Published in 2020, and a must read for anyone who cares about abused women, their rights, and how law enforcement often fails them, this book by Trethewey, 2007 Pulitzer Poetry Price winner for “Native Guard”, voices her struggle to deal with her mother’s untimely death. When Trethewey was nineteen and in college, her mother was shot and killed by her step-father after the police officer assigned to protect her mother left his post early. Additionally, the memoir details the effects of the racism she experienced as the child of a white father and black mother (married when it was illegal where they lived) in Mississippi and later in Atlanta in the 1970s and 80s before her mother’s murder in 1985. The book gets its title from the street on which her mother lived when she was murdered. Through this memoir Trethewey discusses how her parent’s divorce, her mother’s remarriage to an angry, abusive man, and her mother’s murder has informed her life and affected the enduring love she holds for her mother.
Easy Vegetarian Chili Dinner
I had some Soyrizo in the refrigerator–chorizo made from soybeans–and decided to try making chili with it. I sautéed one finely chopped onion in olive oil and added the Soyrizo after removing it from the casing and breaking it up into small pieces. After the onion was translucent, I added one deseeded and chopped red bell pepper and a deseeded and chopped poblano pepper. To this mixture I added one can undrained black beans and 1 small can chopped tomatoes. I let this mixture cook on low for several hours before serving. The Soyrizo makes it a little bit spicy, but if you want more spice add berbere, chili powder, etc. to your taste. I like thick chili but if you want it more like the consistency of soup, just add some broth or water.
The salad was made with a mixture of greens, chopped red bell peppers, dried bing cherries, and sliced leeks broken up so you can see the circles. These bowls have been in my family for decades. They were the everyday dishes my mom used when I was growing up.
Note: For those out there who question, and rightfully, some of the ingredients in meat substitutes, I do get it. However, once in a while I like to jazz up the food a bit.
An Old Bowl and the Silver Spoon
My Aunt Julia, Mom’s sister, lived to 94. She loved fine antique china, linens, and French furniture. The ordinary bowl in this photo defies those inclinations, its origins a mystery. How did she acquire such a plain bowl and why? I will never know. In spite of its age, cracks, dull finish, I have used it every morning for decades. It is my breakfast bowl, filled with yogurt or cottage cheese with dried blueberries and a handful of walnuts, or, occasionally, oatmeal.
The spoon, on the other hand, is not ordinary, but rather good silver from the set Dad gave Mom on their first wedding anniversary. Unlike Mom, who saved her good silver for holidays and special occasions, I use these spoons daily and think of her unconditional love, strong will, determination, and love for beauty.
In Memory of Mother’s Roses
Mother’s rose garden
flowers for the family table
all my childhood summers.
Red, pinks, snowy.
No roses for decades
except those given, bouquets,
Now, I look out every window, roses
Pinks, reds, orange, lavender, yellow, snowy.
I love them, cut them,
And remember my mother.
Barbie Doll– a poem about my mother
Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty, petite, blue-eyed and blond, my
mother, one fearless, controlling woman. Long after Mom’s
death, Dad said, “Barbara was afraid of absolutely no one
and nothing.” They married late, 34 and 38. He adored her
unconditionally. She filled my life with horses, music, love,
cornfields, hayrides, ambition. Whatever she felt she
had missed, my sister and I were going to possess: books,
piano lessons, a college education. Her father, who died long
before I was born, loved fancy, fast horses. So did she. During
my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my hysterical night
coughing with stories of runaway horses pulling her in a wagon.
With less than one hundred pounds and lots of determination,
she stopped them, a tiny Barbie Doll flying across the Missouri
River Bottom, strong, willful, free.
Some years I do a lot of baking. Not so much this one because not going to see so many people because of Covid. Today I baked anyway, made pumpkin bread using Mom’s recipe. Many go out and buy new appliances. Not I. In this photo you will see the electric mixer my parents gave me decades ago. Yes, it looks a bit used and rough; it still works perfectly–metal, not plastic, but not heavy like the popular brands now.
Mom always baked her pumpkin bread in cans like this and gave some for presents. One can is just plain pumpkin bread, the other two have chopped walnuts. Mom’s recipe is on page ten in the cookbook, “You’re Gonna Eat That!?” I alter it a bit and here is the general way to make it:
Sift 3 cups flour with 1 tsp cinnamon–I used cinnamon from Ethiopia, 1 tsp grated nutmeg, 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda. Set aside. Mix 2 cups sugar with 1 cup oil–I used avocado, add 3 beaten eggs and mix in the mixer until thoroughly blended. Add 1 tsp vanilla and a couple drops of clove essential oil. Add I small can pumpkin; mix. Gradually add the dry ingredients. Blend thoroughly. At this point I spooned the mixture into one of the cans. Then I added a cup of chopped walnuts to the rest and spooned that mixture into the remaining two cans. Bake at 325 for an hour or until tester comes out clean. Cool on rack and remove from the coffee tins.
Tomorrow I will make Mom’s pumpkin pie also in the memoir/cookbook.
Happy Holidays to all of you!!!
You’re Gonna Eat That!? Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends
This is my new book, published last month. It is filled with stories, poems, and recipes–healthy food for vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, and meat eaters with photos and detailed instructions. Currently, it can be purchased at Burrowing Owl bookstores in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas, and online at http://www.dreamcatcherbooks.com, Angel editions.
Flowers for Mother’s Day
Usually, my son sends me flowers for Mother’s Day even though he lives far away. He sometimes sends his sister in Amarillo flowers as well. Since none of us are participating in the flower rituals this year due to quarantining, I offer all of you mothers out there photos of my iris this year.
Happy Mother’s Day. Stay safe, be thankful, take a walk. Enjoy!
The World in One Room
Four jaguar heads stare at me,
Mexican, Costa Rican.
A third guards the mantel,
partially hidden in tropical plants,
attack ready, tail raised, jaws open,
My feet rest on a coffee table
carved in Kashmir. I look at the photo
of the young man whose family made it.
He took me home to meet his mom,
to the floating market.
Once peace reigned there.
Now I wonder if he is safe, alive.
The Hoop Dancer raises his arms,
the Acoma pot exudes ancient
black on white beauty, painted
by the tips of yucca stems.
The Thai Spirit House begs
to appease evil spirits.
I should put food and flowers there;
I never do.
Corn plant of life–for Navaho, Hopi,
me, painted, growing up my wall,
blue and red birds flitting through
the stalks, singing ancient songs.
Corn Maiden rug hanging on the wall;
an Isleta Pueblo girl won a contest
with its design. Four Corn Maiden
Kachinas watch the room.
Corn everywhere–Sacred Corn.
Three Ethiopian crosses, St. George
and the Dragon, Frida Kahlo doll,
Argentinian Madonna, Tohono O’odham
baskets, a painted cow skull, Nigerian carved
wooden elephants, including a Chieftains chair,
the stained glass transom window from the house
where my dad lived from birth to ten.
In a room filled with windows, there
is little room for paintings, yet–
purple bison glide across the prairie,
an Iraqi woman flies through an azure
sky filled with dark blue birds,
a 15th century mystic, Kabir, tells
a tale in poetry, Navaho spirits,
pumas walking toward me–
an unknown Persian city, Afghani,
Egyptian, Indian, Zapotec, scraps of old
Turkish rugs sewn together.
In one cabinet, Grandmother’s china,
Mom’s Czech crystal–a wedding present
decades ago, Grandson’s painted art,
the silverware Dad gave Mom on their
first wedding anniversary, Mom’s
everyday dishes–flowers blooming.
I use them every day.
These objects–a testament to who I am:
World wanderer, seeker, citizen.
September 1, on the Rim of Wonder
Later, I graded papers and watched part of John McCain’s funeral, some of which almost brought me to tears. I often disagreed with him but never did I question his passionate love of country, his courage, his willingness to buck the norm, to defy convention when he thought it was the right thing to do. I think he and I shared certain values on which this country is based even if the country as a whole rarely lives up to them. These include the conviction that all people are equal, that everyone deserves justice, and each person carries the right to find his or her own share of happiness without judgment and condemnation from others who may think differently.
Later, while working on the latest book I am writing, I found handwritten recipes written by my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Nellie Narcissus Duke (Kaiser),whose father came here from Switzerland as a child. One, for dumplings, remains readable. The other written in pencil on the front and back of thin paper is fragile. It is for Strawberry Shortcake. If Grandmother Duke ever made dumplings, I do not remember it. Mother did–chicken and dumplings. I wonder if she used this recipe. I do remember conversations about the shortcake because Dad did not like strawberry shortcake even though he liked strawberries. I took photos of these two recipes written decades ago in my grandmother’s handwriting.