"There's rosemary; that's for remembrance.
Pray, love, remember."
Pray, love, remember."
Rosemary has been a symbol for remembrance since ancient times. It has been used as a symbol of love and remembrance at both weddings and funerals, as well as a number of other ceremonies. For newlyweds, its a symbol of fidelity and a promise not to forget the vows they made that day; for loved ones who have passed on, a symbol of love and a promise not to forget the impact they had on your life and the memories that you shared with them.
For me, today, it is a symbol of love and remembrance not only for the people who tragically died on September 11, 2001, but also for my grandmother and my great-aunt, both of whom passed away this Saturday.
I think that the most important thing that I have learned this summer has been that relationships are what's paramount in life. We are all busy; we have dreams we're trying to follow and passions we're trying to live, we have jobs and school, cooking and cleaning, traveling, hobbying, finding our way in the world and trying to discover who we are inside and if that matches up to who we want to be. But we are also surrounded by people who care about us; no matter how far away they may be, or even the time passed since we last spoke. We have to put effort into these relationships: cradle them, hold them near and dear to our hearts and show those that we care about, just exactly how much we care in whatever way possible - even a simple phone call or a few minutes of our time. Just so that they really get it - because of another simple fact of life - they will not always be around.
I was so fortunate to be able to go home the week before last and spend more time than usual with my grandmother. I am only able to go home once or sometimes twice a year and had taken an extra trip home this month because my stepfather was diagnosed with cancer earlier this summer and was supposed to begin treatment. An unexpected "blessing," I suppose, was that his treatment was delayed and we were all able to just spend time together as a family. My grandmother was already in a nursing home after suffering two heart attacks a few weeks ago (although, thankfully, she was able to be at home when she suffered her third and final one), and I spent a large part of my time there with her just talking and visiting.
Grandma lived a long, rich life and had 3 wonderful sons, one of which is my step-father and I am grateful every day for the happiness that he brings my mom, and to my own life. She was married to my grandfather for 63 years, which is something that I won't be able to say when I am her age. She was a fiesty woman with a great sense of humor, and I remember her in her stocking hat and her construction-orange down jacket riding down the sledding hill at our cabin and laughing outloud the entire way. She always stocked ice-cream sandwiches for us kids and made the best cole-slaw and fudge in the family. She introduced me to how a can of smoked oysters can be as great an appetizer as any and how refreshing crisp radishes, kept in icy cold water, can be on a hot summer afternoon. Since she is my step-father's mother, she could be considered my step-grandmother...but grandma was my grandma for as long as I can remember and she will always be...because sometimes the relationships we build, those we spend time in, put effort into, and make memories with...are thicker than the bonds of a marriage between two families...sometimes they turn two people who are not related, into two people who love each other just the same as if they were.
After the initial shock of hearing this sad news begin to wear off, I knew that I wanted to incorporate rosemary into my dinner on Saturday evening. This was my way of expressing to myself that I would remember both grandma, and Aunt Mae, always. I turned, once again, to both food and friendship, for comfort. I spent the day with a special friend, browsing the Farmer's Market and embracing the life that always seems to radiate from there, and grateful for the presence of a friendship with someone who gives so freely of herself even though our friendship is still fairly new. We made a special trip to the fish market and picked up some Oregon Black Cod, and once home, I turned to a recipe inspired by Nigella Lawson's fabulous book, How to Eat.
Black Cod with Orange Zest, Rosemary and Garlic
This is hardly a recipe, but it was tasty, and it allowed me to raise a culinary salute and, had I had it available, a glass of good white wine, to both my grandma and my aunt.
2 fillets of black cod (about 3 oz. each)
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
salt and pepper, if desired
white wine or dry vermouth
Mince the clove of garlic and zest the orange. Finely chop about a tablespoon of rosemary and add these ingredients to a frying pan. Put a little oil in the pan; not too much, because you don't want it to be greasy, but enough that the other ingredients will be able to infuse the oil. Mix them together, turn on the heat to medium (or medium high for most stoves probably - ours is a bit off), and let it come up to temperature until the spices begin to sizzle. Pat dry two fillets of black cod, salt and pepper them if you'd like, then lay them in the pan (skin side down if there's skin). Cook about 4-5 minutes per side until the fish flakes, but is still meltingly tender and juicy. When finished, put the fillets onto a warmed plate and keep covered until ready to plate. To the pan, add about 1/2 cup of white wine or dry vermouth, and let it bubble, evaporate slightly and get syrupy (about 5-6 minutes). When finished, pour this "sauce" over the fish, along with all of the scraped up brown bits from the pan.
I served this with grilled strawberry tomatoes (a little olive oil, salt, and pepper is plenty seasoning for these babies) and crusty pieces of multigrain bread from a local bakery. For dessert? Shauna's incredible Plum crumble, an amazing dessert from an incredibly positive and radiant woman, who just by the sheer energy she exudes on her site, always makes me feel better.