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!

Dante vs. Cream of Wheat

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Cream of Wheat with blueberries and candied pecans, drizzled with honey.

I try to be deep, honest I do. I do my best to read classics and ponder life because I aspire to write deep, philosophical blogs. In fact, I’m currently reading Dante’s Inferno — who knew hell could be so icky? But because of the ADHD I keep denying I have, my brain prefers to escape the circles of hell and fixate on something I enjoy more, like food. This week I’m enamored with Cream of Wheat. So,  it’s Philosophy – 0 Food – 1 Continue reading

Saint “Tude” Knocks Me on my Butt…Again.

Dictionary of Saints

This was one of my mom’s books.  I had no idea there were so many saints!

I just consulted my Dictionary of the Saints and there is no Patron Saint of Gratitude listed. Maybe she or he is going incognito, but there is definitely a presence out there because any time I start having one of my self-indulgent, poor-me moments, I am busted by the Patron Saint of Gratitude. I think I’ll call her St. Tude. This happens about once every 1.5 years, like the day I was on my way to the therapist in 2015, and on Valentine’s Day 2014.

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EGBOK

A few nights ago I was doing my bedtime ritual of piling pillows around me just the way I like them. I got all nice and cozy, then reached up and turned off my bedside lamp. I waited for sleep to knock me out, which for a Tunno takes about seven seconds. As I lay in the darkness of my bedroom I saw something I hadn’t seen in years.

It’s been like summer here recently with highs in the 90’s, so I sleep with my windows open. There was a little sliver of an opening, where the edge of the window swings away from the window frame and that’s where I saw it. My blazing little star.

The last time I saw it, or its cousin was probably 15 years ago when I was going through the hell that precedes a divorce. I was miserable and either unable to sleep or woke up in the middle of the night.

That night also, I saw the navy sky through the tiny space between the curtain and the window. As I lay there, I could see a small star gyrating wildly, as if it was doing everything it could to get my attention. I watched it flicker and flash for a long time, like a lit fuse. Not only did it make me feel better, but it felt like a message from my mom (a lit fuse of a woman if ever there was one.)

Then in my head, I heard her voice. She told me not to worry, that everything would be OK, and that someday I’d have more money than I knew what to do with. (This was in the midst of some serious financial crap.) I couldn’t imagine things ever getting that much better, but she was always good at making stuff up to make me feel better.

Well the star was back this week, and I waited for her voice, but never heard it. This time the voice came from inside me. It said, Keep working hard and things will turn around, you’ll see. Just keep moving forward. That’s what I’m doing and I think that’s what we all have to do right now.

I’ve talked to so many people in the past few months, who are so discouraged by politics and government and I understand. Politicians on both sides, seem to be playing a game, but to us, this matters. Our daily lives are affected, so everyone wants his or her voice to be heard.  I say write letters, make phone calls and do what you have to do to change what you can. Don’t just complain, do something. I am writing my representatives and asking them to bring back the Fairness Doctrine because I think it will make us less polarized. But we can’t let this stuff make us crazy.

I try to do what my friend Carolyn does. She seeks to understand. She really tries to figure out why people feel the way they do. She may walk away still thinking they’re totally misguided, but it makes her empathetic. And empathy is the gateway to understanding, tolerating and eventually liking others. This is very beneficial since I am the lone Democrat in a family of Republicans I happen to love. Maybe if we just pretend that everyone of the opposite party is family, things could work out.

Plus, here’s some heartening news, Glenn Beck is preaching love and understanding. Check out this article called, Glenn Beck Wants to Heal the America He Divided, One Hug at a Time, and be amazed! If this can happen, what then is not possible?

I’m old enough to know we’ve lived through frightening times before and probably will again and somehow we’ve managed to eke out some progress. I have to believe that with so many smart people in the country wanting to do what’s right, things will even out. So, I’m going to continue to work hard, stay positive and keep an eye out for twinkly stars. I feel fairly certain that if we can all avoid cataclysmic death, everything’s gonna be OK.

Or as they used to say on the Ken and Barkley morning radio show, EGBOK

best egbok

 

What Will Change in a Year?

fish-house

The Fish Shoppe, no Christmas starts without it.

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love it. I love the decorating — filling the house with all my favorite things from Christmases past, laughing and remembering as we put up our ridiculous ornaments, baking, and being with family and friends. But I hate the rushing to try to get everything done and most of all, I hate taking it all down, packing it up and putting it away.

I hate it for a few reasons. Mostly, because it takes time. I’m anal enough to try to wrap each ornament in the same box it came in, if I still have it. I wish I could just be like normal people — throw it all in a box and not worry about it — but I make sure everything is wrapped securely to survive a summer in the heat of a California attic. I also make sure it’s organized so I can easily find things. I sometimes even label the boxes, but not always, because I kind of like the thrill of opening boxes and being surprised at what’s inside. Continue reading

A Day in the Life of a Soldier

Dad with Army Buddies

Dad in front, with Army buddies holding a fish.

My father proudly served in World War II as a medic in Patton’s army. When he came back from the war, he never wanted to talk about it. All he would say was is it was hell.

He did tell me that the Germans used the red crosses on their helmets as targets, and my brother tells me that the medics were eventually armed with guns for self protection.

My dad’s job was to help the wounded after they became injured in battle, so he saw the tragedy and human price of war close-up. By the time he was in his 90’s, more than 65 years after the war, he was finally able to talk about trying to piece bodies together and stop the bleeding.

I hate to even imagine what that must have been like. It affected him so much that he said when he died he wanted people to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project, which they did.

My mom kept some of the letters he sent during the war and this was a page from one of them. The date was July 26, 1945. The war was over in Europe, but Japan had not surrendered yet and there was the possibility that he might be shipped there. Continue reading

Your Mother’s Proud of You, No Matter What You Think – An Election Day Distraction Blog

Today’s election day,  and you’re going to need a distraction. I’ve got a little story about my mom and a good, easy, Italian, comfort food recipe because we’ll all need some comforting today, and probably for a while.

But be sure you vote.  Too many people have risked and lost their lives for freedom in this country for you not to vote.

Now back to the distraction.  I was responding to blog  comments a few days ago about my new job and there was one from George that said, “I am quite sure your mom is proud of you.”

I know it’s kind of crazy to worry if someone who’s been dead for 24 years is proud of you, but of course I went there. Probably because, whether your parents are alive, or dead for decades,  you still hope for their approval.  I wanted it years ago and I still do today.

I remember sitting in my dad’s car with my mom in the Northern Lights shopping center on a gray western Pennsylvania day many years ago and asking her about it. I was the only child who moved away, who pursued something out of the ordinary, who didn’t feel I’d had any particular success at that point, and who didn’t feel quite up to snuff when it came to accomplishments in life. I knew she loved me, but I wondered if she was proud of me, so I got up the nerve and asked her.

Mom and Me

She was proud of me after all!

She got the most horrified look on her face and said, “How couldda you askka such a ting? You done a so much, you went to school, you went outta dare alla by yourself, you work, you’re such a smartta gal…of course I’mma proud offa you! I can’d a believe you would askka me dat!”

I was amazed because I really didn’t think she was proud of me (which says more about me than her). I’m so grateful I asked her, and her response is something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

Sometimes that vicious little voice inside you convinces you of all sorts of things. You just have to know that the voice can be a liar and a big jerk. The best thing to do is say thanks for sharing, then tell it to buzz off. And remember this: Your parents are probably far more proud of you than you’ll ever comprehend.

Since I’ve been thinking about my mom I keep hearing  another, much nicer voice in my head that keeps saying, “Hey, make pasta fagiolo,” it was your mom’s favorite comfort food and you’re gonna need it today!  Plus, it’s easy! There’s no arguing with a voice like that.

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Plain Ceci di’ Pasta

My mom used to call it Ceci di’ Pasta, because she used chick peas instead of cannellini beans. It’s delicious, fast, easy,  healthy, and simple to modify! You can whip it together in about 20 minutes then go back to nervously watching election coverage.

You can add vegetables like sauteed spinach or zucchini, or you can make it with just pasta and beans and it’s great!  And now that I’ve made it, I’m certain my mom is even more proud of me.

And hang in there, the election will be a mere memory by the time Thanksgiving rolls around and our country will slowly move forward as it always does.

Ceci di’ Pasta

1/2 lb elbow pasta or whatever kind you like

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Ceci di’ pasta with spinach

1 Tbsp olive oil

5 cloves of garlic

1 medium onion diced

1 can chick peas (do not drain) or canellini beans

1 cup tomato sauce with fresh basil (I can never find sauce with basil, so I buy the canned whole tomatoes with basil, then puree them in my food processor).

(Optional: Sauteed spinach or zucchini or whatever veggie you like. You could even add meat if you want.)

Bring a pan of salted water to boil and when it’s done, add the pasta, cooking till it’s al- dente.  onions-and-garlic

While the water is coming to a boil, saute the chopped onion and garlic.  After 2 to 3 minutes, add the entire can of chick peas liquid and all. Next add the tomato sauce and cook it over low heat.  By now the water should be boiling, so add the pasta.  When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add the pasta to the chickpea and tomato sauce mixture.  Toss the pasta until it’s thoroughly mixed with the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Add whatever sauteed vegetable you like, or don’t add any, it will still be great. Serve hot with lots of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. You may add crushed red pepper also.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait…and Wait…and Wait.

You probably think I died in my sleep since it’s been three weeks since my last blog post, but big things have been happening. This was foretold in fortune cookies, which usually say things like:  “You will prosper in the field of invention,” but were right on this time.better fortune shot.JPG

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When Brownie Mix is Your Best Friend

My apartment can go from immaculate to disgusting in about 2.5 days.  Having my Corgi, Topper in the house makes it all possible. Clumps of dog hair the size of tumbleweeds are rolling around as if it was the high desert. Newspapers are toppling over the basket where I usually have them neatly stacked. Dishes are piled in the kitchen and I am too stinking tired to do them. I am pooped. Working numerous jobs will do that to you. That’s why I had to turn to brownie mix tonight. Continue reading

What Love Looks Like

I’m writing about love today, which is rather ironic given that I’m a divorcee. But it’s the month of October. My parents married on October 7th, I was married in October and I’m going to a cousin’s wedding later this month, so it has me thinking about what love is, and what it isn’t.

My father was not a man who showed great emotion – as you recall, he never even told me he loved me until I was 21. But I had no doubt he did. He was the same with my mom. He’d pat her on the shoulder and call her Grandma, but there were no great physical displays of tenderness.

When you’d talk about marriage to him, he always made the same remark about his marriage to my mom. With a wry smile, he’d quietly say “Well, everybody’s entitled to one mistake.” Sarcasm was his forte.

And if you asked my mom, she’d say, “Eeef I had to say datta a your fodder made a my heart go pitter pat – I’d a be lyin. But he’s a gooda man, he always treats a me witta love, honor anna respect.” She admired how hard he worked and marveled at his stamina, even while she grumbled that he expected her to work as hard as he did.

They disagreed on lots of things and many of their conversations included a few fireworks because my dad knew how to bait my mom, and she always took the bait.

Love may accept lots of things, but fights for what’s important. Dad got impatient with Mom over her weight because he wanted her to stick around, be healthy and grow old with him, but she wouldn’t listen.

Yet, when she put her foot down, forcing him to see a doctor about a mole on his chest, he listened. The mole turned out to be melanoma, they successfully removed it, and he lived for another 36 years.

My parents agreed on the big things: right and wrong, money, kids, the house, religion, how to treat people, cleanliness and what constitutes good food. In Italian families, food is a pretty big sticking point

Mom relied on Dad to provide for her, take her places, and be a good father to her kids. In return she had a hot meal ready for him every night and raised his kids to be “mostly” normal. She would occasionally give him a hug or a kiss on the cheek, and wrote sweet cards to him in her broken English, but wild passion was not what we saw.

Yet, when my mom passed away at 78, I think even my dad was surprised by how much he missed her. Just after her death,  one of my college roommates and best friends, Dawn, send a lovely card that held a photo of my mom.  That card sat on the small buffet next to the kitchen table for 21 years. The corner of the card, picked up time and again, was worn and dirty with my dad’s finger marks. Spots on my mom’s face were almost rubbed off from all the times my dad picked it up and talked to my mother. “You left too soon!” he’d admonish her as he touched her face on the card. I can only imagine the conversations he had with her when I wasn’t around.moms-worn-photo

And that, I believe, is what love looks like.

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This is the back of the card. The tape held the card open so he could see her face.

Love apparently puts up with crap. Love fights when necessary, but tries to overlook weight, bad breath, a quick temper, a weakness for lottery tickets, old age, sarcasm, and a tendency toward being a workaholic.

Love quietly mourns  a lost partner and talks to her picture time and again, sometimes for decades. Love knows every relationship has to involve give and take, and love’s OK with that.

Love is not the Hollywood version – don’t believe that for a second. Love is day to day –learning to be kind and live with each other, and then trying to learn to live without each other.

Shakespeare said it much more beautifully than I ever could — but I get it, it’s all about acceptance.

Happy Anniversary Mary and Robert 1940 to the present — because real love never dies.

                                           Let me not to the marriage of true minds
                                           Admit impediments. Love is not love
                                           Which alters when it alteration finds,
                                           Or bends with the remover to remove:
                                           O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
                                           That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
                                           It is the star to every wandering bark,
                                           Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
                                            Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
                                            Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
                                            Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
                                            But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
                                            If this be error and upon me proved,
                                            I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

William Shakespeare – Sonnet 116