A month ago when my heart was suddenly broken, all food tasted bitter. Weight melted off my body seemingly as quickly and copiously as the tears that streamed down my face. I looked up the five stages of grief, hoping to find suggestions on how to get food in and keep food down. There was no mention of food.
The bitterness has turned into nausea. My appetite is minimal to non existent. This condition creates a significant challenge when writing my food column.
“Eat this banana mom.” My daughter handed me the the fruit. I wondered how the happy color of color yellow could even exist right now in my world. The sky was grey. The trees were black. The trail was muddy and colorless. The banana seemed out of place.
I pulled my sagging pants up and cinched them over my protruding hip bones with a hair tie. “I’ll try” I said and slowly ate half of the banana.
We hiked to the top of the mountain, a wave of nausea hit. “Hold on.” I called to my daughter who was several yards ahead of me. I squatted down and closed my eyes. When I began to wretch my dog ran to my side. She lifted one paw and placed it on my shoulder. She cocked her head, pitched one ear and saddened her eyes. My nausea turned to laughter.
We stood there as I took some deep breaths and the clouds parted. The strong pre-spring sun hit the side of the mountain on that windless day and suddenly everything had color again. The tornado that swept me up last month felt like it let me go, if only for a moment, and dropped me in Oz.
I could feel the sun soaking into my skin. Suddenly I smelled flowers. I searched for the source of the fragrance. “Do you smell that?” I asked my daughter. “Um-hmm” she said and began searching for blooms on trees or flowers buried under winters decaying leaves.
Those bashful blooms never reviled themselves but the sun continued to light and color the trail and the fragrance of spring flowers replaced some of the sadness in my heart. I finished the banana and smiled on the drive home. I was excited about the evenings invitation to dine with a lovely couple who happen to be some of my longtime loyal yoga students.
“You look good mom.” My daughter said as I blended some bronzing powder under my cheekbones and onto my forehead, augmenting the color my skin had picked up from the generous sun that morning. “Think you’ll be able to eat?” She asked.
“Well, they are vegetarian so that helps.” I said and flashed a dentist patient’s smile at myself in the mirror to make sure my teeth were white enough.
“Want a ride?” my daughter offered. “No thanks, I’ll walk.” The air felt full and even though there was no fragrance of blossoms a subtle distinct smell of spring was riding on each breath of fresh air. It smelled and felt like hope.
At my friends front door I was greeted first by Sweetie and Sam who are long haired Turkish Van cats who clearly run the house. Sam the larger of the two was blind and his dilated pupils reminded me of my dogs sweet innocent eyes. Warm welcoming hugs from my friends came next and were followed by handing me a glass of wine. We all touched our glasses “To friendship.” my friend said.” and to new beginnings.” My other friend chimed in.
With a genuine smile my friend handed me a ceramic spoon. The large spoon held a colorful artistic structure built with vegetables and herbs.“This is an Amuse-bouche” my friend explained. I was impressed and laughed when I admitted I had no idea what she was talking about. I learned that its a French term meaning ‘Amuse the mouth’. “This is a petite sampling of food to be served. It is to whet the appetite and stimulate the palate.” She said. My appetite certainly needed whetting!
Our first course was a velvety beet soup, which explained the brined, paper thin beet slice at the base of the amuse-bouche. The warm silky and salty soup slid down my throat and warmed my belly. I felt my entire system absorb nourishment its been lacking for over a month. In between courses we cleansed our palate with a sparkling cider. Frozen raspberries in place of ice cubes was a whimsical touch.
The main course was served by my friends with deservedly proud smiles. “Boeuf Bourguignon!” I said as I immediately recognized the familiar dish I have made dozens of times. I stared at the stew with a puzzled expression on my face. “Its mushrooms, not beef.” They explained.
I appreciated the dish and I have to admit its was BETTER than mine, but unfortunately it was too heavy for my now delicate system. I nibbled at the rich dark brown broth.
“We have a treat for dessert.” My friends announced. I sipped the cleansing sparking drink and awaited our final course. “Lemon curd!” I was told. I laughed then explained that the first food I was able to actually swallow was a homemade lemon curd cake a friend had made. This lemon curd was layered with a buttery pound cake. It was sweet and sour, slightly salty from the butter. I let the citrus flavor blossom in my mouth before I swallowed.
I gazed at the bright yellow color swirled inside my parfait glass and thought of spring. I thought of that moment on the trail when the bright yellow sun lit up and brought color to my world. “It was spring when my first son was born.” I said to my friends. “When I was pregnant with him I was nauseous the whole time. All I could eat was lemon based foods and straight up lemons. When spring arrived all those years ago, and I gave birth and was able to find my appetite again.”
We raised our parfait glasses. “To new beginnings!”, “To rebirth!” my friends cheered simultaneously. “To the color yellow.” I chimed in.