It has been a rough few weeks around here. Bryan’s grandmother, Emma (aka: Nanny) was ill and then died this past weekend. She was an amazing woman who I feel so lucky to have known. It is a huge loss for Bryan’s family and for everyone who knew and loved Emma.
I last saw her back in October when she and her husband, Doug (aka: Papa), came from Montreal to Chicago for our wedding. We had worried they wouldn’t be up to the trip, they don’t travel much anymore, but to our delight they made it to Chicago. It was their first visit. They toured around a bit. They hiked the three flights of stairs up to our apartment to see where we live. They ate Chicago-style pizza with us and our friends. But most importantly, they were with us at our wedding.
You see, Emma and Doug had been married for 64 years. 64 years. I can’t really fathom that time, or Doug’s loss. At our wedding I thought how lucky I would be to get that time with Bryan. 64 years. They were our guests of honor. They ate and danced and got along famously with our friends. It was perfect.
It’s an interesting thing, joining a family. Suddenly, out of nowhere, you appear—a stranger who loves your grandson. Within minutes of our first meeting, Emma had her arm around me and was asking what I wanted to eat. She was the consummate homemaker and the kind of grandma that I wish everyone had: she loved unconditionally and she fed you well.
My favorite meal at their house was breakfast. I don’t know how early Emma woke up, but by the time we made our way into the kitchen she would have a whole spread of food set out for us. It usually started with a cup of Red Rose tea (Canada!) and a bowl of Shreddies (why aren’t they available in the States?!) with 2% milk (in a bag!), an indulgent percent higher than what we have at home. In Emma’s world, this was just an appetizer. She would then make us eggs, potatoes, toast, bacon and sausage (you notice that is an “and”, not an “or”). It was a very heart-healthy start to the day. I would eat all of it on the first day of the visit but usually by day two I couldn’t make it past the Shreddies.
Sometimes at breakfast a plate with a fully peeled orange would appear. The sections were always carefully arranged in a sunburst. It surprised me at first, it was something from childhood when oranges were too difficult to handle on your own. That plate with the orange became something I associate with Emma. Peeling an orange for a grown person is a fantastically loving act. It turns your average supermarket navel into the most delicious citrus you’ve ever eaten.
Grief creeps into all aspects of your life. It creeps into your kitchen. When Bryan was in Canada with his family, I found myself peeling an orange for myself and was overwhelmed with sadness.
No recipe today—just an orange, peeled. And a suggestion that you peel one for someone you love.