Dark Shadows

Roses with notes
The flowers may die, but the music lives on. -www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Inexplicable sadness swept over me when I read last week about the deaths of Kate Spade and of Anthony Bourdain. Both high profile and talented, they influenced millions of us: Spade with her handbags and fashion sense; Bourdain with his perspective on food that brings people together. Both left young daughters behind when they need their parents most on the threshold of adolescence. Perhaps Spade and Bourdain’s pain was so immense that they did not see their suicides as abandonment, rather as a means of silencing the torture in their own minds. Their demons must have chased them down a black hole from which their strength to resist had been depleted. And therein lies another tragedy: Those who are dead are dead; it is the living who must find the ways and means of coping, continuing to live long after the deceased have gone.

Suicide is an equal opportunity means of ending life. It cuts across socio-economic groups and ethnicities. Yet it is a peculiar means of leaving that is on the rise in the United States. Benedict Carey wrote in his article, How Suicide Quietly Morphed Into a Public Health Crisis, in The New York Timeson June 8, 2018:

“The rise of suicide turns a dark mirror on modern American society: its racing, fractured culture; its flimsy mental health system; and the desperation of so many individual souls, hidden behind the waves of smiling social media photos and cute emoticons.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/08/health/suicide-spade-bordain-cdc.html?&hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

One of the key phrases in Carey’s article is American society…its flimsy mental health system. I recall when I worked in the 1980’s full time at a Texas university that my healthcare coverage included only so many visits to a therapist, should I need one. I was offended then, and I am even more offended now that mental health care is still grossly underfunded in the U.S. The government and insurance companies seem to believe mental health care coverage should be limited when the opposite is true.

For some years now, my daughter and her cousin have liked Kate Spade designs; they even have several of her handbags and jewelry. Kate Spade designs exude a happy-go-lucky aesthete coupled with practicality. Several years ago, I bought my daughter a Kate Spade pencil case. The design was so clever that I could not resist a pencil case with a lined penmanship motif. Bright colors, cheerful scripts, and overall originality apparently belied the dark musings that lurked behind Kate Spade’s whimsical designs. She brought us so much joy with her designs over the years that I wish it could have empowered her to banish her depression. Alas, neither her fans, nor her family or friends could save her from herself.

Anthony Bourdain’s brash, no-holds-barred approach to food breathed fresh air into previously snobbish attitudes towards food truck street food. His landmark book Kitchen Confidentialblew the lid off food and restaurant respectability. His CNN show Anthony Bourdain:Parts Unknown mesmerized me. I particularly liked the episode “Quebec” where he traveled with two Quebecoise chefs who introduced him to beaver meat topped with shaved black truffles. The exotic Tangiers, Morocco episode made me wish my own town included a Moroccan eatery. Bourdain even took us to Libya where the people cook, eat, and continue to celebrate their freedom after years of an oppressive regime. I always feel like I am there with Anthony Bourdain as he and his crew roam the narrow streets and back alleys of a town with a local or two leading them to a fabulous meal behind a scruffy building façade. His talent for bringing us along for his street food ride has been pure pleasure. We feel like we have gotten to know the people with whom he talks as he eats with them. Sadly, we could not save him either.

Those of us, who did not personally know Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, only saw them through the prism of social media, from the magazine stands, and from television. Moments captured on red carpets are what we saw; we did not share in their private lives. Hopefully, they are now at peace, watching over their loved ones who hold them in their hearts.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-

800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Here’s what you can do when a loved one is severely depressed.

Ciao for now.

 

 

 

Soup for All

Ribollita|AFoodCentricLife.com

This photo of Ribollita on china like mine is from Sally Cameron’s blog, A Food Centric Life at http://afoodcentriclife.com. She posted some yummy recipes! – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli 

One of my earliest childhood memories of food is that of soup. My mother concocted the most delicious, soul-warming soups for our family. Her chicken soup remains in my dreams, for she would make it with a hen my father butchered from his dozen chickens. Always he kept twelve chickens in the spacious coop and fenced yard within our orchard. Fresh eggs, roasted chicken, and the ubiquitous soup were all culinary events from those erstwhile hens. Whenever my Ohio relatives were commencing their drive to visit us, my Uncle Joe, whose parents were Sicilian immigrants, would phone my mother and say, “Kitty, toss another cup of water in the soup! We’re on our way!” He knew full well soup would be on the menu, with pasta served for the next day’s dinner.

Not only do I adhere to the healing power of soup, I believe also in its inherent ability to comfort, to console. My mother and father have long since passed away, yet they imbued me with a culinary sensibility that food transcends the foibles of the world. To quote famous chef and food critic Anthony Bourdain,

Soup is elemental, and it always makes sense, even when the world around us fails to.

 Frequently the world makes little sense, but soup atones for that. No matter how bad a day, regardless of disappoint, in spite of strife, and with little money, soup remains a constant presence that sustains us. With meat or without, with few or many vegetables, with a vegetable, or chicken, or beef broth, soup can be made from very little. My mother used to add either cabbage or Italian greens such as mustard greens, escarole, or dandelions to the carrots, onions, celery, tomatoes, beans, and chicken simmering away in her homemade chicken broth.

When I learned of the cookbook, Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate Our Shared Humanity, by Barbara Abdeni Massaad, I knew I needed to purchase it. All of the proceeds are given to non-profit organizations for food relief efforts for Syrian refugees. The author has tapped into her extensive network of famous chefs, like Anthony Bourdain and Yotam Ottolenghi (author of Jerusalem, an amazing cookbook) to name only a few of the many contributing chefs. Massaad was born in Beirut, Lebanon, yet grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where her father owned a Lebanese restaurant, although she now resides in Beirut. Next to Italian food, I count Lebanese food among my favorite cuisines; therefore, I became interested in Massaad’s cookbook, Man’oushé: Inside the Street Corner Lebanese Bakery some years ago. She is active in the Slow Food Movement, founded by Italian Carlo Pettrini. The movement focuses on preservation of traditional and regional cuisine in support of sustainable foods. It sounds like how my father and mother parlayed  his abundant garden into soup, and filled our large freezer with vegetables and chicken years ago!

Here are several links to Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate Our Shared Humanity:

http://soupforsyria.com/book.php

https://www.amazon.com/Soup-Syria-Recipes-Celebrate-Humanity/dp/1566560896/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486659579&sr=1-1&keywords=soup+for+syria

Tonight I am serving Ribollita, a hearty Florentine soup I made this morning. Prior to ladling up bowls of Ribollita, I will lay toasted Italian bread in the bottom of the bowls. ‘E buona!

Ciao for now.