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We Grieve, but we Must Eat

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

The human mind is sensitive to dates, anniversaries, and so on. I believe that is one of the reasons that events in the Year of Firsts (first Christmas, her birthday, my birthday, our wedding anniversary, etc.) hits us so hard. I have been having "good" days with less tears, but today is the six month anniversary of Charlene's passing. I stop to sob a bit while writing these sentences the day before. When I think back to meeting with the funeral director, he echoed something that others have told me: Don't forget to eat.

In the confusion of grief, people forget to eat and can hurt themselves. Food does not have to be a production. I am learning kitchen things like this hamburger casserole.
A hamburger-macaroni casserole thing I made; kitchen is small and it's hard to get shadow-free pictures
The church I had just started attending plugged me into a food ministry where people brought meals to my apartment; they know the bereaved may not eat. Also, a couple of Charlene's relatives bring me food on occasion.

Indeed, one reader told me that when his wife died, he did forget to eat and drink. He ended up being hospitalized with dehydration. Others have had similar but less extreme experiences. This is an effect of the grief fog (also called widow(er)'s mind or similar things). I destroyed the pan in the picture when I almost started a stove fire while being confused.

Dining out is fast and easy, but not very healthy. You don't have any control as to what all is put in the foods or if the workers practice food safety. Making your own is cheaper, safer (when you pay attention to what you're doing), and more rewarding — and far less expensive.

There can be little or no comparing of experiences in grieving, as each person reacts differently. My brother took it hard when each of our parents died, but I did not mourn as intensely. What I think, feel, and experience There are no children involved, and almost no friends to help.

We had established our roles, and Charlene did the typical housewife things with laundry, shopping, cooking, and so forth. My cooking experience is limited, and it was never "my night" to make supper. (Looking back, that was a mistake — I could have been learning through her instruction.) She liked air fryers.

Before I keep going, a supervisor where I work told me that sometimes he just slaps chicken on the grill. That appealed to me, as I have simple tastes. When I later told him of a success that I had cooking up something while remembering his previous words, he reinforced it by saying that sometimes you have to simply think of food as fuel. We agreed that trying to turn everything into a gourmet meal can bog you down and get overwhelming. That is very important for me, and I found it kind of...liberating.

I have to get some cooking basics down, and finesse as well as more involved recipes will come later.

The last kitchen device Charlene bought was a George Foreman 7-in-1 Beyond, which not only did grilling, but air frying and several other things. George Foreman machines are supposed to be all about healthy cooking. She did not learn how to do all of the functions, but it turns out to be a tremendous inheritance. (No, this is not a paid advertisement, especially because I don't know how to grill effectively; online searches give results for outdoor grills or other Foreman grill models.)

Now more than ever, I recommend air fryers. Not the cheap things at the big box stores, spend about $100 on up for a good one. One or two people could probably get a four-quart fryer, the larger sizes are fine for feeding several people. Do some research, check reviews and things.

One day, I searched and found out that it's possible to put frozen meat into the air fryer and have it cook up nicely. Not too long ago, I saw that Hannaford had pork chops on sale. Okay, time to take a chance and do it fresh.

Pork chops (I did not eat both at the same time), packaged macaroni and cheese, mixed vegetables
Much of what I do relies on pre-packaged. That is microwave macaroni and cheese in the picture, and the veggies were frozen from a bag. I don't have time to mess around, and the pork chop seasoning was something that she had picked up. I was quite pleased. But grief is treacherous. I cried at my success! It could be that I felt like I was intruding on her domain and pushing away her memory. That's not rational, of course.

The hamburger thing shows that I may be growing out of feeling like I'm intruding on her domain because it was something I had with my first wife, and never with Charlene. The recipe takes half an hour. You brown up ground beef (or chicken or turkey), make the macaroni and cheese from a box, stir in a can of cream of mushroom soup, and some milk.

As shown above, that turned out also. It's very flexible, and cream of celery soup adds a bit. Next time, I'm adding taco seasoning, chopped tomatoes, and some other things. Mayhaps I'll overdo it, but I want to try. I'll write an addendum and post it here and on my Fakebook Page.

The takeaway point from this article is that getting decent food doesn't have to be a production. Do a bit of research on how to cook something. Basic cooking is a bit of an adventure to me and I'm still apprehensive at times, but I'm learning. (In fact, there's a folder on my main browser that has cooking shortcuts.) The time I'm waiting until I join Charlene in Heaven is a little less tedious.


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