Women Always Find the Good in Each Other — Garlic helps

Theresa is the first wife of my ex-husband.

Theresa and Fran.JPG

Fran and Theresa the only two members of a very exclusive club.

She rocks.

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 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.JPG

Zankou chicken.

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

Toum.JPG

They give you two or three little containers of toum at Zankou…but we always ask for more.

1 cup peeled garlic gloves

4 cups grapeseed oil

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice 1 to 2 lemons

1/2 to 1 tsp salt
In a sturdy blender add the peeled garlic and half the salt. Blend until fine. Scrape down sides. Turn blender on highest setting and stream in 3 cups of oil. This takes time, about fifteen mins. Scrape down sides occasionally. With blender on high add lemon juice slowly then the last cup of the oil. Taste for salt. The garlic sauce should be the consistency of mayonnaise. Use it on everything that calls for oil and garlic. Theresa says one of her favorite ways to enjoy it is on pita with a bit of flake salt.
There is another recipe on the Splendid Table website, which calls for two cups of garlic,  a half teaspoon of salt, three cups of oil, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and 1/3 cup of water. And the Lebanese Kitchen has yet other ratios of ingredients and one that got good ratings is from the Kevin is Cooking blog. Which is better?  I’m not sure, but I’m going to make it and find out. I just need to find the time.  Let me know if you make it!

Big Ambitions…Painful Reality

My plan for this week was to write two fantastic blog posts to make up for the one I missed last week.   (I spent last weekend with my family, drinking too much wine and celebrating my brother Bob’s birthday instead of diligently writing.)  Thank you Patty (Bob’s wife) for planning the whole thing and getting me back there.

But nature said, “Nah, we want to throw you a curveball, how about a nice, painful toothache instead?” So, I’ve been sitting around whimpering like a puppy and taking far too many Advil for my own good for the past three days.  I’m embarrassed to say, I actually cried on my emergency phone message to my dentist.(This from a woman who got through childbirth twice without a peep.) My voice got all squeaky and I could barely get out my phone number it hurt so bad.   The only perk is the Tylenol with Codeine – it knocks me right out.

Today, I go to the Endodontist again, where I will be slowly tortured. They’ll place freezing cold sticks against my teeth to figure out exactly which tooth is bothering me.(Teeth are sneaky, they send the pain in a different direction, just to mess with you.) How will the Dr. know?  I will leap out of my chair and scream when the ice stick he’s holding touches the right tooth.   Continue reading

Who Knew Over Easy Eggs Could Force Me To Mature?

Last week, when I was visiting family in Pennsylvania,  I ate out more times in two days than I did from the time I was 0 to 13. This behavior would have shocked my frugal parents back in the ’50s and ’60s.

From the time I was born until I was thirteen I think I dined out twice. (I did tour the McDonalds in Beaver Falls with the Girl Scouts once, and got a free hamburger, so I guess that counts. OK, three times.) I have a vague recollection of eating French fries at a Woolworths with my Mom once, but that could have just been a dream.

My father didn’t believe in eating out. He’d smoothly drive past whatever restaurant or ice cream stand we were begging to go to, and say, “What restaurant? Oh, did you want to stop? Well too late now. We have better stuff than that at home.” This always left me wondering if he was cheap or we were poorer than I realized. Continue reading

Shopping for Caskets

My long time friend Carolyn’s father passed away a few weeks ago and while I was telling him my final, tearful goodbye, I couldn’t help but notice what a nice casket he was in. Continue reading

Six Simple Words That Can End Your Life

Last weekend I made sauce for the first time in months. It even had the power to draw my daughter downstairs before 11 a.m. Still in her pajamas, sleepy-eyed, she said, “I love waking up to the smell of spaghetti sauce.”

The smell is heavenly. The garlic and olive oil mingle with the sausage, tomatoes and herbs, filling your kitchen with tomatoey love. You should start cooking it or make friends with Italians, so you can experience the magic. Continue reading

Wedding Advice You Won’t Get In “Brides”

My friend Jane, a fellow voice actress, invited me over for dinner tonight. Jane is the friend I wrote about in a prior post, who’s getting married in July. The one who attracts men willy nilly, while I’m still working up the nerve to maybe consider online dating.

I predict Jane’s marriage will be OK because tonight she’s cooking something her fiance can’t stand to smell. She’s doing it this weekend because he’s not home. This shows impressive empathy and kindness on her part; a lovely little bonus in marriage. He’s a lucky guy.

Since Jane’s got me thinking about marriage, and spring is the time of year when many young couples pledge their troth, I thought this would be a good time to offer the single, finest piece of marriage advice my mom ever gave me. Continue reading