Saturday, November 23, 2013

ROASTED BEET SALAD [When Loved Ones Leave]

Tonight, I am nine thousand kilometers away from the city of Ufa, made somewhat famous by the Ice Hockey World Junior Championship held there earlier this year. My homestead for nearly eight years until I graduated from high school and moved to Calgary AB, it accommodates most of my family. The family that today is short of another member: my grandmother.

The brief text from my father arrived early morning, awakening me instantaneously and dragging me out of bed and into the kitchen, salty tears welling up along the way. I just talked to her, I thought to myself, recalling the telephone conversation my grandmother and I had two short weeks ago. Having recently undergone a surgery to remove a cancerous lump in her tongue, she sounded upbeat and optimistic about her ability to further improve her affected speech. In a manner typical of baba Aza, she explained that her doctor, who dared to suggest she become  accustomed to the impairment as there is nothing she can do to improve it beyond slow and incoherent mumbling, can eat her shorts.

Looking forward to our planned visit in the second half of December, she resolved to work diligently on her already comprehensible speech, then cut the phone conversation short, afraid of what she thought was a costly call. In the past, I explained how inexpensive it really was, but the decades spent living under the Soviet regime instilled ever-lasting frugality. Despite the shorter than desired call, I hung up feeling relieved and encouraged by my grandmother's positive outlook on her recovery. After all, she exhibited the strength and determination essential to heal and move on...

And move on she did- to another dimension, unfathomable to the living, where pain and suffering have long been extinguished and the eternal peace sets in with the sunrise. Or so I like to think to ease the ache that finds its way into a soul, feeding on its vitality until the luster is gone. Marcus will never get to meet his great-grandmothers, another one of whom passed away earlier this year, and they will never experience the joy in holding their first great-grandson. Such is the ugly truth in being separated from one's loved ones by land and water.

By the end of the day, the fatigue set in and my appetite dissipated. Another night was doomed to be inefficient, when the unexpected thought of a crunchy roasted beet salad evaded my brain and suddenly, slicing vegetables and roasting them in extra-virgin olive oil seemed like the right thing to do. 

Certain that my grandmother never roasted beets, I wondered what drove me to do it at 8:30 pm on a sad day like today, but the clarity never came. Perhaps, cooking is my way of mourning, as well as celebrating, so I cooked a healthful meal to commemorate the woman who wholeheartedly believed in natural cures and the power of nutritious food.

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