Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: 101 Lessons for a Good Life.

#73 – Every child born to our family is wanted and loved.

I like lists.  I find them quite useful.  They keep me organized.  Or at least they create the illusion of doing so.  A nifty thing about lists is how they come chock-a-block with little goals.  Each line item something to be accomplished.  Been there.  Done that.  Now move on.  And there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of scratching something off the list.  Personally, I like to draw a thick heavy line right through the achievement.  Preferably in permanent ink.  Finito.

There are daily lists.  Like the “to do/call/email” list at work.  Some are weekly.  Grocery lists fall into this category.  Others are annual.  The family Christmas wish list reigns supreme.  Some are fun.  Like the list of things we need for our Annual Thanksgiving Bluegrass Party.  Then there are sundry others.  Everything from books to read, songs to download,  places to see, people to meet, things to keep and things to chuck.  All worthwhile and handy to have in your hip pocket.

One of the best lists I have ever compiled is the one that I am sharing with you today.  It’s a list of some of the things that Ma taught me during the course of our lifetime together. These are things she said, did, led by example, or simply implied.  There are 101 things on this list.  There could have been one thousand or one million.  Because she taught me so much and I am so very grateful.  But I’ve narrowed the list down to 101.  I like this number.  It reminds me of the first year course numbers when I was in University.  English 101.  Pyschology 101.  Anthropology 101 where I met my first true love.  It’s a solid number with the implication that there is more to come.  And who knows.  Maybe there is.

The list isn’t in any particular order.  It’s random.  Like life.  Some things are common sense.  Others uncommon. Extraordinary.  Some are peculiar.  And contradictory.  Some are funny.  Others very sad.  At times confusing.  Often profound in simplicity.  And full of classic cliches of the time.  But also bright.  And wise.  Witty.  Practical.  Pragmatic.  Confounding.  Infuriating.  Loving. Tender.  Touching.

Cherished gifts each and every one.  From Ma to me.  To you.  With love.

1.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.
2. You can’t make someone love you.
3. Always wear clean underwear.  Carry a pair in your purse just in case.
4. Tomorrow’s another day and this too shall pass.
5. The secret to baking a good cookie is to remove it from the oven just before it’s done and let it finish baking on the sheet.
6. Time heals all wounds.
7. You can’t take it with you when you go.
8. Bad breath is better than no breath at all.
9. Everybody needs love even those who are difficult like your father.
10. God is inside of me.
11. The secret to a good spaghetti sauce is to let it simmer all day.
12. Don’t complain.  No one’s listening anyway.
13. Nobody’s perfect. They just wish they were.
14. Life is far too short.
15.  Send your child to school in fresh clean clothes every day even if it means doing laundry every night.
16. Don’t go out in the sun without a big hat and long sleeves.
17. Walk whenever possible and always have a comfortable pair of shoes at the back door ready to go.
18. You don’t need make-up, except for lipstick.  It brightens your face and makes you look pretty.
19. Keep a nice home and welcome everyone into it.
20.  Always tell the truth.  No one trusts liars.
21. Pay attention to how the dog reacts to your boyfriends.  The dog is a good judge of character.
22. Splurge on a really nice dress for a special occasion.  Treat yourself and don’t feel guilty.  It’s important to feel good when you go out.

#23 – Don’t walk around the house with your shoes on. It’s rude.

23. Don’t walk around the house with your shoes on.  It’s rude.
24. Always wash your face and put on night cream before going to bed.  Repeat in the morning with day cream.  Moisturizing is the key to beautiful skin all your life.
25.  Pick up a “Ladies” magazine while you’re grocery shopping. It’s an inexpensive treat.
26. Not everyone belongs in a group.
27. Don’t throw Tupperware parties. No one will come.
28. Stay away from bad people.  Especially men who are bad for you.  You’ll get hurt every time.
29. Call if you need me.  Anytime.  Anywhere.  I’ll be right there.
30. Babies like to be picked up when they cry.
31. Nothing beats flannel pajamas and nighties.

#32 – Take pictures of the flowers you are sent.

32. Take pictures of the cakes you bake, the flowers you are sent, the gifts you are given, the Christmas tree every year even if it looks the same, it’s different.
33. Support a third world child regardless of your financial situation.
34.  Cry when you’re sad.  Yell when you’re mad.  Sit silently when you need to think.  Laugh at the funny things.
35. Get up early.  Put the kettle on first thing. Start your day with a cup of tea and piece of toast.
36. It’s okay to wear comfortable clothes around the house just as long as they’re freshly washed and ironed.  Being comfortable isn’t the same thing as being a slob.
37. You can never give a child enough love.  That’s not what spoils them.
38. Accept invitations to lunch or an afternoon shopping at the mall.
39. It’s okay to fall asleep on the couch while watching television.
40. Don’t worry about your age.  There’s nothing you can do about it.
41. Always send Thank You cards.

#42 – Remember everyone’s birthday with a homemade cake.

42.  Remember everyone’s birthday with a homemade cake and a nicely wrapped gift.  At the very least give a special card.
43. Take care of your teeth.  False teeth just aren’t the same as your own.
44. Invite people to stay for dinner.  There’s always plenty.
45. Make the bed as soon as you get up.
46. Have supper together every night and make Sunday dinner extra special.  Roast something.  Have the entire family over.
47. Give people the benefit of the doubt and don’t hold grudges.
48. You don’t need a reason to give a gift or to send someone a note to let them know you’re thinking of them.
49. Try not to hurt someone’s feelings but apologize right away when you do.
50. Mind your manners.  Always say please and thank you.
51. Wash your hands all day long but especially before touching food.
52.  Bounce a baby on your lap and sing “doodley doodley doodley doo.”
53. Pick up litter when you see it.  Stuff it in your pocket if there isn’t a garbage nearby and throw it out when you get home.
54. Never let your grey roots show.  It makes you look old.
55. Baths are better than showers.
56.  Always bring out the good china for company and on special occasions.
57. You’re never too old to start something new.
58.  Nothing tastes quite as good as a sandwich made with lettuce freshly picked from the garden.
59. It’s okay to buy certain things for your home “on time.”
60. Write letters.  Everyone loves getting them.
61. No one will love you like your mother.  Especially a man.
62. Some people can be mean.  That doesn’t make okay for you to be mean back.
63. Take all kinds of vitamins and supplements.  They’re good for you.
64. People with thin lips are nags.
65. Pay your bills every month no matter how broke you are.  Even if it’s just a little bit to everyone you owe.
66. It’s a sign of beauty if a girl looks like her father.
67.  Get the dishes done right after you eat.
68. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and enjoy dessert.
69.  Learn to sew clothes, embroider tablecloths and knit scarves.  Teach these to your daughters.
70. Learn to cook and bake, especially if you have children.
71. Read everything you can about being healthy and subscribe to Prevention Magazine.

#56 – Always bring out the good china for company and on special occasions.

72. Try to see the good in everyone.
73. Every child born to our family is wanted and loved.
74. Exercise every day. Walk. Do yoga. Ride an exercise bike.
75. Go back to school at sixty.
76. Don’t waste your time gossiping.
77. A health food store is a good place to shop.
78. The secret to a perfect pie crust is a secret.  But here’s the recipe.
79. Be kind and decent to everyone no matter who they are.
80. Walk facing the traffic at all times.
81. Be nice.
82. Don’t go empty handed to someone’s house.
83. Pray for people whether they asked you to or not.  Especially your children.
84. Don’t go blabbing family business to the neighbors.
85. You can do anything you want to if you put your mind to it.
86. You’re just as good as anyone.
87. Always make lemon pie from scratch.  It’s worth it.
88.  Forgive and forget.  Sometimes it’s easier said than done though.
89. Celebrate the holidays with your family.  Have big wonderful meals and lots of gifts under the tree.
90. You don’t have to get married to be married.
91. Potatoes are versatile.
92. No matter how afraid you are, get on the plane.
93. Respect your elders and those in authority, especially teachers and police officers.  Their jobs are hard enough.
94.  Don’t be a show off, braggart or know-it-all.  No one likes people like that.
95. It’s important to have a room of your own to sew or paint or make things.
96. Always have Kleenex up your sleeve and a package of peppermint Chicklets in your purse.
97. Offer your seat on the bus to older people and pregnant women.
98. Italians are nice people.
99. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, especially to children.
100. You only get out of life what you put into it.
101. You’re never too old to play on a swing.

#101 – You’re never too old to play on a swing.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daugher: The Wonders Within Ma’s Recipe Box

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These are some of Ma’s basic everyday recipes.  I’ve described them as she either prepared them or wrote them down for me.  Over the years I have added my own spin to The Savories.  Adapted them to my own family’s tastes or in some cases allowed my creative inspiration to take hold.  For example, her Meat Pie recipe has become Shepherd’s Pie, a Christmas Eve tradition to honor the Great Shepherd.  I don’t add tomato soup to my Chili but I do add a variety of beans and chic peas, for my youngest who loves them.  I rarely do meatballs in my Spaghetti because I’m too lazy.  Her Barbecue Ribs are quite simply the best.  Perfect the way they are.  Wouldn’t change a thing.

The Sweets are exactly as the recipes describe.  Lovely.  Perfect. Easy to make.  I’ve only attempted the Christmas Cake once.  It turned out good, but not as good as Ma’s.  I made them two Christmases after she died to honor her.  Never again.  Way too much work.  The Brownie recipe is so easy and foolproof.  So chocolatey. Kids of all ages love these!  And the Ginger Snaps are a family favorite.  The recipe for these can also be found at the back of my novel, again placed there in honor of my dear sweet Ma.   I tried making the Angel Food Cake once or twice but it was too finicky for me.  Ma always made me this cake for my birthday.  It was her specialty.  When my youngest daughter turned one,  Ma baked one for her too.  The Butter Tarts are my Granddaughter’s favorites.  We love baking together, especially these family recipes.

The Savories

Saturday Night Spaghetti

Tomato Sauce
2 tins tomatoes (ground or chopped)
1 tin tomato paste
1 onion chopped fine
1 stalk celery chopped fine
1 green pepper
Seasoning to taste: Italian seasoning, bay leaf, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper
Before we had a blender Ma chopped everything fine and put it in a big pot to simmer all day.  After we got the blender, she put the tomatoes, onions and celery in the blender until smooth.  Simmer all day on low until rich and thick and delicious.

Meatballs:
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 egg
1 slice of bread
Seasoning to taste: Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper
Roll into 1” balls, fry in oil.  Add to sauce.

Meat Pie

1 lb. lean ground beef
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tbsp prepared mustard
1 cup mixed vegetables
1 small onion
1 tsp brown sugar
1 cup water

In frying pan cook meat and onions. When brown add ketchup, mustard and water to meat.  Add vegetables and sugar.  Simmer until vegetables are tender.  Fill pie shell.  Top with second shell.  Cut steam vents in top crust.  Bake at 350 until crust is golden brown.

Barbecue Spare Ribs

Sauce
Combine and mix well:
1 cup tomato soup
1/4 cup mild vinegar
1 tbsp celery seed
1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika

Cut 2 1/2 lbs. spare ribs in serving pieces.  Put in baking dish and cover with sauce.  Back at 350 for 2 hours.

Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1 1/2 – 2 tsp soy sauce (or more)
Coat ribs in flour and fry in oil until brown.  Ad sauce and cook 45 minutes until tender.

Old Fashioned Baked Beans

1 lb. dried white beans
1 quart cold water
1 small – medium onion, sliced
1/4 lb. salt pork or bacon

Seasoning:
1/2 tbsp salt
2 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp prepared mustard
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup ketchup, pinch pepper

Pick and rinse beans.  Add 1 quart water and soak over night.  Simmer 30 minutes or so.  Drain, keeping liquid. Place onion slices in bottom of 6-cup casserole or clay bean pot.  Mix seasoning and add to pot. Add beans and hot liquid or water to cover.  Arrange pork slices on top.  Cover and bake in slow oven 250 for 7 hours.  One hour before serving remove cover to allow salt pork/bacon to brown.

Chili Con Carne

3 tbsp oil
1 large onion
1 green pepper
1 lb. ground beef
1 28 oz can tomatoes
1 10 oz can tomato soup
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp chili powder
1 glove garlic
1 tsp salt
1 14 oz can kidney beans

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add onions, green pepper and meat.  Cook until brown, stirring occasionally.  Add tomatoes, soup, paprika, cayenne, bay leaf and chili powder.  Simmer about 1 hour adding water if mixture gets too thick.  Mash garlic and combine with salt.  Add to hot mixture and stir well.  Add beans and heat thoroughly.  Pour into large serving bowl and garnish with onion rings.

Lasagna

2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion
1/4 tsp pepper
1 15 oz tin tomato sauce
2 cups hot water
1 clove garlic
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
8 oz package lasagna noodles
1/2 lb. cottage cheese
1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese

Brown lightly garlic and onion in hot oil.  Add meat and cook stirring frequently to brown meat evenly.  Season.  Add hot water to tomato sauce and pour mixture over meat.  Mex well and simmer.  Uncover 30 minutes. In a baking dish pour a few tbsp of sauce.  Place half the cooked noodles over the sauce, the cottage cheese and half mozzarella cheese.  Add rest of noodles, remaining sauce and top with mozzarella.

Meatball Stroganoff

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
Pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley
3 tbsp butter
1 medium onion chopped fine
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms
1/4 tsp paprika
2 tbsp flour
1 cup consomme or beef stock
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Meatballs: Combine beef, milk, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and parsley.  Blend and shape into small meatballs.  Melt butter and fry.
Remove and add mushroom and onions.  Saute.  Sprinkle fry pan with flour and paprika.  Pour in consomme stirring constantly.  Cook until thick and add meatballs.  Add worcestershire sauce.  Heat to boiling point. Add sour cream.  Serve over buttered egg noodles.

Cabbage Rolls

1 cup rice
3 cups water
Cook for 45 minutes until rice is tender

1/2 lb. ground pork
1 onion
Spice to taste: garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper
Combine rice and meat mixture in bowl.

1 medium cabbage
1 small tin tomato juice

Cook cabbage in large pot of water until partially cooked.  Remove and roll with meat/rice mixture.  Place in casserole/covered baking dish.  Pour tomato juice over cabbage rolls. Top with left-over loose cabbage leaves.  Bake at 350 for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Popovers (Yorkshire Pudding)

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
Pour into well-greased muffin pans till 3/4 full.  Bake at 450 for 40 -45 minutes. Serve immediately with roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy.

Pie Crust

5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Cut 1 lb. shortening into flour mixture.
Beat 1 egg + 2 tsp vinegar in bottom of measuring cup.  Fill measuring cup with cold water and mix well.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour liquid.  Mix well.
Form big ball, then divide into 6 smaller balls. Wrap each ball individually and freeze.

The Sweets

These are perfect for dunking into milk.

Ma’s Chewy Ginger Snaps

Cream Together:
3/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup molasses

Sift Together:
2-1/3 cups flower
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp each ginger & cinnamon
1/2 tsp closes
1/4 tsp salt

Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well.  Shape into 1-inch balls.  Roll in white sugar.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheets @ 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Cream together:
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
Gradually beat in:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
Add:
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
Beat well.
Blend or sift together:
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Add to creamed mixture and combine.
Shape dough into balls which are about 1” in diameter.  Place on baking sheets and press down with a fork.  Bake in 375 oven for 10-12 minutes.

Serve warm just as it is or with vanilla ice cream. Divine.

Apple Crisp

6 cups sliced apples
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup flour
2/3 cup rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter

Arrange apples in greased baking dish and sprinkle with lemon juice.  Mix flour, oats and sugar.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs, sprinkle over apples.  Bake at 375 until are tend and topping is lightly brown.  (35 – 40 min.)  Served with vanilla ice cream if you like.

Rich. Moist. Dreamy. Impossible to eat just one piece!

Chocolate Brownies

Mix all together in one bowl in this order:
1/4 lb. butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
2 heaping tbsp cocoa
Optional: 1/2 cup walnuts

Bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes.

Chocolate Glaze
Mix together:
1 cup icing sugar
2 level tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp butter
Hot water – enough to form glaze
Pour on brownies while hot (straight out of the oven)

Chocolate Oatmeal Globs

3 cups of rolled oats
1 cup of coconut
6 tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla.

Mix first 3 ingredients in a large bowl.  Heat butter, sugar and milk in saucepan until almost boiling.  Pour over dry ingredients and add vanilla.  Stir well.  Drop by tsp on wax paper and chill until set.

Make it square. Or make it round. Sweet and spicy either way.

Tomato Soup Cake

Beat together in large bowl until light:
4 tbsp butter
1 tin tomato soup
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar
Blend/sift together:
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp of each of these spices: cinnamon, cloves, allspice & nutmeg.
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

Combine dry ingredients with wet and mix together.  Pour into 8” square pan and bake one hour at 350.

Butter Icing
1 cup icing sugar, 2 tbsp butter and milk to make thick.  Beat until smooth.  Add 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Spread on cake when fully cooled.

Dark Christmas Cake

Wet Ingredients:
1 lb. butter
2 1/3 cup brown sugar packed
7 extra large eggs or 8 large (separated)
1/4 cup molasses

Dry Ingredients:
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves

Fruit Ingredients:
1 lb. raisins
1 lb. currants
1 lb. candied cherries
1/2 lb. candied mixed fruit
1/2 lb. nuts
3/4 cup orange juice,
2 tbsp lemon juice
Pour juice over fruit mixture and let stand overnight.

Instructions:
Beat egg yolk, sugar and butter together.  Add molasses.  Combine half the flour mixture with the fruit mixture.  Add to the wet ingredients. Mix well and add rest of the flour mixture.  Beat egg white and fold into entire mixture.  Bake in 250 or 300 oven for 2 /12 hours.

Ma’s specialty birthday cake. Heavenly.

Angel Food Cake
(One large tube pan)

1 1/2 cups fruit sugar
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup egg whites (8 – 10 eggs)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp almond, lemon, pineapple or raspberry extract
3/4 tsp vanilla

Sift sugar and flour together four times.  Beat egg whites until foamy, and then add salt and cream of tartar.  Continue beating until the whites are stiff, but not dry.  Sift 2 tbsp of the flour and sugar mixture at a time over the egg whites.  Fold in carefully after each addition.  Add vanilla and almond extract.  Turn into an ungreased tube pan and bake at 275 degrees F for 25 minutes and then at 300 degrees F for 45-50 minutes.  Remove from oven, invert pan for 1 hour and cake will then slip easily from pan.

The best butter tarts ever. And so easy to make! Child’s play.

Tasty Butter Tarts

1 egg, well beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp rich milk
1/2 cup raisins (or currants)

Add brown sugar to well-beaten egg and beat thoroughly.  Add vanilla, milk and raisins.  Line tart tins with pastry.  Add 1 tbsp of the above mixture to each.  Bake at 400 for 20 – 25minutes.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Brown Rice, First Love and You are all Sanpaku

The firstborn enjoyed his solids.

I like brown rice.  But I didn’t always.  It wasn’t exactly an everyday staple in our family when I was growing up.  We mostly ate other starches like potatoes and spaghetti, before it was referred to as pasta.  My love affair with brown rice began just before I got my heart broken for the first time. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. That may well be true.  But quite often a woman’s heart is influenced by what a man puts in his stomach.  In the case of my first love, it was brown rice.  Although the relationship ended badly, it left me with two things.  A new way to eat.  And a new child.

Little back story.  Ma was a great cook.  Not a cordon bleu.  Nor a top chef.  Julia Childs.  Or Martha Stewart even.  But among her many gifts was the ability to create homespun, delicious meals for her family ever day.  While she may not have been a gourmet, there were times when she was called upon to be a magician, making much of little.  Shazam.

For the most part, we were meat and potato folks.  We also had our weekly meal regimen.  There were just certain things we ate on a regular basis that you could count on.  As surely as the sun rose in the east and set in the west, these meals were part of our family narrative.

The weekend began with fish and chips on Friday night, despite the fact that we weren’t Catholics.  For lunch on Saturdays we had hotdogs and fresh-brewed coffee, along with a visit from my mother’s cousin C, who I called Uncle C, because he was about a million years older than me.  Saturday nights were spaghetti nights, in homage to Ma’s Italian heritage.  Ma would get up early Saturday morning to prepare her tomato sauce and famous spicy meatballs.  She would place the pot of Italian goodness on the back burner of the stove to simmer all day, filling the house with a mouthwatering aroma that taunted us.  As a result, there were many “taste testers” in our family.  Wooden spoon dippers and sneaky samplers.  Guilty parties, all of us.  After church on Sunday we had some sort of roasted meat (usually beef) with mashed potatoes, gravy, boiled vegetables and maybe a tossed iceberg lettuce salad.  Sunday nights, The Old Man would cook up a batch of sweet wafer-thin Finnish Pancakes, which we smothered in maple syrup and washed down with more fresh-brewed coffee.

Dinner meals from Monday to Thursday were a little more unpredictable.  For the most part they still involved some sort of meat and potato combo.  A little fried chicken.  Or a savory tuna casserole.  Occasionally, despite my very vocal protests, liver and onions.  I have only one word to adequately describe this culinary offensive offering.  Yuck.  Often on the Thursday before The Old Man got paid, we had wieners and beans.  And usually sometime during the week, Ma fried up hamburger patties, which she served with mashed potatoes and green beans.  I used to pick out the onions in the patties and dip each mouthful in Heinz ketchup, then wash it down with a large gulp of milk.  The Old Man and I enjoyed a glass of milk with every meal.  Plus, there was always the whitest of white bread and butter in the centre of the table.  Each meal ended with dessert.  Usually something freshly baked by Ma.  Pie, cake, cookies, pudding.  If there were no baked goods, then we had ice cream.  Vanilla.  Sometimes topped with canned fruit cocktail and its coveted token maraschino cherry.

On special occasions and holidays like Christmas and Easter, we had grander versions of the Sunday roasted meat and potatoes.  By this I mean, turkey or ham.  Holiday dinners, however, involved more boiled vegetables, baked turnips, cranberry or apple sauce (depending on the meat), stuffing, cabbage rolls, and either dill pickles (with turkey) and mustard or sweet pickles (with ham.)  The exclamation mark that followed these meals was the assortment of desserts and sweet treats.

These were the meals of my childhood and youth.  But after I had my first big love, followed by my first big heartbreak, some things changed. My primo amore introduced me to a book called You are all Sanpaku.  I don’t remember all the intimate details from this book, but I do recall spending hours gazing into the mirror trying to determine whether or not I had Sanpaku eyes.  Were the whites of my eyes perilously showing in three places – side, bottom, side?  It was terrifying.  I was convinced that I was going to die suddenly from some heinous mystery illness if my irises didn’t centre themselves properly in my eyes.  Fortunately, there was a cure for this Japanese medical malady. The Macrobiotic Diet, as prescribed in You are all Sanpaku.  It involved consuming copious amounts of whole grains and preferably raw vegetables.  And if not raw, lightly steamed in a stainless steel steam basket.  Nothing processed.  Nothing.  Not even a hotdog.

The whole grain of choice for my love and I was brown rice.  Not white.  Not parboiled. Not Minute.  Nor anything produced by Uncle Ben.  Brown with long grains and unmilled.  Chewy.  Nutty.  Whole.  Had I not been so in love and consumed by fear, I would have considered this to have been food only suitable for our Budgie.  Had my pheromones not marred my taste buds and clouded my judgement, I would have acknowledged forthrightly that brown rice did not taste good.  Compared to the fluffy white stuff that came with our sweet and sour chicken balls, it was unappetizing. Downright disgusting.

But I was in love for the first time.  And I would eat anything for love.  Mushrooms even.  And broccoli.  Wild fiddleheads.  And because I liked to share things with Ma, I introduced her to the wonders of the Macrobiotic Diet too.  Typical of Ma, she embraced this new fandangled idea of mine with open arms and an open mind.  Slowly, bit by bit, together we introduced aspects of this new way of eating into our lives.  First the brown rice. Then the stainless steel steamer.  She bought a blender.  A pasta maker.  She added whole wheat flour and a variety of new interesting fresh vegetables, including broccoli, to her grocery list.  A health food store opened on the other side of town.  She began to explore the wonders of its wares.  Suddenly weird things began to pop up in our cupboards and refrigerator.  Yogurt. Wheat germ. Lecithin granules. B-complex vitamins.  Ma not only embraced this new approach to eating and health, she ran with it.  Like a health food flag bearer leading the charge.  Hail to Ma Earth.

Over the years there have been many books that have transformed my life. 

The firstborn playing with his food.

was one of the first.  It may not have saved my life but it certainly changed its course.  At least the part that involved my physical wellbeing. As for my spiritual path, and matters involving the heart, there have been many books that have had their influence.  I’m still a work in progress so I’m certain there will be many more.

But we always remember our firsts.

Like the young man who gave me the book, and the lifelong dietary path.  Yes, he broke my heart and it took years to fully recover from that.  But he also gave me one of my greatest treasures in life.  My firstborn.  And that blender Ma bought?  We used it to make all of his baby food.  Fresh.  Lightly steamed.  And blended with love.