Cooking Through Grief
Reader's Digest Canada|November 2020
Cooking Through Grief
After her husband died, my mother-in-law found solace in sharing his favourite meals
Wendy Litner

MY MOTHER-IN-LAW tells me she’s coming over, so I lock the front door. My four-year-old twins stand with their hands and faces pressed against the window. Their excited breath fogs up the glass, and they write their names to pass the time. I need to keep them inside—it’s early April and Toronto is in lockdown. I know they won’t be able to resist hugging their grandmother without being restrained.

“She’s wearing a mask,” I hear one whisper to the other as she gets out of the car.

They’ve never seen such a thing, their bubbe wearing a mask, and they’re unsure, a little afraid. But as she gets closer, they see her holding a large dish in her gloved hands and an old Tortuga rum-cake box piled with cookies. “Is that for us?” the boys ask. She puts it down on the porch as the boys hold up their drawings for her to see through the door. Her bright eyes are still visible, and you just know she’s smiling under her N95.

We are grateful to have dinner brought to us tonight. A crisis really calls for a casserole. And a global pandemic forcing us to isolate at home indefinitely? That calls for Carol’s broccoli-cheese casserole, with its layers of melted cheddar, mushroom soup and soft vegetables, sprinkled with bread crumbs. It’s a recipe she learned at a cooking class hosted by a synagogue sisterhood 45 years ago.

“But I add an extra layer of cheese,” she tells me.

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November 2020