12.25.09 Joy to the World

Donabe 790 xxx
photo by george billard
Seven years ago, I made a Christmas picnic on top of the bed where my then-husband lay dying of cancer. He was home for the holidays, having just been released from the hospital after undergoing major surgery to remove a part of his spinal column that was infested with tumor. He was grateful just to be able to lie in his own bed and wolf down some foie gras on toast. (He was quite possibly the original glutton for life.) My gift from him that year was a watch, and I remember being painfully aware of the irony. On its face, I would measure the last moments of his life. I could not have imagined then what my own life would become. That I would discover a new fulfillment and joy, that I would marry again, seemed impossible at the time. But we must find a way to forge ahead, to believe in possibility and renewal.

Of course we'll always encounter personal setbacks and daunting challenges. And the world beyond us seems to be endlessly plagued by horrors: the ritual circumcision of young girls in Africa; a politician in our own midst who trots out her mongoloid child to play on the sympathies of an evangelized mob; thousands of dolphins brutally stabbed to death every year in a secret cove in Taiji, Japan; the increasingly pneumatic contours of artificially enhanced breasts and lips; natural resources dwindling at an alarming rate...and yet. A cardinal just landed on a branch outside my window, its color vivid against the snow. I can hear the snap of the fire in the next room. On this day, all over the world, even atheists like me are finding things for which to be thankful. Those things we can still cultivate, that they can never take from us: love; compassion; hope; serenity; humor. In my darkest hours, I have clung to this Zen koan, There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.

When all else fails, put a pot on the stove, toss in some ingredients and make a soup that soothes, body and soul. That's what I'll be doing with my favorite new present, this stunning and shockingly heavy Japanese clay donabe, or hot pot. Lucky me, the other part of the gift is a cookbook, Japanese Hot Pots, by Tadashi Ono, the chef at Matsuri, one of my favorite restaurants in New York where I've been known to order the salmon hot pot, brimming with fish and tofu and chrysanthemum leaves. I'll be exploring these one-pot meals in the next few months, ideal cold-weather eating that is packed with nutritious ingredients. I hope you'll join me down this path to happiness.


Love this about Mr Love. Forging ahead - Always. May I make a request for a vegan one pot meal for a very lazy (in the kitchen) Aquarian who lives on Dark Chocolate Peanuts, Toast and Kombucha?
Adam on December 26, 2009 at 4:43 pm —
Watch these pages, Adam. I'll definitely feature some pasta and bean dishes you can whip up. Also, don't be afraid to modify existing dishes (like the garbanzos on 11/2 or the cabbage on 11/8), replacing the meat with smoked tofu or tempeh and using vegetable stock. As a vegan, and especially such an active athlete, you need to be more responsible about getting good nutrition. As you age, this has a big impact on your energy level and general health. xoxo
laura on December 27, 2009 at 4:11 am —
Thank you for writing so beautifully and honestly about your former husband's battle with cancer and how you chose to deal with it. "Happiness is the way..."
coffeefoodwritergirl on January 25, 2010 at 8:51 pm —
Beautiful photo - beautiful text. xo
Mily on March 13, 2013 at 10:30 pm —