So those are the stories of taking our children to college. Coming home to empty rooms-not empty of material things, their rooms remain the same, but empty of the essence of that child. No more walking into the room in the morning, saying “Are you awake? Time to get up for school”. No more pulling in the driveway after work and seeing them on the couch or on the computer or in the kitchen making a snack that should “ruin their dinner” but doesn’t. It would be shameful to compare this sense of loss to the sense of loss a parent feels who really loses a child. But it is painful – the difference being what we feel is pain with promise. The promise of their future as well as the promise of possibility for ourselves if we summon up the resolve and the curiosity to expand our own horizons. We are well equipped. We are mothers. We have used every resource we have and some we didn’t know we had to be the best mothers we can be. Finding a new outlet shouldn’t be too hard, right? Our friends at Grown and Flown state on their masthead “because parenting never ends” and that is an undeniable truth. A truth you see in what we choose as our remedy to the loss we feel. We learn to cook. We explore new places to find the best ingredients. We plant a garden. We volunteer. We write a blog. The choices we make have one common thread: nurturing. Whether it’s words, or food, or gardens, or each other, we nurture.
It is okay that in the beginning there is more pain than promise. We will always yearn for a moment where the past is once again the present. There is a quote by Norman Mailer on what it means to be an artist. We’re sure Norman Mailer never meant it to apply to motherhood and the empty nest, but we think it does. Maybe he’d be happy that we found comfort and inspiration in his words.
“It’s agony. But everyone has agony. The difference is that I try to take my agony home and teach it to sing.”
THE MENU: LASAGNA, FRESH BAKED ITALIAN BREAD, BLACKBERRY UPSIDE DOWN CAKE
- 1/2 lb ground chuck
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 16 oz ricotta cheese
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 8 oz. freshly grated mozzarela
- 2 cups arugula
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 box lasagna noodles
- 1 quart spaghetti sauce – we used a jar of the sauce we canned this summer
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, rinse under cold water and set to the side. Brown ground chuck and ground beef until cooked through, drain excess fat. Add about 1/2 cup of sauce. If you add too much sauce the lasagna will weep. Set to the side. Mix cheeses, arugula, parsley and eggs in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread a small amount of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Lay the noodles in the baking dish. Top with a layer of meat sauce followed by a layer of cheese. Repeat twice more, ending with a layer of noodles. Sprinkle with a little grated paremesan, cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 until heated through-about 45 minutes. Cut in squares and top with sauce.
BLACKBERRY UPSIDE DOWN CAKE from “Everyday Food”
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 10 tbls unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 tsps. pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups blackberries (we froze the blackberries that we picked and didn’t can just for something like this)
Preheat oven to 35. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, beat 6 tablespoons butter and sugar until light & fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and zest until combined. With mixer on low, add flour mixture, alternating with milk, in two additions, finishing with flour mixture. In a 10′ cast iron pan, melt remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cook until melted, about one minute. Remove from heat and arrange blackberries evenly in the bottom of the pan. Pour batter over blackberries and smooth the top. Bake until cake is golden brown, 35-45 minutes and passes the clean toothpick test. Cool on wire rack for about 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge of the cake and invert on to serving plate. Serve warm with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.