what about your wake?
(just barely pre-Katrina!)
On Eagle's Wings
"You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord,
Who abide in His shadow for life,
Say to the Lord, 'My Refuge,
My Rock in Whom I trust.'
And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.
The snare of the fowler will never capture you,
And famine will bring you no fear;
Under His Wings your refuge,
His faithfulness your shield.
"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their
they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run,
and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint."
~ Isaiah 40:31
Okay, okay, okay. I
know. We seem to be
Trauma. Loss. Sadness. The need for comfort…
C’est la vie, non? And surely you agree that la morte is simply a
la vie. The cycle of life, as it were.
And why not? There is a lot of that going around lately. The Spice Cabinet
is, after all, “Your Webmistress, Up Close and Personal”, no? Our goal
here is to share with you what is going on in our corner of the world,
hoping that our words will somehow touch you.
There is no point in giving you the blow-by-blow description of our recent (and
ongoing) traumas. Suffice it to say that we have been dealing with devastating
illnesses in the immediate family for about five years now.
Surgery after surgery after surgery. Trips to M.D. Anderson in Houston.
Two cancer deaths. Hurricanes and the threat thereof. A pending lawsuit.
Not to mention the impact of
So. Today, I finally took care of my will. What took me so long? Perfectionism,
perhaps? I wanted to make absolutely sure that I had all my bases covered. Not
that there is all that much to leave behind, mind you,
but somehow I was paralyzed by the thought of having to specify which
son got what. It finally struck me that this is not at all necessary, especially
considering the fact that this ridiculous procrastination has been going on
for a good twenty-odd years now. A simple “last will and testament” will
do quite nicely, thank you. Highly preferable to no will at all, don’t you
think? And if, during the course of whatever years may be left, I feel the
need to specify in writing that Chef Keegan gets all the cookbooks, Kerry
gets the PC and the crystal and my granddaughter Kylie gets the jewelry
(or whatever), wills can be amended. No biggie.
I rest my case. The deed is done. Yet another monkey off my back!
The fact of the recent deaths in the family, plus the reality that my 82-
year-old Aunt Josephine (respectfully referred to by one and all as
“Miss Jo”) is
in declining health and very nearly blind (most recent
surgery was a cornea
transplant), brings to mind what a marvelously
healing experience a wake
can be. Are you familiar with this tradition?
“Wake: The Irish practice of
watching over the body by candlelight the night
before the funeral and the often
wild feasting which follows. This may have developed simply because mistakes
sometimes happened (cf. the folk-song
Finnegan's Wake upon which the James Joyce
novel is based). The purpose
of the wake, therefore, was to create enough of a
clatter to ensure that the
deceased was truly dead and to help
the mourners forget their grief and
resume normal life once they were sure.”
In the Catholic tradition, a wake is generally
held the evening before
the formal funeral service. Often a rosary is placed in
the hands of the
deceased, and the rosary is said at some point during the
led by a leader from the local community.
In our family, the idea is very simple: the wake (which can be held either
before or after
funeral or memorial service, as circumstances dictate) provides an opportunity
for family and close friends of the deceased to
gather and celebrate his
or her LIFE. Period. Yes, there may be mourning and/or
crying, as this can be
quite an emotional time. Nevertheless, the primary function is to celebrate, to
give thanks for the life of the loved
to provide surroundings that
honor and memorialize the deceased.
Therefore, laughter is not only expected,
but inevitable. This is a time for remembering, for the telling of anecdotes and
favorite family stories. It is
a time of closure, the beginning of grieving and the long healing process.
It almost goes without saying that in our family the favorite foods, drink,
and music of our loved one are mandatory. How better to let them know
how much they are loved and how much they will be missed?
Among my recent traumas is the fact that my responsibilities to Miss Jo
prevented my attendance at both the funeral service and “Memorial Wake Party”
(held about 2 weeks later) celebrating my Ya-Ya Sister Lori’s life.
It was quite the event, and everyone told me afterward that Lori would
have loved it. That, my friends, is the point. A wake has a life of its own
because the spirit of the deceased guides it.
and/or here for more
information on the traditional Irish wake.)
My wake? Easy. Everyone who knows me even slightly knows my taste
in food, drink and music, as these are the cornerstones of my life. Well,
okay, right after my spiritual life. Just in case, though, I will make a list to
file away along with my will and other Very Important Documents.
What to eat/drink? Here is my short list:
served with good bread,
hot rolls and/or
biscuits (lots!), excellent butter and
Guacamole with Tortilla Chips
Favorite Mexican Layered Dip
New Orleans Boiled Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
Susan Spicer's Baked Oysters
New Orleans Bread Pudding
Favorite Chocolate Cake
Coffee, coffee, coffee...
And please, Lord,
let Creole tomatoes be in season...
Thank God (and my sons!) for my Mother's Day iPod. There
be a wee bit of Celtic music (and bagpipes!) to be sure. Zither music,
schmaltzy Viennese waltzes (Strauss's Tales from the Vienna Woods
performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan conducting, if you please!) and 'On Eagle's Wings'
as are a large number
of favorite hymns and inspirational contemporary "praise
tunes. Michael W. Smith and Donnie McClurkin are at the top of the list.
This must be followed by some groovy jazz for reminiscing...
sons know that my wake would not be complete
Bach (lots!), Mozart, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Sting, U2, Led Zep, Duran Duran, ZZ Top,
Bonnie Raitt, Edith Piaf, Gloria Estefan,
The Buena Vista Social Club,
Gipsy Kings, Fatal Mambo, tons of tangos, sizzling
Woodstock soundtrack. Ah yes, the 60s. What can I say... It's
only by the grace of God that I came through relatively unscathed. Looks
like this wake could take
days, no? Nothing wrong with that...
Oh, yeah. Just in case you are wondering, the answer is maybe. You
know - my ex
what's-his-face) can come if he wants to..In case
anyone remembers to tell him I'm dead, that is. Actually, I think he
just may be too tied down to make the trip...
Cooking for Comfort:
More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes That
Are as Satisfying to Cook as They Are to Eat
By Marian Burros
© 2003 by Foxcraft, Ltd. (Simon & Schuster)
“We want to go back to a time when life was not so complicated – or, at
when we look at it from a distance, it was one that seemed much simpler.
One of the few ways most of us can get there together is through food.”
~ from the Introduction
Mollie Dickenson’s Guacamole Tostados
“My friend Mollie Dickenson once brought this to a cooperative dinner
It disappeared so quickly that she achieved instant fame, and now
always asked to bring this. It may not be recognizable as comfort
those of us brought up on the East Coast or in the middle of the
where the only way we ever ate an avocado was with shrimp.
ingredients in this must have been comfort food early on in
and Southwest, where Mexican influences are as much of
a part of the
landscape as baked beans are in New England.”
[As wonderful as this recipe is, it does not fit our personal definition
We consider it rather a variation of one of our all-time
Can hardly wait to give it a try! MG]
1 cup dried pinto beans ( see Help Note)
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 1/2 tablespoons mild chili powder
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
8 drops hot pepper sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium or large ripe avocados
2 tablespoons lemon [or lime] juice
1 cup sour cream
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup chopped green onions
1 cup chopped pitted black olives
2 cups coarsely grated sharp white Cheddar
2/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Good-quality tortilla chips
1. To prepare the beans, cover them with water and soak
overnight. Alternatively, cover them with water and bring to a boil; boil for 2
and allow the beans to sit in the hot water for 1 hour. Drain off the soaking
water. Cover the beans with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Add 1/2 cup
chopped onion. Garlic. And 1/2 teaspoon of the cumin. Cover and simmer until
beans are tender, about an hour. Stir occasionally. Drain.
2. Place the beans in a food processor with 3/4 teaspoon of the cumin,
1 1/2 tablespoons of the chili powder, vinegar, butter, tomato paste,
coriander, and hot pepper sauce. Process until mixture is smooth. Adjust
the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Peel the avocados and mash coarsely with lemon [or lime] juice and
salt and pepper to taste.
4. Mix the sour cream with the remaining 1 tablespoon chili powder and
1/4 teaspoon cumin.
5. Spread the bean mixture in a shallow serving dish. Top with the mashed
avocados, then the sour cream mixture. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours,
or overnight, if desired. Up to an hour before serving, sprinkle the
tomatoes evenly over the sour cream. Sprinkle with the green onions,
olives, and Cheddar, and top with the cilantro.
6. Serve with tortilla chips.
Note: You can substitute 3 cups of canned beans, thoroughly rinsed and
drained, for the fresh-cooked beans, but add the other ingredients cooked with
the beans to the recipe. Frankly, Mollie Dickenson uses canned beans in her
This recipe is best prepared a day or even two ahead. Just don’t add the
tomatoes, green onions, olives, cheese, and cilantro until you’re ready to
Because there are so may flavors in this dish, you can use reduced-fat sour
cream, and trust me, no one will know the difference.
Jalapeño Corn Bread
“Years ago, when I was looking for a dressing for
the Thanksgiving turkey, something moister and tastier than the
white bread dressings I
with, I came upon a Southern dressing that intrigued me because it called
for corn bread.
I tried it, and when the bread was baked, I couldn’t resist sampling a piece
before I added the rest of the ingredients for the dressing. It was a
so much more interesting and so much moister than the traditional
I had been served since moving below the Mason-Dixon line. It’s
I’m a convert and my version is what converted me.”
pieces about 2 by 3 inches, or 7 or 8 cups of cubes
Two 8 1/2-ounce cans or 2 cups PLUS
2 tablespoons cream-style
2 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
4 lightly beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
2/3 cup corn oil
2 cups grated Monterey Jack
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to
2. Combine the corn, cornmeal, eggs, salt, baking soda, buttermilk, corn
oil, Monterey Jack, and jalapeño and mix well.
3. Put the butter in a 10 by 15-inch baking pan and put it in the oven for
about 5 minutes to melt. Remove from the oven and pour in the batter.
Bake about 30 minutes, until the corn bread begins to pull away from
the sides of the pan and a knife inserted near the center of the pan
comes out clean.
4. Serve immediately, or turn into Jalapeño Corn Bread Stuffing
Note: Be sure to use stone-ground cornmeal; it has a better texture
and more “corny” taste.
Any kind of buttermilk works, from whole to nonfat.
Jalapeño Corn Bread
is a great recipe, bursting with flavor and in many ways
typically Southern. No question about it. However, my experience compels me
I think it should be called "Dressing". That would be the Southern
It pains me to take exception to a recipe title published by such
esteemed culinary authority as Marian Burros. The fact remains that in all
years of living
(and eating!) in the Deep South, I've never been served
We believe the more typically southern method here would be to roast the turkey
(if that's what you're cooking) unstuffed, and to bake the dressing, of whatever
kind, separately. Do as you wish. I just had to get this off my conscience! Ed.]
to stuff a 12- to 14-pound turkey, about 14 cups
5 cups Jalapeño Corn Bread cubes [see recipe above]
5 cups toasted bread cubes, your choice of type
[use French or Italian bread!]
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell peppers
1 cup finely minced celery
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 lightly beaten eggs
1/2 cup good-quality
chicken stock (approximately)
1. Combine the corn bread, bread cubes, and chopped eggs in a
bowl; mix lightly. Set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet and sauté the onions over medium heat
until they have softened. Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds more. Add
the peppers and celery and cook until tender but still crisp. Season with
the salt and pepper. Cool slightly.
3. Add the onion mixture to the corn bread mixture, blending well. Stir in
the beaten eggs and enough stock to moisten lightly.
Note: Don’t stuff your turkey with warm dressing unless you are roasting
it immediately. The stuffing can be made a day ahead, chilled in the
and then used to stuff the turkey in advance of roasting.
There will be some corn bread left over from the recipe. Have it for dinner.
Wake, page 1...
Marian Burros is the bestselling author of twelve previous books, including ‘The
Elegant but Easy Cookbook’ (with Lois Levine), ’20-Minute Menus’, and ‘Eating
the Best Revenge’. A columnist and writer for The New York Times since 1981, she
in New York City and outside Washington, D.C.
Be well, stay safe, enjoy yourselves. Make the most of
every day, be
grateful for every breath you take. Live with passion! Give a hoot!
And until next time, remember,
"In Ireland, they say, the sleep that knows no waking is often
followed by the wake that knows no sleeping!"
~ Ancient Irish Truth
seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think
the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I
really writing about
love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the
love of it and the hunger for it…
and then the warmth and richness and
fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it
is all one."
~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating