Eat Well: Postcript from Babyland

The following post was written by my mom, WWW, who is no longer here and I am crying BECAUSE I MISS HER SO MUCH! When my mom sent me the first draft of this post I made her rewrite it because she's my mom and she pours on the gush like nobody else. It reminded me of the post I wrote about her on my 29th birthday, which is quite possibly my favorite post I've ever published because even when I was a nightmare of a daughter, she was a dream of a mom. Anyway, at the risk of becoming eye-roll worthy (too late for that, right?) I just want to state (for the thousandth time) that I am so SO tremendously grateful for my mother and the two months of physical and emotional support she generously donated to our household. As a mother and woman, I strive to be (even partially) as kick-ass as she. Love you x infinity, mom.

***

I am sitting at the kitchen table writing, my first day home after two months with Rebecca and her family. My blue pot is back on my stove. My brand new cast iron pan is there, too. Larry surprised me with it, a “coming home” present. What a loving gift from my dear husband. And when I cook with it, I will forever remember the many meals I cooked in Rebecca’s kitchen with its twin.

I couldn’t jump into writing about food without first reflecting on what the last two months meant to me. In a way, I feel like I am waking up from a dream, a little disoriented, not sure where I am or what I am doing. I know after a few days I will get my sea legs back and jump into my usual busy life, but for now, I need to keep it slow so I can still remember the smell of Bo and Rev, feel Bo’s squishy cheek against mine and her tight clasp, stare into the pools of Rev’s wide eyes and stroke her long and delicate fingers. I don’t know if I can truly express how special this time was, bonding with two babies as their Gooey, but also as their Nanny. Marveling at their differences, kissing their tummies and toes while changing diapers, feeding them, rocking them to sooth their cries. Bo looks so much like Becca as a baby and watching Bec hold Bo gives me déjà vu, reminding me how I snuggled Rebecca against my chest in the very same way 30 years ago.
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Watching her as a mama, I'm in awe. Her calm and patient way, even when Bo is colicky for hours on end, the way she look at her children, cuddles them close. It's hard to believe my baby is now grown with four children of her own.
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It was hard leaving yesterday. And even though I know I can go back tomorrow if I want, it will never be the same as living with the family around the clock. I will especially miss the daily drives to and from school with Archer, hearing his thoughts on the world and his city, counting Priuses (100 in 3 days!), finding new routes to avoid the traffic at La Cienega and Melrose, listening to his ideas on how to solve Los Angeles’ traffic problems. And dear Fable, our happy little storybook character. Her giggles resonate in my heart. What joy to read her Pinkalicious in the car while waiting for her school to open. Walking hand in hand with her down the sidewalk. Hugging her good-bye as she happily skips off to play...
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Yesterday I knew inside my body that it was time to go even though as I said goodbye I was inwardly crying. I am so glad that Rebecca found a good Nanny to help her so that she can continue to work but still be at home. That made it easier for me to leave and I am grateful beyond belief.

It took me awhile to get used to cooking in another kitchen. We all have our familiar tools and ingredients that we like and Rebecca’s kitchen as I mentioned in another post is sparse. I found myself buying things I needed and making do with others. One thing that struck me when I first perused her cupboards was that she had huge containers of spices and herbs that were stale and tasteless. So I thought it would be a good idea this week to write a post sharing my tips on purchasing and using herbs and spices.

1. Only buy herbs and spices in quantities that you will use up in 6 months for ground and 1 year for dried whole herbs. Otherwise they will lose their flavor. Rebecca’s cupboard was filled with large stale spices and I had to throw them all out. Use a sharpie to write on the bottle the date that you opened it. That way you will know if it is still fresh.

2. Beware of buying large quantities of herbs and spices in bulk. You don’t really know when they were put into the bulk containers so you can’t be sure if they are fresh. But this is a great way to buy a little bit of a spice you rarely use so you don’t end up wasting 5 dollars on a whole jar that will end up getting tossed. If you do buy your spices this way, transfer them into air-tight glass containers to store and use them up quickly.

3. Try to buy herbs packed in tins or bottles. The cellophane containers let in light and are not airtight so you can’t be sure how fresh they are.

4. Buy whole spices and grind or grate them yourself for more flavor. You can buy a cheap coffee grinder and use it exclusively for your spices. (For instance, I NEVER buy ground nutmeg as it has no flavor). A lot of recipes, especially Indian, call for toasting whole spices in a dry skillet, cooling them, and then grinding in a spice grinder for more pungent flavor. (This works great for cumin, cloves and cardamom).

4. Whenever possible, use fresh herbs. If you can grow your own, that is the cheapest and best way to always have fresh herbs on hand. If you can only grow herbs seasonally, you can freeze or dry them for use year round. Otherwise, we are lucky now to have fresh herbs available in the grocery stores year round. Some herbs are great dried while others lose their essence. I ONLY use FRESH basil, parsley, cilantro and tarragon as their flavor isn’t retained when dried, but thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano and dill are great dried (I never buy them ground, just whole).

5. Buy dried whole herbs instead of ground…they are more flavorful and last longer. When using dried herbs, crush them before adding to your food to release their oils.

6. Once a year, clean out your spice cabinet. This way, you can get rid of stale spices and replace them so you have a fresh supply ready when you need them. I must admit, I am not good about doing this but I am going to try harder to follow my advice!!
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My must-haves in my spice cupboard:

Bay leaves
Caraway seeds
Cayenne pepper
Chili powder
Ground cinnamon
Cloves
Cumin (both ground and whole)
Curry
Dill weed
Ground ginger (for cookies and gingerbread but FRESH ginger for everything else)
Whole nutmeg
Dried whole oregano
Paprika
Whole peppercorns for grinding
Dried whole rosemary
Dried whole thyme
Ground turmeric

And….what I DID love in Rebecca’s cupboard was her Trader Joe’s Every Day Seasoning. I am adding it to my list as it is DELICIOUS! Do you have any spice tips to share? What are your must haves in your spice cupboard?
***

And…for those of you who didn’t catch my last year’s Thanksgiving posts, here they are.



We are having a very small Thanksgiving this year..only Rebecca’s family and my mother, so I will be doing a simpler version of last year's meal. I already ordered my Heritage Turkey and..my dessert will be the tarte tatin in my NEW cast iron skillet!!

Have a Happy Holiday!

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Love,
WWW

47 comments:

Meg | 11:32 AM

Oh, wow, the cheeks are exactly the same -- adorable!

Arnebya | 11:35 AM

This was beautiful! There's nothing like the love between mother and child and this warmed me, the generations of love your family is sharing.

And yup, Meg, those cheeks don't lie.

Arnebya | 11:37 AM

Oh! And spices! I have to admit I need to step away from the salt. There isn't a Trader Joe's "near" me, but I can get to one. We tried growing a few herbs ourselves, but...groundhogs and raccoons like EVERYTHING!

Adina B | 11:47 AM

My eyes are teary here. May I be able to be there for my girls someday the way WWW is there for you.

nicole | 11:57 AM

You are such a beautiful mama - it's easy to see where Bec gets it from! Thanks for this post. I was wondering why my dried cilantro didn't taste or smell like cilantro at all - DUH! It's, like, five years old and needs to go! Thanks, WWW. I wish we had a Trader Joe's here in Little Rock, AR. Sigh.

p.s. Bec, I just read, for the first time, the birthday post containing the emails from abroad - I'd never heard of "Pocketmail," ha! - and I was moved to tears by your relationship with your mom. My mom and I aren't close (anymore), and it's one of the saddest things. You are so lucky to have each other. xo.

annabelvita | 12:17 PM

I love WWW! The next generation (Archer, Fable, Bo and Rev) are lucky to have such an amazing mother and grandma. They're going to be stellar!

A Brilliant Life | 12:22 PM

My mom fell HARD for my newborn twins as well. She loves all of her grandkids like crazy but actually got depressed over having to leave mine (I live on a different continent). She said when she got back home that her arms hurt for them. She said the difference between the twins and the other grandkids she has gone to stay with at their birth is that when she was there for the month after my girls were born it was not me hovering and trying to figure out how to mother but her always having to have a baby in her arms because it was plain necessity!

Kate | 12:36 PM

What a great post, Wendy! I loved seeing those pictures of you holding Rebecca and now Rebecca holding Bo. So special and touching.

I probably should do what you are suggesting and go through my cabinet again. Spices are just so darn expensive that I hate throwing things out...even if they may be tasteless. But it needs to be done!

Here's what I NEED in my spice rack:
Kosher salt
Black pepper in my pepper grinder
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
Sweet paprika
Hot paprika (I use a lot of paprika I guess!)
Oregano
Herbs de Provence
Cinnamon
Whole nutmeg
Lawry's Seasoning Salt
Whole cloves

If anyone visits the East Coast and Cape Cod in particular, I would highly recommend a visit to The Atlantic Spice Company in Truro, MA. Almost at the end of the world and filled with delicious spices. They ship all over the country and you can order online! They make their own vanilla extract...yum.

Katie | 12:41 PM

Both of you are amazing women - and moms!!! Wish I could say more but no words will do justice here so I'll just say THANK YOU FOR SHARING THE LOVE :-)))

Glenda | 12:57 PM

Wow wow wow! I love this beautiful post. All the love...I can feel it. Makes my heart skip a beat. Reminds me of my mama. She came to stay with me when I had my son and then my daughter. Each time for a month. It was perfect. Reminds me of our relationship (now I have the memories as she passed in 2004) She was my go to person, my best friend.

Reminds me of my relationship with my daughter. Can't wait to be a "gooey" (I like that name :) )

All in one type of post! Ah!!! FAMILY = LOVE!!!!

Bo is Rebecca's twinnie... how freaking adorable x2 Rev,Archer & Fable too.

Polly | 1:05 PM

Woah! Talk about twins!!! You and Bo are identical!!!!! A thousand exclamation points!!

chesapeake | 1:08 PM

Whoo, boy.

The photos of your mom+you and then you+bo now...completely and utterly crying over here.

I love bookends in life.

Jesse | 1:11 PM

such a lovely post, your mom sounds like such an amazing woman with so much love in her heart. inspiring.
as for spices, i love herbs de provence, and i confess, i use it on way too many items.

Perfectly Impurfect Me | 1:18 PM

Love this post...there is nothing like the unconditional love of a mom. Except that of a grammy!

CP | 1:18 PM

So I just read your 29th birthday post and started tearing up at work (I'm pregnant and hormonal, so I can use that as an excuse), but 1st, my 2.5 year old daughter, my mom and I all say "I love you to the moon and back" to each other. And 2nd, I had this really amazing conversation with my husband the other night about my 13 year old step-daughter and coupled with that post, it is a reminder of learning to parent with love even when we could parent with fear (even when I want to lock her in her room away from boys forever!). So thank you! I needed that.

Susan | 1:29 PM

What a fantastic post! I was in tears over the beautiful words that your mom wrote about your family, and also having to say good-bye--something I am not good at. I also had no idea that spices went bad! Learn something new every day.

Trysha | 1:35 PM

Why does writing the day your open your spices such a simple suggestion, yet genius!! It's never crossed my mind. Duh.

I love WWW and look forward to all Mom's posts. :)

Anonymous | 1:36 PM

Beautiful photos. Especially the one of you and Rebecca when she was a baby. Exactly like Bo. Regarding the spices...funny but I always buy nutmeg ground because it is a strong spice and I find it is fragrant for a long, long time. And I even have a special nutmeg grinder. I love using spices and have them all. Toasting certain spices, like cumin, really brings out flavor. But one of the best ways to buy spices bulk is at a reputable health food store. They move the merchandise and you can smell that it is fresh. It is so much less expensive than buying it at a supermarket (where it usually is not very fresh even if in a jar). If you just need a few tablespoons, it cost pennies. Good Middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese import stores are great places to get spices also. Could go on, but I will stop.

My Bottle's Up! | 2:16 PM

dear WWW,
it *may* be my pregnancy hormones, but i WEPT when reading this post. and honestly, i'm going to miss your posts from rebecca's home, pictures of you in every day life with bo and rev (though you seem to see them often). this has been such an incredible adventure for you all, but as a long time reader of rebecca's blog, she let us in to this adventure of yours too... as she does so graciously. while her adventures continue, i will miss your voice in her home (as i know she does too). xoxox!

Noelle | 2:58 PM

Such a wonderful post. I love the pics!! Totally made me tear up.

Barb @ getupandplay | 3:01 PM

I think your mom is my favorite person that I know through (from? what is the proper term here?) the internet. What a wonderful, incredible human being.

flyrish | 3:26 PM

Wow, Bo does look just like her mama! So awesome.

Love this post and I didn't think about how old some of my spices are until just now. Good tips right before we're spicing up Thanksgiving, thank you!

oh, jenny mae | 4:00 PM

such a lovely post, www. bec - you've got a winner.

we keep our spices in the chiller. no idea if it does anything, but ben says it does, so i defer.

Carla | 5:15 PM

So sweet.

Emily | 6:43 PM

Aw, Wendy is such an amazing mom/gooey! You guys are super lucky to have each other.
I won the giveaway last year of one of Wendy's handsewn dresses, btw, and we love it! It still fits my daughter and she absolutely kills in it.

Abigail | 8:31 PM

I absolutely love your family.

Kels | 4:40 AM

Lovely! This reminds me of my relationship with my mom! I can't wait to get to see her be a grandmother.

Also, I'm totally guilty in the herbs/spices arena. We even have a box of infrequently used spices that I'm sure are years old.

Expat Mom | 4:54 AM

Wow, Becca and Bo look alike! It's just too neat that you got to spend that time with the kids. My mom only just met her only grandsons (my kids) who are 4 and 5. She completely missed out on the baby and toddler years because we live so far away and I never had the money to get to Canada.

My spice must haves include:
- Paprika
- Garlic powder
- Basil (never goes stale because I use a bottle every month!)
- Oregano
- Rosemary
- Cajun seasoning
- Thyme
- Cinnamon
- Nutmeg
- Cloves
- Ginger

Anonymous | 5:54 AM

Such a mother and grandmother! I am so so hopeful that I can be that for my daughters when they are grown. You are so blessed to have her (I know you already know that) and it's okay to gush on and on, because she deserves the praise! And she is right, the resemblance is striking!

I long for a mother like yours. I hope someday that I can be that mother and grandmother. It gives me much hope and heals a lot of past disappointment.

And she reminds me so much how much I need to hold on to the fleeting moments with my own children, because they pass so quickly!

katie | 5:54 AM

I just have a comment on the dried basil/parsley/etc part. Do not eschew these spices because they are different dried than fresh! I consider dried and fresh parsley different herbs and both completely worthwhile and perfect for their own uses. Also, particularly for basil and parsley, both are extremely easy to grow and/or purchase in quantity when in season and if you do so, dry them yourself to preserve more of their true flavor. Every summer I dry a fresh stock of basil and parsley, crush them through a sieve, and use them (summer, fall, winter and spring) until drying time comes around again. You'll find the flavor different than fresh and different than storebought and delicious and you'll find many wonderful uses for them.

AAWolf | 6:32 AM

I have a question. If you do buy whole spices instead of ground, how long do those keep? Would that also be for a year or longer? I actually do have a spice grounder and desparately need to clear out old spices and add new ones so I wondered, as I'd look to buy as much whole spices as possible.

Anonymous | 6:34 AM

i think ggc and www need to pen a book. motherhood/daughter/mom relationships. love reading this. thanks.

Linds | 6:40 AM

I'm in love with your mother! What a wonderful person she is and the love she has for you and your babies is magnificent! Loved this post!

Wendy Woolf | 7:23 AM

AAWolf....whole hard spices like nutmeg, cumin seed, cloves, etc can last several years if you freshly grind them before use. Whole HERBS (leaves), on the other hand, only last about a year before they start losing their flavor. And if they are already GROUND, their shelf life is very limited (they start losing their flavor after about 6 months).

Anonymous | 8:16 AM

Tears. Just tears. And I agree that you two should write a book. I want to know how to have this relationship with my daughter when she's grown.

Paloma | 8:47 AM

What a touching and beautiful post! I am moved!

Angela | 10:23 AM

I love the mother/daughter book idea! The way you two write about each other is truly inspiring and moving.

Anonymous | 11:25 AM

WWW, if you have spices that have "gone bad" can't you just put more of it than usual? I hate to throw anything away that's usable, plus some spices are pretty expensive. BTW I looked for that Every Day Spice at TJ's and I couldn't find it...could you tell me what area of the store you can find it in? At my location which is close to yours, the spices had their own small shelf next to the cheeses but that one was nowhere to be seen.

That post is also my favorite on here. I had an epiphany reading it, that my own mother and her mother were the very opposite of your mother and messed me up considerably. It is amazing how hard it is to undo the damage of a harmful upbringing, and GGC you are so lucky you had a mother to teach you the right way and keep you safe from the true bad and ugly. Your blog has definitely been a tool in understanding my own past.

Wendy Woolf | 1:19 PM

Anon...Ask at your Trader Joe's where it is...it comes in a pepper grinder (and is called Everyday Seasonings). They should have it! And about using more herbs,...if they are stale, no amount will make up for fresh. I made a borscht at Rebecca's and all she had was a huge jar of stale dill weed. I practically dumped the whole thing in and no dill taste whatsoever. Try to buy your herbs in very small containers if you don't use them up quickly or buy them in bulk at a place you trust where lots of people shop and buy smaller amounts, that way you won't be wasting the herbs and spices.

And everyone...thanks for your kind comments. I am in awe of all of YOU!! Rebecca and I have thought of writing a book together...maybe someday! :)

Anonymous | 7:06 AM

So sweet. I always love your mom's posts and this one made me teary! It also made me want to go call my mom. :)

Anonymous | 9:51 AM

I've been a longtime reader but never commented, but this post made me burst into tears. Wendy, you are such a wonderful mother and grandmother; Rebecca, how lucky you are to have such an amazing family to support you!

This hit me hard because my son, now 3, hasn't had any real grandparents in his life. While there's nothing I could have done to change that, it is my only regret -- and an incredibly painful one. The joy that you all take in one another is such a gift, and the fact that you each recognize it as such is so special.

And now I'm crying again.

Anonymous | 1:53 PM

Aw, lovely post WWW.

I need to have dried whole and ground coriander seeds (I think you call it cilantro) - essential if you like indian & pakistani cooking. Also fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds.

Oh and SUMAC! Amazing for middle eastern dishes. I adored your persian eggplant.
holly

krista | 3:22 PM

so far, your mom has gotten me to raid my overzealous spice cabinet AND get rid of all my glass pyrex bakeware (of which i had a ton.) could we complete the circle and have her sew me some new curtains?

Wendy Woolf | 4:07 PM

Ahh...Anon! Yes! I forgot coriander! A must (both ground and whole). Thank you for adding that!

emily | 6:52 PM

I must must recommend world spice merchants to you! http://www.worldspice.com/
They're an amazing spice shop in dt Seattle - rows and rows of jars of ordinary and unique spices and teas and salts. You tell them what you want and they fill it for you behind the counter. BUT they also ship. Theirs are the freshest dried spices/herbs I've found as well as the cheapest (much cheaper than grocery store jars). They offer many of their spices/herbs whole or ground. I've moved far away from Seattle, but I still buy all my spices from them (I know - fossil fuels to ship, but I figure I'm saving on driving to a bunch of stores to get the spices I need, which are shipped to the store anyway).

devon | 1:41 PM

I left a somewhat bitchy (and terribly long) comment on the post about choosing to have a Hummer family in an increasingly crowded world. I just want to say that this post was a just right reminder that what you all (the GCG fam) are offering us all (readers, internet) is a chance to be around your sweet, supportive family, and that, in turn, you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, even when we (who don't really know you but like to think we do) disagree with your choices. If you choose to write more about what you imagine a fair division of resources might look like, or what you hope this planet will have to offer your kids, I will be interested to read it. I would love to see a momversation about the irony of covering our kids puzzles, bedrooms, and pajamas with "zoo" animals when having more kids has a directly decreases those animals' opportunities to have and care for offspring of their own. But maybe that's not your thing. And if not, you're still writing a funny, open, charismatic blog that really conveys how much you value your family. So, I'm sorry. Besides that I think you're doing your best (most of us are, right?), you're a post-partum mom of 4! No one should say anything mean to you about your kids, ever. Sorry for the terribly long comment (again), but thanks to WWW for reminding me what's really going on around here, and what being a momma is really about.

bbgHappY1 | 6:23 PM

I was sitting in the waiting are of my daughter's ballet school and I was reading this post with tears in my eyes.

This post reassured me that the bond between a mother and her child(ren) is stronger than anything.

BTW, I called my mother soon afterward to thank her for everything she has done for me, my kids and for being an awesome person.

Thank you!!