Mental Health

Food + Grief = Growth

Real, whole food, organically raised: none of the words in that sentence even existed when I was growing up. The buzz words then were: convenient, easy, crowd-pleasing- which meant one thing- casserole! When I reflect on childhood meals, I remember eating together around the table; I remember laughing at my dad's bad jokes; I remember my mom eating what I had methodically separated, and I remember my brother having to wait until I was finished eating before he could escape with his friends. Basically, none of what I remember about eating was the food. 


Five years ago, my dad passed away after a battle with cancer. Just prior to that, we had made some changes to our schedule that had allowed me to be home more during the day. Feeling inspired, I began figuring out how to create at home the food that I had normally purchased.  In the kitchen, I am determined, methodical and s l o w.....it takes me for-ev-er to cut, chop, slice and dice. In short, my family would devour in less than 15 minutes what had taken me hours (and sometimes days) to prep and create. When my dad died, so did my love for all that food prep. 


Strangely enough, I grieved him through taste. Dad had an unapologetic love for donuts that I never understood. Yet, when I no longer had dad, all I wanted were donuts. Every single time we stopped for ice cream, Dad would get butter pecan. I never understood. After dad passed, I couldn't stop my cravings for all things butter pecan, including those strange 'maple nut goodie candies?! What was happening? How could I have gone from spending days preparing whole, real foods to sustaining myself on a variety pack of TimBits & Maple Nut Goodies (thank you Tim Horton's & Brach's, by the way). It was as if my mind and heart were at odds and somehow my food cravings were the mediators. After a few months, I prayerfully said out loud, "Dad, I love and miss you! And, I have to break up with the donuts. There has to be another way for me to grieve your loss." 


That time away from the hours of preparation allowed me to realize a few things: 1-it's not realistic for me spend hours making meals, 2-did anyone even realize all the time involved in making the meals and were they supposed to, and 3-I cannot live on donuts, alone.  


Fast forward to about 2 years ago. On a slow Sunday morning, Mr. Wonderful and I were watching a cooking show. There was a fantastic recipe called something like sweet potato hash. They had my attention at sweet potato, but 'hash' had me confused. My experience with food titled hash was more akin to...well...yuck. But, this recipe just roasted the sweet potatoes, added some spinach and served it with a fried egg. Wait. That was real, whole food that didn't require extraordinary preparation?! Wasn't that the best of both worlds?! 


That recipe was the turning point. Suddenly, Mr. Wonderful and I started using an hour of our Sunday together to peel, chop, and roast veggies for the week ahead. It happened! That one hour transformed how we cook, what we cook, even what we crave.  Maybe it's the fact that we prep together, or maybe it's that we have fresh, real, organic food that's ready to use for the week, simplifying all our recipes. Until this moment, I'm not sure that I even thought too much about it. But, what I know is that finally, we have found a way to create better meals, in less time that everyone loves- and wouldn't dad love to see that?! I bet he'd even have a joke about it.

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Jane Robrahn is a wife-mother-madrasta-educator-yogi-nutrition enthusiast. As an adopted person, she is an advocate for both adoption & autism awareness. Audrey met Jane, first, as a high school student, then, as a teacher, and eventually became deeply connected as healthy striving, writing-loving friends.

Follow her adventures of life as a late bloomer on her blog.