Living Simply

I had to take a long break from Cabinet Stew recently to attend to my mother who was ill and recently passed away. I have returned from this sad hiatus with a renewed respect for my time left on this earth and an appreciation for living more simply.

My mother was a 40 year vegetarian and a general health enthusiast. She never felt the need to “clutter” her plate with complicated ingredients, bold spices or fancy preparations. She felt nature was best left untouched as much as possible. At the same time she never passed up the chance to try something new, leading us as a family, to one “off the beaten path” bakery to another. By ten years of age I already knew where to get the best spanakopita (greek spinach pie) in my hometown.

My father in contrast was a man who appreciated a sausage as another might appreciate a vintage car or rare wine. He was a connassuier of hot dog carts, hash browns and strangely, fresh radishes. (which he ate like candy from a bowl in front of the TV)

Having observed both of them my whole life, I shaped my own eating habits around a combination of them. I love bold flavors and never pass up a good hot dog. I think nostalgically of my father when I eat radishes. However I don’t think twice about having a meal that doesn’t contain meat – in fact I don’t even recognize it as a “vegetarian” meal – its just simply a meal. I never met a vegetable or fruit I don’t like. And of course I have to seek out the most obscure local joints to try something new.

Today I salute my mother and her simple tastes.


Toast spread with Ricotta di Pecora (raw sheep milk ricotta) – topped with maple syrup and Honey Dew melon.






Mom Knows Best

I realized after reviewing my handful of posts thus far – that I might sound like a bit of junk food junkie (hot dogs, bologna, ham salad) crossed with a non-fresh veggie eater (Marzetti, chop suey, Dinty Moore, etc) but that is not the case. I also realized that my mom must be horrified at what she thinks I must be eating each day! But as a matter of fact, I eat more veggies and fruit than many people. (With exception of my mom of course!)

Almost everyday I eat a salad (often homemade) of sorts. I work and go to school in a downtown office environment and bring in lunch most days ready-to-go or I will bring the ingredients to make the salads on the spot. Too busy you say? It only takes 15 minutes to rip off some lettuce leaves, chop an apple up with a plastic knife, throw in the last bit of deli ham and a handful of shredded leftover cheese. Not to toot my own horn but…toot toot….I receive compliments all the time about my salads that others see me eating! One person actually told me she might consider eating salads if I made them for her!

This is not revolutionary thinking by me;  it is just me making slightly more effort than opening a  frozen dinner.

But I am no hypocrite – I have a weakness on occasion for chips, ice cream, chocolate and hot dogs! I eat my share of these things but I almost always eat that salad, the fruit and the nuts etc each day – not because I am making myself, but because I truly love them. And for that I have to thank my mom!


Dear Mom,

If I never mentioned it before – thanks for bringing me up on fresh veggies and fruits and no chemicals long before it was cool!

I know at the time I complained about the all-natural (read: no sugar added) peanut butter on whole wheat sandwiches when all the other kids were having fluffernutters!  I know I put up a fight at the grocery store campaigning for all those things other people were buying like Chef Boyardee and Kraft mac & cheese. Thanks for being strong and not buying them.

I did feel a bit weird eating grapes and all natural granola for snacks when the other kids were munching jelly beans but I am not at all sad that you didn’t serve fish at the dinner table – not only did I not develop a taste for it, but you have saved me many dollars later in life trying to seek out sustainably-raised, mercury-free fish to eat. I get my omega from flax-seed oil thank you!

There was that one time you purchased a “half of a cow” for the freezer from an organic farmer down the street. That was hard to explain to the other kids but at least you were willing to put red meat on the table considering you never touch the stuff! I know you were hoping for vegetarian kids but take comfort in the fact that we at least purchase grass-fed, hormone-free meat! Did I mention that I grind my own burger?

Oh and remember the summer I spent the days with the farm family down the street while you were working? That was so much fun and of course it help reinforce the “farm to table” idea that is so trendy now 20+ years later. Helping to care for the pigs and smelling the delicious family smokehouse later in the year didn’t scare me off one bit!

That reminds me…remember how we would take our washed out juice jars to the local dairy to purchase raw milk? Who knew that would become such a hot-button legal issue many years later? I remember how my brother would shake the milk first to mix the cream from the top and drink it by the gallon! He was fine, so what’s the problem?

Thanks for never allowing soda in the house or Twinkies or white bread! Thanks to that I never developed a big sweet tooth!

And when you went back to work full-time – I didn’t mind helping with the cooking, in fact I liked it. Even if it was simple dinners – made with some convenience foods (canned soup, canned tomato sauce etc) you always read the labels and tried to buy the most natural ones.

So thanks and it really is true: “Mom knows best!”

Love Carol