Joy In A Tiny Kitchen

At about 7 o’clock in the evening of what had been a moderately uneventful Sunday, I opened the door to the sound of rapid knocks. Our eyes met and instantaneously lit up as we wrapped our arms around each other and he planted a sloppy kiss on my cheek. Then I thought I heard him sniffle and slowly recoiled from his embrace. Observing his puffy eyes and a runny nose, before I could ask if he had a cold, he yelled out, “I have allergies.” Compulsive disorder relaxing for a moment, I listened as he excitedly told me about his trip to Florida, including a visit in the cockpit with the pilot. I had some excitement too as I shared when picking up his dog from the doggie hotel, I drove to the wrong place. Nevertheless, all was well, as Chai stood close by wagging his tail. We were all quite happy in this moment.

The next morning was a different story as well the ensuing week marked by clusters of seizures with my youngest son, a period of unusual and eerie quietness as his body struggled to recover, and suddenly I found myself feeling quite ill realizing my little grandson had more than a sloppy kiss to plant on my face: It was not “allergies.” Slowly navigating through the week, our furnace died shortly before midnight on Saturday as the temperatures outside dipped into the mid to low twenties (Fahrenheit). For all the Matcha, oolong, thyme, grated turmeric and ginger tea I was drinking, the cold stressed my body to a point of succumbing to this dreadful cold, perhaps flu as I ached all over. (Thankfully, I had a single-malt on hand for medicinal use.)

We store a space heater for such emergencies and after remembering it was in my office closet, I pulled it out, plugged it in and waited for the heater to warm at least one room. It proved woefully insufficient, but an attractive pretend “radiator”… Regardless, such devices unnerve me and added to my stress-filled sleepless night. I tried writing but the cold temperature grew too distracting and uncomfortable. Finally, I entered the kitchen to make dough for cinnamon rolls. It occurred to me as well, this is an excellent time to begin the oxtail stew and of course, slow-cook the dish in the oven. By late-morning, the furnace restored, and within minutes of feeling heat, my body began shutting down and I immediately began dipping out cups of broth and veggies. The warm soup felt good going down and between naps I would refresh my bowl. Finally, the meat was tenderIMG_9061 and to compliment this heart-warming soup, I made for the first time, a blue cornbread. (Yes, used blue corn meal after reading it has a higher nutritive value, is naturally sweeter and is more commonly non-GMO. Generally, I do not

Blue Cornbread... Yes, I added frozen organic corn and fresh diced  jalapeños for a spicy and more interesting bread.
Buttermilk Blue Cornbread… Add fresh or frozen organic corn and fresh diced jalapeños for a spicy and more interesting bread.

add additional sugars to cornbread or biscuits.) We all enjoyed our blue cornbread.

During the week and before my physical breakdown, feigning spring, I began craving freshwater smelts. Growing up, many of our family members and neighbors enjoyed fishing. Fishing for smelts though, was by nets because the fish are so tiny. It occurred to me my son or grandson had never eaten these small fish and Saturday morning I called around to locate some fresh smelts and got lucky. (They are not as plentiful nowadays.)

Growing up in a large family, setting the table and using large platters was the norm. Complimented the smelts with a roasted, Yukon gold potato salad, spring micro greens and sliced cucumbers.

IMG_9040 Happily, both my son and grandson thoroughly enjoyed them and fortunately, I was able to complete the dish feeling weak and tired.

And then there was none... Yes, these were devoured too.
And then there was none… Yes, these were devoured too.

This past week was difficult for several reasons. Growing up my best friend was manic-depressive or Bi-Polar. Our friendship taught me a tremendous amount of patience and sensitivity towards people who struggle with this disease. She possessed a heart of gold and was a brilliant young girl who grew into an often confused, angry and troubled woman. At nine years old, while hospitalized, the doctors informed her parents they believed she was manic-depressive: The youngest patient ever recorded at that time. Later, through other testing, including blood work, the diagnosis was confirmed. Certain medications made her homicidal but at all times, everyone in her dwindling circle of family and friends knew suicide was possible. She unfortunately walked in front of a moving train one sunny afternoon, but only after setting her home on fire. Watching the Germanwing Jetliner intentional crash story unfold this past week in the French Alps… my heart has been heavy for all the grieving families as well the struggles of this young pilot’s family through his many moods.

Anyone struggling with depressions (there are many types) please reach out and find someone to listen to you. Someone who will get down in the trenches and fight with you to beat this thing without judging you. Perhaps someone (like I’ve done) who will answer the phone no matter how late and invite you over to her TINYKITCHEN, for a cup of tea, a grilled cheese, or just someone who will quietly sit with you … whatever it takes for you to know, you are needed and loved. No matter what is happening, how dark life seems right now… GREATTASTES awaits you in the morning… I call that JOY! And all because there are many BIGHEARTS eager to love you. Please, be kind to yourself and others around you because we all have our hard places… and our joy. The sun is shining this morning.

© This article and photographs are the property of J. Faye Guider Productions. Feel free to ask me for permission to use my material or make requests, including for recipes, in the comments section. Thank you.