thing to go through. Keep strong and be kind to yourself. Will be thinking of you.
Anita-Clare Field says
Karen, this is magnificent. It is a beautiful tribute to your lovely Mama, however, you also describe what it feels like to lose your Mama and to become an orphan with such raw emotion and accuracy. I read this yesterday morning in floods of tears. Tears for you, you, your family and that indescribable pain you are all in. For our parents and the pain we still feel at their loss and for my many (5) friends going through the same thing. It’s the last club in the world you want to be a part of. You are incredibly brave to share this and I thank you for it. I am sure this wonderful piece would help lots of people feeling the same way. Bless you, be kind to yourself and breathe xxx
Karen Burns-Booth says
I’ve just popped over today to read all of the comments and I want to say how overwhelmed I am at all your kindness and support, along with many wise words.
I’m very busy organising the funeral with my sister, but I will be back to reply to each comment individually, (after the funeral) as your words, sympathy and empathy have truly helped me through a very dark and sad time of my life.
THANK YOU ALL.
I am so sorry for your loss. Your mum truly does live on in you. You have such special memories, thank you so much for sharing this with us all. I hope it helps you through this sad time, it has certainly helped me even though I lost my mum 10 years ago. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
Kate Milne says
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of both your parents. My heard breaks for you. I am so lucky that I still have both mine but I know there will come a time that won’t be the case and it will be unbearable. I guess all you can do is just take one day at a time, recognise that you need to grieve, don’t be too hard on yourself and be kind to yourself. Your words are beautiful and are a real tribute to your Mum and dad. Always remember them in your heart and hopefully that will make the loss easier to bear. Sending you love and hugs at this sad time
Elinor Hill says
Such lovely memories of your mum. Smells and sounds taking you back to happy moments. Grieve is brutal isn’t it but I hope you can allow yourself time to reflect on all those wonderful memories and smile/cry/smile. Much love x
I am so sorry to hear about your losing your mum. I can relate to every single feeling you express and remember the tsunami effect very well. Even though it is many years since my mum died I miss her every day and still get the occasional ripple of grief which knocks me for six. It does get easier; most of the time I can think of her with a cheerful fondness and many of my memories are connected with food and her love of baking. Your cookbook is a lovely idea and will connect you with your mum for ever, helping to ease the feelings of pain and loss as time passes by. It will get better, not because you forget but because you remember with love.