Day 12: A remembrance

Food often sparks memories.

When my favorite uncle (see “My Favorite Uncle’s Pickles“)  was diagnosed with kidney cancer, we all rallied around.  My family seems to be made up of cancer survivors, so we were not fearful with his prognosis.  (My grandmother survived one form of cancer or another since she was in her twenties—she lived to her late-80s—and my mother is a breast cancer survivor.  My great uncle survived cancer and is still going strong at 93.  I, myself,  have survived the big “C.” )  So, we were supportive and cheerful and hopeful.

It became harder and harder to maintain this cheerfulness as his cancer spread and he went into surgeries and experimental treatments.  Hope soon was futile.

On one of our last visits to his home, I told him I would make and bring lunch to him.  I wanted to make something hearty, yet something he would be able to enjoy eating.  As recently written, he was a big eater.  His only request to me (which was repeated several times in our phone conversation) was to not make anything spicy.

I had a ham and bean vegetable soup that I had made before that I hoped would work for him.  I modded it a bit so it would not be too spicy.  (I hoped he would be able to eat it—I stressed a great deal about what to make.)

Hearty Bean Soup

1 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 c. chopped celery
1 c. chopped carrots
5 c. chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you prefer)
2 c. water
1 can diced tomatoes
1 potato, peeled and chopped
2 cans cannellini or white northern beans
1 T. brown sugar
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1/2 t. fresh basil, chopped

Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large Dutch oven or soup pot.  Saute onions, celery and carrots until soft.  Add stock and stir to get any brown bits from the saute up from the bottom of the pan.  Add water and tomatoes.  Add potato, beans, brown sugar and bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for 45 minutes.   Stir in fresh basil before serving.

If I had not been cooking specifically for him, I would have added wine (whatever I had on hand) instead of the water.  I would also have added some red pepper flakes and maybe a bit of rosemary.  But, this meal was all about him.

I don’t remember if he ate very much at all.  I do remember that we came to the realization that this time, our family would not be able to beat cancer, no matter how much we prayed, or how many experimental treatments or natural remedies were tried. 

I saw my uncle one more time after this visit.  This time he was in the hospital.   I hate to remember him there. 

Instead, I choose to remember him in the kitchen, stirring up a huge pot of some sort of highly edible concoction, planting and hoping for bushels of produce in his city garden, or later at his ranch, among his cattle and horses.  I find comfort in these memories every time I make this recipe.
Cannellini Bean on FoodistaCannellini Bean

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