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Archive for October, 2011

Dinner for one

I have recently resolved to eat healthier… to stop ordering pizza or throwing a frozen dinner in the microwave and start cooking. To that end, I visited a farmer’s market last weekend and picked up a bunch of tasty looking produce, most of which spoiled in the vegetable crisper before I remembered it was there. Today I looked through a stack of recipes, wrote a detailed grocery list and headed off to the store. I had a particular chicken recipe in mind for dinner, but I couldn’t find one ingredient (fresh tarragon) at the market. So I stopped at the seafood counter and bought a salmon fillet.

I have never attempted to cook salmon. I rarely cook at all. My husband was the cook of our household and salmon was his specialty. We had it several times a month, either grilled or pan fried, usually served with Japanese rice and fresh broccoli or green beans. Since he died a year and a half ago, I’ve only ordered salmon in restaurants a handful of times – and I’ve usually been disappointed. But how hard can it be, really? I’ve watched my husband make it dozens of times.

I start with the green beans, which I intended to steam until I realized that the only pan large enough is missing a lid. Oh well, boiled will be fine, right? I cheat a little on the rice, using a microwave-in-bag jasmine rice from Trader Joe’s. Nonstick skillet, a little olive oil, high heat… in goes the salmon.  I realize I have no idea how he used to season it. I settle for salt and pepper. While it’s searing, I open a bottle of pinot grigio. The rice is done. I taste the green beans and they’re a little tough, so I leave them in a little longer. The salmon smells heavenly and is beautifully crisp on both sides, but when I cut the fillet in the middle it’s still deep red, too raw for my taste. I turn down the heat and give it a little more time. I drink some of the wine.

By the time I decide the salmon is done, I’ve overcooked the green beans and they’re tasteless compared to the way hubby made them, stir fried with mysterious seasonings.  I force myself to take a large helping, because I need to eat more vegetables and not fill up on starches, and I douse them liberally with butter and salt. The rice, of course, is perfect. Not even I could screw up microwave rice in a bag. The salmon… well, it’s not my husband’s salmon, but it’s not bad.  It’s crunchy on the outside and flaky inside. If only I could figure out how he used to season it…

Maybe I really can learn to do this for myself.

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Apologies for the lengthy radio silence. The physical recovery from surgery was slower than I had anticipated, and being in pain and largely helpless sent me spiraling into depression. Not the kind of intense, soul crushing despair that I felt in the first months after my husband’s suicide, the kind of pain that demands to be expressed and released… just a flat, gray, muted feeling as if all the color had been leeched out of my life. I lost interest in everything for a while, and I lost any desire to try and express myself. I just lay around reading and watching TV and waiting to heal.

Once I was well enough to drive again and go back to therapy, I started to understand that the “time out” caused by the surgery was important for my emotional and psychological healing as well. I’d been keeping myself busy and distracted to keep loneliness at bay and avoid thinking too much. The weeks at home alone recuperating were hard, but they were a necessary step in processing and moving through my grief.

Slowly, I started to climb out of the hole. In the past week I’ve emerged once again into the sunshine. I’m back at work part-time, getting out and spending time with friends, and (at my therapist’s suggestion) making it a point to do at least one thing every day that makes me feel good. Yesterday that thing was a walk in the park at sunset, watching the clouds turn deep pink and the gift of a brilliant rainbow in the sky. Today it was wandering through the new farmer’s market in my neighborhood, sampling tasty food and carefully selecting some fresh produce.

I’m still lonely and I’m still hurting, but at least I’m feeling it. And I’m feeling other things again, like an impulse to sing along to the car radio. As I focus on appreciating the little things, I’m coming back to life.

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