Comfort Food

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

-Charles Bukowski

Let me start by apologizing for the unexpected hiatus of culinary adventures as of late.  I promise, Red Vs. Green: Part II will be coming soon,  This was not planned, and is in fact the result of a death in the family of my girlfriend, Emily, who lost her father in a motorcycle accident a few weeks ago.  The unexpected death caused a whirlwind trip across the country with Emily’s family, some of the best people I’ve met.  They made me feel right at home at a time when hospitality certainly wasn’t required or expected.  Truly kind-hearted individuals.

Due to work and a few other commitments, I wasn’t able to make it out to Texas to be with the family until early the week after the accident.  I flew in late on a Tuesday afternoon to Hobby airport, where Emily picked me up, and as soon as I walked out into the unusually chilly Houston air, a bit of a panicked self-realization hit me.

What did I know about helping people cope?

For this to make sense, I suppose I need to backtrack a bit.  Emily is part of a tight-knit and faithful family, quite unlike my own.  My parents are divorced and have been for a few years, and I don’t talk to them that often any more.  This isn’t anything against them, as our paths have simply gone separate ways, and I hold no grudges.  I don’t feel sorry for myself, as they did mold me into a relatively sane and healthy individual and my childhood was never lacking. However, Emily still talked to her dad every night on the phone and in fact talked daily, at length, to both her parents.  When we got the news that her dad had been killed, the devastation was something I could certainly relate to, as I’ve lost those close to me as well, yet it seemed exponentially more grevious than my own experiences.  We were fortunately able to get Emily out to be with family almost immediately, and I planned ahead and settled affairs enough on my own to make it out that Tuesday afternoon.  However, I didn’t plan beyond that plane trip, and I realized as soon as I landed and got my baggage that I was a bit of a fish out of water.

How do you help a grieving family?

Fortunately – and I’ve always believed this – we all have our own unique strengths and skills, and they can always be used to help those around us.  Fortunately, Emily didn’t wait for me to come up with some way to help, and in her physically and emotionally exhausted state, she introduced me to the family as the new boyfriend and “cooker.”  Not cook.  Not chef. Cooker.

Alright.  So I’m the cooker now.  What does a cooker do?

Oh, that's right

Oh, that’s right

We never really expect to be thrown into these situations.  I feel this is incredibly important, and it’s part of what makes us so human.  We plan like tomorrow will be just like any other day, and thus we plan anticipating infinite possibilities, and if we truly live our lives that way, then we can truly become limitless.  This is crucial to being a good person, to making life worthwhile, and to having a positive effect on those around us.  I never met Emily’s dad, Terry, but I knew I had to make an effort to know what kind of man he was, through his family, and I knew the skill I had to facilitate that comfort and that conversation was cooking… so I made all of us a couple of awesome breakfasts.

This is incredibly straighforward–we had bacon, potatoes, toast, fresh fruit, veggies, orange juice, and eggs.  The eggs are KEY to a comfort food breakfast – I cannot express this enough, especially since almost no one knows how to make proper scrambled eggs.  This is probably the only true cooking tip available in this blog (sorry about that, but bacon and potatoes you can cook almost any way you like and people will gobble them up.  Carbs and fat release endorphins, they’re fantastic) but it is crucially important to good scrambled eggs, so here goes:

  1. Crack your eggs into a cold pan with a good chunk of butter. DO NOT SEASON THEM YET.  They’ll become runny.
  2. Turn your burner on high and immediately begin folding your eggs together.
  3. As soon as the eggs begin to solidify, pull them off the heat.  Keep stirring.
  4. Alternate on and off heat, continually stirring, as the eggs come together.
  5. Just before they’re done, pull them off the heat once more, and throw a dollop of sour cream in them so they cool down and don’t overcook.
  6. Now you can season them to taste.  Add chives if you’re feeling classy.

This is the only way to make scrambled eggs.  They will always be fluffy and delicious, I promise.

Definitely a stick-to-your-bones meal, but damn tasty

Definitely a stick-to-your-bones meal, but damn tasty

Cooking on the trip was incredibly important to me, and the reason why is incredibly simple: People tend to talk over a good meal.  It’s always been the case, and I owed it to myself to get to know Terry, as he’d been such an incredible influence to the people I met on my trip.  So, I cooked, I listened, and I learned a few things about him.  It would be a disservice to the man to try and list everything about him–there’s too much to include such a full life.  I feel like it’s most important that I try to honor his memory by instead living by the morals and the stories his family was kind enough to share with me.   We even had to have two services – one in Texas and one in West Virginia, which says a lot about the man in itself.  When your personality and your impact is too big for even for Texas to hold, then you’ve truly become larger than life.

I never had a family environment like the one Terry provided for his family.  My family wasn’t bad in any way and I absolutely wasn’t neglected, but Terry went above and beyond the call with his family.  He not only nurtured and supported his wife and daughters unconditionally, but his love spilled out into the community through his church and the immeasurable amount with which he gave back.  What he preached was simple: you don’t hold back, you jump in with both feet, and you love and nurture actively, with everything you have to give.

So you can joke, you can laugh, you can sing, you can cook, you can dance, you can pray, you can study, and you can do anything else that comes from the passion you have within… but you’ve got to do it from a place of love.  Because of Terry, I can honestly say I’m a better person, and now I’m less afraid of failure, more apt to shelve the cynicism in favor of curiosity, and I’m motivated to be the best person I can possibly be.

There’s not enough thanks in the word “thanks,” Terry, but I know you can see the way you’ve made the world an exponentially better place.  The legacy you left behind is truly immeasurable, and you’ve become an astounding role model to me and countless others.  Be seeing you.

4 responses to “Comfort Food

    • I’m in tears Robbie…that was so beautiful! I’m sure Terry is smiling down from heaven, knowing that you’re the one that has swept Emily off her feet. I want to thank you once again for all you did for our family, I feel like I’ve known you forever and that’s a great thing :-) Our door is always open and I’m anxiously awaiting til we can all be together again. (The bunk beds are now sold) 😃
      Take good care of our sweet Emily…I love you both!!!

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