Theresa is the first wife of my ex-husband.
But for years I didn’t realize that because I was married to my then husband, and his characterizations may not have been completely accurate because pesky emotion was involved.
I should have known better because the son she and my ex had together is absolutely wonderful. You don’t turn out that great if there isn’t someone molding you, and the master molder was Theresa. We only got Brandon a few weekends a month, so we were assistant molders. And I have to say, that my ex was a good dad to Brandon. He loved him completely, Brandon knew it, and that makes a big difference.
But now that my ex is my ex, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Theresa much better. It all started around the time I was getting divorced. I had the massive realization that there were going to be stories out there about me that might be one-sided, colored by emotion and, therefore possibly, not completely true.
I realized then, that for decades, I’d only been getting half the story about her and their relationship. Much of it was factual, but much was colored by emotion, and we all know emotion is a lousy gauge for accuracy.
As my grandfather Bernardo once said, “You gotta eat a sack of salt with someone before you really know him/her.” It’s so true. You only sprinkle a little salt when you eat, so it takes quite a while to get through a good sized sack of salt and that’s how long it takes to truly know someone.
Sometimes people can fool you, but most of the time, you see pretty quickly what people are about.
So, I wrote to her on Facebook because she was nice enough to friend me after the divorce. I told her I was sorry if I ever misjudged her, but if I did, it was because I was only getting half the story. I also told her I respected her for being a fantastic mom to Brandon. And I meant every word of it. She was in her early 20’s when he was born. (I would have been a hideous mom at that age!)
I didn’t plan to go on so long about this, because it’s becoming more a story about exes than the yummy garlic spread recipe Theresa shared with me, but it’s a story about how to deal with divorce, and it starts with love.
I knew two things when I first got involved with my ex:
#1. I loved my mom more than anything and would have happily strangled anyone who said anything bad about her.
#2. I knew Brandon loved his mom, so I did my best to always let him know I totally understood and supported him in that love, because I loved my mom too. And I’m sure Theresa did the same for me. Feeling that love and understanding it, makes you much more compassionate.
You never score points with a kid by badmouthing their parent. That lesson came in handy years later when I was getting divorced. God knows it’s hard not to say what you’d like to when you’ve been hurt. But it lessens you, and it hurts your kids who are one half the “other” parent. Of course I’ve slipped, no one’s perfect, but I think my kids have always known that my intention was never to harm their relationship with their dad.
Take that little bit of wisdom to heart, divorced parents. I’ve lived it and I know it’s true.
Now, back to Theresa. Our first meeting without other family members around was a lunch a few years ago. She was visiting family about a half hour away and drove down to meet me for lunch.
The second time we got together alone, she was driving down to see my ex’s mom, Lois, who was very ill. We’d both been wanting to see her and were always told by our mutual ex, that it was a bad time, so she asserted herself and said, “I’m going. You’re welcome to come if you want to Fran.” I did want to go, so she picked me up and off we went.
It’s about a two hour drive to San Diego and back. Turned out, it wasn’t a bad time to visit. Lois was happy to see us and perked right up. And we were so glad we went because she passed away a couple weeks later. Theresa and I talked the entire way there and back. And my suspicions were confirmed, she is totally cool, which explains at least half, or more, of Brandon’s wonderfulness.
But what inspired this blog is that our first meeting, was at Zankou Chicken. We talked nonstop then too.
Zankou Chicken appears to only have locations in Southern California, but I think it’s worth a trip here, it’s that good. The first time my father tasted it, he took a bite, chewed, then looked up at me with a glee I rarely saw him exhibit, and said, “Holy hell, this is good! His eyes opened wider and he said, “This is the best chicken I’ve ever had!”
After years of my mom’s cooking, he knew good food.
I’m not sure what they put on the outside of their rotisserie chickens, it could be toum, a garlicky paste, but their chicken turns out incredibly flavorful with a slightly salty, almost sticky skin you’re helpless to resist, even if you’re not a chicken skin fan. But the crowning glory is the small pot of creamy, white, garlicky spread, they serve with it. We used to call “Garlic Goo,” before we learned its real name is toum. Toum apparently means garlic in Lebanese.
It’s amazing! And Theresa, who has a reputation for being a fabulous cook, just whipped up a batch. She was kind enough to send me the recipe and I’m passing it on to you. This recipe makes a lot, but maybe you can invite your husband or wife’s ex over to help you eat it. It’s great on chicken, but is probably good on anything!
Because I have been running myself ragged trying to get all things done, I did not have time to make toum tonight to test out Theresa’s recipe. But I totally trust her and you will definitely become addicted to it. It doesn’t look that appetizing, but wait until you taste it!
Toum, by Theresa Lobue
1 cup peeled garlic gloves
4 cups grapeseed oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice 1 to 2 lemons
MaryMay 13, 2017 at 2:12 pm
I’d love to taste some of that chicken! Happy Mother’s Day to you guys, . . . and everyone!
Fran TunnoMay 14, 2017 at 9:32 am
It is really good. I must figure out how they do it. Maybe I’ll invest in a rotisserie! But the garlic sauce definitely helps, it makes everything better!
Debbie SternMay 12, 2017 at 10:51 pm
You’re a phenomenal writer! Loved this. 💚
Sent from my iPhone
Fran TunnoMay 14, 2017 at 9:31 am
Awww, thank you Deb! That was so sweet. Happy Mother’s Day to you too, since you are a mother to every child you’ve taught. xoxo
lafridayMay 12, 2017 at 12:53 pm
Love this post, Fran. As a first wife who later befriended the second wife once she became an ex, I know firsthand the twists and turns of assumptions vs. reality. You’re right: great kids don’t begot themselves. Here’s to all the ex-wives who’ve learned to be friends and to ALL the mother’s who raise great kids and contribute to the raising of those they love through marriage (and divorce).
Fran TunnoMay 14, 2017 at 9:30 am
Oh Linda, you don’t just talk the talk, you walk the walk. I have heard so many stories from you that confirm that over and over again. Your kindness toward all the women in your ex’s life is truly extraordinary. Happy Mother’s Day to you! You richly deserve a fabulous one!
lafridayMay 15, 2017 at 11:47 am
Thanks for the graciousness dearest Fran, but my last post belies your sentiment. When pushed, I CAN push back. <3
TheresaMay 12, 2017 at 9:15 am
You are the most dear person. I love you. Your words always warm my heart. This blog post was very special. Laughter abounds when we get together.
Brandon loves you and your cooking nearly as much as mine. He was and is always diplomatic. I asked once if he preferred your cooking over mine, there may have been a little rivalry going on unbeknownst to Fran, Brandon delicately said after a moment of thoughtful consideration, “I like Fran’s meats and your sauces”. Fran is definitely a better baker and I think we could cook together with gusto.
Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for being such a great mom to Brandon. He loves you and the siblings you birthed. I love them too! You are a great mom!
Fran TunnoMay 14, 2017 at 9:26 am
Brandon is definitely a diplomat and the biggest sweetheart ever. Has been since he was six. My mother actually asked him who he liked better, his mom or his dad (tact was clearly not her forte) and he paused a moment, smiled and said, “I like them both.” You gotta love that kid! Thank you for the sweet comment. I hope you are enjoying a wonderful Mother’s Day. You deserve it!
Irene RoachMay 12, 2017 at 9:15 am
Great to read another heart warming experience of yours Fran. Thank you for the Toum recipe!
Fran TunnoMay 14, 2017 at 9:23 am
Thank you Irene. It’s so nice to see people reading and connecting with me, even though we don’t get to see each other like we did in the PTA days! Let me know if you try it, I think I may try it today if I have the time!
NicolMay 12, 2017 at 6:47 am
Wonderful post, Fran. I have also enjoyed hearing about your friendship with Theresa. It is always great to hear about people who find a way to break through the ‘noise’ and actually get to know one another. The fact you trust her so much you publish her recipe before trying it yourself is a huge endorsement 🙂 🙂 yay for good women and garlic!
Fran TunnoMay 14, 2017 at 9:21 am
Nicol, I tell you you rock so often that readers are probably sick of it, but it’s true! Thank you for always reading and supporting me in whatever endeavors I am pursuing. xoxox
margaz2013May 12, 2017 at 6:45 am
Well, my remodeled kitchen is nearing completion, so I will have to try this recipe. It is always a warm feeling whenever I read your blog! I love your stories. Happy Mother’s Day, Fran!
Fran TunnoMay 14, 2017 at 9:19 am
Awww Marianne, you are so sweet. I’m so glad you enjoy my blogs. And thank you for being such a loyal reader, even if I’m a little spotty getting them out as regularly as I used to! I am so happy for you. There is nothing better than having a new kitchen to spread out and cook in. Truly, it’s wonderful, so enjoy!
Donna TunnoMay 12, 2017 at 4:18 am
I don’t know how to edit my comment, so please remove the comma after “her” and replace it with a period. Thank you.
Donna TunnoMay 12, 2017 at 4:17 am
A very nice tribute to Theresa …and garlic! I enjoyed hearing about Theresa through the years as you got to know each other, you always spoke highly of her. Two things – your ex sure picks good women, and Lebanese cooking with fresh garlic and lemons is a good thing!
Fran TunnoMay 14, 2017 at 9:16 am
My ex DOES pick good women! His current wife is pretty awesome too and a great step-mom to my kids, so I’m grateful for her too. Yes, to good women, and Lebanese cooking! And I edited your comment, so the grammarians of the world will have nothing to say.
Bob ErbeckMay 12, 2017 at 12:34 am
And you say this recipe tastes as good or better than Zankou Chicken’s garlic spread? I may have to try it if that’s so. I love Zankou’s and have bought a container of their garlic spread to keep in my refrigerator, every now and then, to use whenever I may have chicken at home.
Fran TunnoMay 14, 2017 at 9:15 am
Thank you bob. I have not tried it, but it sounds right. Maybe I will make it today and we’ll see. I’ll compare it with all the other recipes out there, but Theresa’s a really good cook, so I trust her.