The Power of One

I’ve been writing a lot lately, just not on this blog spot. I’m conflicted. My intent all along, encouraged, maybe even pushed by my late husband, was to write fluff, mindless humor and yes, sappy mush at times revolving totally around my love for all things that gives you and me pleasure through what you taste, smell and see. I’ve been at this blogging stuff for six years now. The first two years were prolific and for the reader probably bordered on tedium but I was happy with my endeavors and let’s face it, this really is all about me. Time passed, life happened and my posts became more focused on the love that can be expressed through making, sharing and consuming food. Then, for me, the unthinkable occurred in February 2019….. my love, my someone, the object of my desire and the object of my ire died. The A #1, top-of-the-list, head of the heap, king of the hill person who I cooked for, dined out with, winery and culinary adventured with was gone. So too was my ability to muse about anything really. Slowly, with the help of family and friends I got my food and drink mojo back to almost full tilt when the COVID Pandemic struck…..

I managed to push out one blog post at what ironically turned out to be what was only the first phase of this awful pandemic. I attempted to balance humor with some great tips and a bit of gratitude to friends and family who stayed in touch and of course to our heroic frontline workers who are still at it. Like I said, I was conflicted then just as I’m conflicted now. Musing about eating and boozing just seemed so inadequate, so shallow but I do it a lot. One friend of mine writes a blog about aging with grace. She posts often compared to me, never as long as mine, but always so eloquently and with meaning. In a time of everyone suffering I just couldn’t seem to square my civically aware and caring self with my culinary comedic side. So I sat, wrote, painted and cooked of course in the bubble of Hodge Podge Lodge having suffered my worst year the one prior. During the pandemic my stress was minimal compared to others with my inability to move forward in the way I wanted being my biggest obstacle. It pales in comparison what so, so many others went and are still going through…. what YOU are going through. My contribution to ease the pain has been simple: wear a mask, social distance (very tough!) and stay home most of the time. I cooked for friends, had a few porch or patio gatherings for no more than four and took time to handcraft some food and artsy gifts for folks whether they liked it or not. I was hopeful for and am now experiencing 2021 as a kinder, happier and funnier year. With that, I’m determined to get back to using this blog site as I intended.

Girl Power– The idea for my first event of significant size that I held post vaccine started to come together in March via Facebook. I had posted the very important fact that I had just ordered a boatload of Girl Scout Cookies and shared the link so others could order as well. I also shared that perhaps I’d have a GS Cookie and Wine Tasting once we were all vaccinated since I knew tastings of this sort was a “thing”. Typical Facebook banter ensued with some of my lady friends about scouting in general where I admitted in the comments and through FB Messenger that I been an excellent Brownie, an alright Junior and an absolutely terrible Cadet. We all agreed the annual cookie sale was a good thing and something worth supporting. To my delight one of my “widow” FB friends who I had not yet met in person expressed interest in attending a tasting event if I opted to have one. That got the wheels turning….. Girl Scout Cookies, Wine and Strong Widows and their Allies. Perfection! I’d finally meet my two kindred spirits that lost their husbands way too early as well and within the same window I created for my own loss. So too I would include some of my dear friends who have stuck by me since the loss of my love, one another widow herself and others who just “get” me and lived near by. One idea, one Facebook invitation crafted and sent to one dozen invitees was all it took to put on my party (planning) hat and to get to work playing.

By shear coincidence when researching appropriate wine and cookies, I found that the three Ruth Bader Ginsburg labeled wines from Teneral Cellers https://teneralcellars.com that I had acquired in honor of one of the greatest women to walk this planet would pair nicely with three different Girl Scout Cookies. The fourth and final pairing would include a wine from the Wonderful Wine Company https://wonderfulwine.com/. This conventional wine pairing consisted of one Girl Scout cookie, one wine and one RBG quote/anecdote. How perfect to put to legacy of the notorious RBG at the forefront of this one night only event!

I expected this first gathering of my very own Strong Widows and their Allies Club to be fun. What I hadn’t anticipated was the bond that was created almost immediately between a dozen women who had come together on my invitation. In some instances we didn’t know each other very well or not at all. I was the common thread among the group that consisted of two lovelies I’d never met face-to-face, a couple who I hadn’t seen for years, a few others that I had never socialized with and a smattering of new and old friends who have been there for me since my loss. The yakking was instant and within minutes connections were made between everyone.

We widows have learned how to reach deep within ourselves and pull out a strength that prior to the loss one could ever imagine. Sadly, I know now it’s similar to facing a personal health crisis but there’s one component that makes it so much more intense…..your grief will never be “cured” or lessened. That part of your life is gone forever and you are left with the memories of your former life and the reality that what you had envisioned for the rest of your life is an impossibility. By sheer strength you push on going forward with the support of only certain family members and friends. I am grateful that I have the very in best support and love from my one daughter and one son. Likewise, I have a rather large (enough for me anyway), sort of eclectic group of friends from all over who inspire me everyday to go forward and live my best life I can. I’d like to think I offer the same to many of them. Heck, I bet we all have that one power inside us, to inspire others we care about to live their best lives. I digress. On with the featured presentation…..

It’s all about the food for me-Please be aware that no one is invited to my house for just boxed cookies and tastes of wine! Homemade food and drink are always served. That’s my shtick ….aim to impress and show I care through my culinary skills. If there’s one thing I excel at is cooking for friends and family. This particular evening my very famous chicken salad was on the menu stuffed into lady-like miniature croissants. I realize there may be others out there that think their chicken salad is special and no doubt it is. My made-up recipe is hardly unique. I do put in a dash of not s?o rare curry as my not so secret ingredient, but other than that my chicken salad consists of the usual. Where I do stand out though is how I cook the chicken thanks to one Florence Lin and her first and my first purchased cookbook Florence Lin’s Chinese Regional Cookbook. https://america.cgtn.com/2018/01/25/china-cook-chef-florence-lin-obituary

It’s worth the effort to prep chicken the Basic White-Cut way.

I started cooking chicken for many Chinese Recipes using the White-Cut Basic Recipe that appears on the well-worn pages 50-51 in 1979. I’m not sure when I decided it was a good way to prep for chicken salad but it was years and years ago so by now it’s just part of my process. Without going into more detail, white-cut is similar to poaching except you use chicken stock instead of water and the actual cooking process only takes twenty minutes for a whole chicken and only ten for just breasts plus sitting time. In the end you have succulent, moist, flavorful chicken that’s recipe ready. The key ingredient here is a spoon! The spoon is either inserted into the cavity of a whole chicken or in between breasts in the pot before heating begins. That one spoon conducts the heat through the flesh rendering a moist finished product. Now I rarely make chicken salad any other way. My chicken salad is really great I tell y’a!

I made other stuff too. Probably the most unique was Mini Quiches with Nasturtium Leaves from my garden “Crusts”. Those were fun to make and made one or two of my sweet lady friends smile. Speaking of smiles, we were all beaming when we retired to my backyard sanctuary. Laughter and camaraderie ensued one shared story at a time. I never share photos of individuals on my blog (names neither except for my perfect dog Lily and my stupendous grandnephew Dominic) but if ever I was tempted it would be photos of these wonderful ladies who have made my life richer.

Real cooking is more about following your heart than following recipes.”
– Unknown

All the foods. Votes for Women napkins!

One idea. One gesture. One invitation. One great woman. One perfectly timed meme received in the morning when you first wake up. One heartfelt text. One phone call asking if you’re okay. One dinner/lunch date. One (or a lot) beautiful photograph shared. One thumbs up or better yet a heart. One spoon. One recipe. One Facebook message to a stranger……All these things prove the Power of One. We all have it in us to make a difference in someone’s life. You all have done it for me and gosh darn it I hope I’ve done it for you.

2 thoughts on “The Power of One

  1. Colleen Benelli says:

    Jen, This blog is great You’ve got it all- humor, wisdom, honesty, and a great suggestion for how to cook my next chicken. Thanks for sitting down and writing about your wonderful wine and cookie event. I love the homage to RBG! I understand completely that you can only write for public consumption when you are ready. Your blog is a gift, please share it as you are able. Girl power!

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    • Dear Colleen- I certainly hope you realized my reference to you and your blog which truly is “graceful”! Thanks so much for the encouragement. Next up for me is a return to my original blog “roots” titled Main Takeaways from Maine. No mush no platitudes. Ironically, I must tell you since our mutual friend Becky (Snyder) DiRosa already knows, I was just diagnosed with the “very best breast cancer” to have DCIS. I had my lumpectomy last Thursday and won’t know if radiation is recommended until Nov 4. I’m absolutely fine! I feel for you becoming the caregiver for your husband. Pat had health issues most of our marriage but he was strong and together we faced it all and we were still able to have an incredible life together. Thanks again for your words…blog-wise and to me personally.

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