Category Archives: Roanne+Lindquist

Food Banks: Highly underrated

POTAGE DE LAITUE

by Christina Ivazes 

Movie stars, millionaires, and well-known musicians of Mommy’s past were light years from that moment as she leaned over the grocery store dumpster with resolve, pulling out rotting vegetables she called “treasures.”  In a subtle paradox, there was not a hint of disgust in her facial expressions while even the non-descript clothing draped over her tall, lithe body could hide that she had once been a radiant beauty.

Roanne Lindquist

My mother seemed accustomed then to what hipsters would later call “Dumpster Diving.” I felt peculiar, silently watching a human being—my own mother—forage for food in a dumpster. However bizarre, nothing would spoil this rare moment to have Mommy all to myself. Earlier that morning before our adventure, I was both surprised and thrilled when she chose me, the eldest of her five children, to go “shopping.”

As if she discovered exactly what she’d been seeking, Mommy pulled a box out from under other refuse, blurting, “Voila!” My eight years of life experience couldn’t fathom the usefulness of this “treasure,” a box full of brown, slimy wilted heads of lettuce. Nevertheless, she plopped the box into the trunk of her mint green 1956 Dodge and we drove home.

Now there’s another confusing term. Even today at fifty-two, “home” is wherever I am laying my head to sleep on any given night. It’s hard to erase the patterns of an entire childhood. Until I got married at sixteen, we usually didn’t live anywhere for longer than a few weeks or months; all of our belongings fitting into the trunk of our car. cvb

At this particular juncture, our two-week home was a motel room with kitchenette on Huntington Boulevard, not far from Disneyland. Perhaps this earliest cooking recollection was where my kitchen creativity began.

I remember Mommy speaking to me like her apprentice, “First Christie; you have to remove the outer leaves.” Like disclosing an ancient secret, she peeled back the rotten layers to reveal a miniature, yet perfect head of lettuce.

I was in awe. How did she know this stuff? It was like she knew this lettuce was behind that specific grocery store, and we didn’t even have to pay for it! How absurd that people actually threw away good food. Yep! One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Inspired this new apprenticeship, I devotedly dropped slimy outer layers of lettuce into the other half of the wooden produce box sitting beneath me. It was only the white flesh remaining we would use.

While I worked, Mommy started her preparations by pulling out a huge, white soup pot. Regardless of what else we left behind, every time we moved to a new location Mommy still had to figure out how to feed seven people three times a day, every day. It puzzles me that I was completely unaware of her gargantuan challenges at the time. She never complained about these seemingly impossible tasks. She just plodded along until they were done whether it was cooking or laundry or packing everything up, once again.

More garbage than food remained after removing the inedible parts. Next Mommy showed me how to wash the soiled heads under cool water, taking care to remove any residue. I was thrilled when this final cleaning process revealed sparkling little gems of iceberg lettuce, juicy and fresh.

But another surprise ensued when Mommy removed the hard cores from each of my gems. She cut them in fourths, and dropped the quarters into the big pot of boiling water. My hard work ruined! Now the lettuce would be wilted again. “You didn’t cook lettuce!” I thought, never daring to speak my mind.

mastering renchAs planned, Mommy read her faithful cookbook: Julia Child’s, MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING while I observed with scepticism. She demonstrated how to add salt and pepper and other ingredients I can’t recall today. Finally, I became receptive when she explained; “This is a French recipe Christie. They serve it in the finest restaurants.”

Soon, my brother, three sisters and I sat down to eat, watching Mommy ladle Potage de Laitue into our bowls. I don’t remember where our father was; probably out looking for work. My empty stomach was anxious to fill up on this unique creation, yet I cautiously tested the broth; still in disbelief that it was possible to make soup from lettuce.

It was delicious! Silently, we sipped her delicate, creamy soup. Mommy’s eyes lit up. Even mismatched spoons and bowls of different sizes and colors couldn’t diminish the pride in her work as we hastily finished and asked for more. I felt proud too.

After being raised in Woodside, California, one of America’s wealthiest communities, Mommy never alluded to the tragedy or humiliation of life events that plunged her into this poverty. (Tidbits of information from relatives through the years have given me clues to deeper thoughts and feelings that must have played through her mind that day.)

For that moment in our tiny motel room, like so many other moments, Mommy didn’t focus on what could have been. She had just successfully fed her five children—a la Julia Child no less—in a feat transcending wealth and glamour. Nothing was more important to her than us kids and we knew it.

While relishing our miraculous meal, I reflected on my amazing mother and the story of Stone Soup I had just heard in school. You could make a meal with scant ingredients. A good cookbook helps too. Today, I often send a prayer of thanks to Julia Child for giving my mother dignity in her darkest moments. And even though my mother escaped this daily suffering with her premature death at thirty-five, I send a prayer to her for giving me the gifts of determination, a positive attitude and an undying resourcefulness, no matter what may face me at any given moment.

Perhaps that is why when someone tells me, “There is nothing to cook,” I know better!

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If My Mother Were Alive Today

IF MY MOTHER WERE ALIVE TODAY
March 28, 2009

If my mother were alive today
she would probably have a vegetable garden,
though she never grew anything other than us five kids that I can remember.
She would embrace the Green and Slow Food movements, organic food, Alice Waters, Al Gore, recycling, and perhaps even have a compost pile.
My mother was an avid follower of Adelle Davis and Julia Child; gourmet cuisine and nutrition, though never in the same meal.

If my mother were alive today
I think she would revere our new President Obama,
just as she had John F. Kennedy.
I remember the day I arrived home from kindergarten to find her sitting in front of the television in our living room, crying.
When I asked her what was wrong, she told me our President had been killed. My five-year old mind could not comprehend the implications of such an event or the sorrow of her tears; now I understand.

If my mother were alive today
I hope she would be happy that I actually read
Tolstoy’s, War and Peace.
A two-volume paperback version of War and Peace was by her bedside
when she went into the coma that ended her life three days later.
I have to confess that I read it this past winter,
in order to finish something she had started.

If my mother were alive today
she would be happy that I still take walks up on ‘Mummu’s Hill’-
the open space my grandmother fought for years to save.
She would be comforted that I still appreciate where I come from
no matter where life has led me.
Coincidentally, I was on that hill today, comforted by my old friends the California poppies, Tidy Tips, and Buttercups dancing amongst memories of family walks during holidays gatherings. Though Mommy was never there for those walks, it was because of her we were there.

If my mother were alive today
I would make sure she saw her seven great grandchildren
and that they knew how special she was.
She was a deeply intellectual and philosophical thinker,                                                                                                                                                fascinated with avant garde culture and the possibility of extraterrestrial life.              

If my mother were alive today
I hope she would celebrate with me to find out
I am one week away from sending my 1st. manuscript
to the publisher;
something she didn’t have the opportunity to do.
I found out years later that before her death she spent two years writing a novel
which was destroyed before anyone could read it.

If my mother were alive today
we could discuss literature over coffee—two of her habits I fervently adopted.
Insisting I knew she was cultured and literate                                                                                                                                                                         
 she took me for walks on the Stanford University Campus,                                                                                                                                                 sharing secrets of what seemed to be an ‘alter-life’.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Though after our walks we inevitably returned to our real home,                                                                                                                                                  a shack in the ghetto of East Palo Alto.
But, no matter how poor or trapped we were in any given moment
my mother demonstrated that we always had books and the knowledge of others
to expand our lives beyond our circumstances.

If my mother were alive today
I could ask her the many, many questions
about her life that she left unanswered
like, ‘Who was my father?’
What was it really like                                                                                                                                                                                                    following around the jazz greats in the 50’s and living in the basement of Kalisa’s in Monterey?                                                                                         What actually happened that summer in Lake Tahoe during her 16th year,                                                                                                                                that seemed to change her self-concept forever?

I may never know the answers
to these questions;
I can only imagine.
I am comforted in knowing she is happy where she is now
because she told me so
when she visited me in my dreams after her death.
Today is the thirty eighth anniversary of that death,
Which came seven days after her 34th birthday.

This loss of my mother                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    gave me a different experience in life.
As a twelve-year old, I had to figure things out for myself
stumbling through how to be a woman, a wife, a mother, and a professional.                                                                                                                        I had many rough moments, and some really bad influences but eventually                                                                                                                                   I sought out awesome mentors who helped me find my way.

As is human nature,                                                                                                                                                                                                                     I have taken on some of my mother’s unfinished business and                                                                                                                                                      preserved every precious little kernel of culture and wisdom                                                                                                                                                  she fed to me in my first twelve years from preparing crème brulee’ and cardamom bread
to a love of literature, education, and the Extraordinary in Life.                                                                                                                                                   I have come to appreciate those kernels more                                                                                                                                                                     because there are so few of them.                                                                                                                                                                                            Loss has been my inspiration, my eternal compassion,                                                                                                                                                              never taking for granted how precious my life is;                                                                                                                                                                   each kernel becoming a jewel with time.                                                                                   

If you can hear me Mommy,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I just want you to know that I, too am okay!

Love, Christie

 

 

 

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