This past week marked the one anniversary of my Aunt Diane’s death. It was somewhat of a sudden passing. A month earlier before Christmas she was admitted to the hospital with kidney failure due to extreme dehydration. She spent nearly three weeks in the ICU. A week after moving to an assistant living center her heart simply stopped.
At the time she had been living with us for over eight months after she broke her ankle and then her house flooded due to a faulty pipe that took out the basement among other things. And, during the last eight months of her life she was very much a part of our day-to-day family life. She was there supporting my Mother’s battle with cancer, a constant errand runner with my sister and niece and conversationalist for anyone with an ear.
But, it wasn’t just the fact that she was a part of our daily life that made her passing difficult. She was always there for us. Since she never married she was literally a second mother to our family. She offered advice, supported many financially and gave more than she ever expected back.
One of her passions in life was cooking and baking. She made all of our birthday and holidays cakes and pies, was the one who carried down the traditional family dishes and the stories that came with them and the one who always insisted on paying for lunch or a treat when out running errands. Food brought family together and kept the memories of those before alive. Not only did she love cooking and baking, but she was really good at it too. Her pie crust is what legends are made of. This past Thanksgiving it was difficult baking pies with my mother, because the crust was simply not Diane’s and we both knew it.
One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is to gather a cookbook of her recipes to give my siblings, cousins and family. I feel as though this cookbook is simply more than just a book of recipes. It’s about keeping the memories of great Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, etc. alive. It’s another way of telling their story. Something my Aunt was very good at providing each time she would make traditional Norwegian food for Christmas, Frog Eye (or Hawaiian Dot Salad as she later insisted us on calling it) salad for picnic or sometimes simply seeing something in the grocery store that reminded her of a childhood memory or story.
The one problem with all these recipes is that we don’t know where they all are written down. A lot of her recipes were either memorized or a combination of favorite recipes from here or there. Plus, she left a NUMBER of cookbooks after her passing, so pinpointing exactly where these recipes are has proven quite difficult. It’s not impossible, just difficult.
I’ve started to slowly put some of these recipes together in a folder for the cookbook and I know there a MANY more I want and need to find. Her chocolate cake was amazing, the mini-cheesecakes she made were a staple at any family reception and her whipped cream was painstakingly crafted (NEVER store bought).
As I help put this cookbook together I am going to share some of her recipes from time to time. Not only to give you something new to try, but to also gain a perspective and understanding of the type of woman my Aunt Diane was. She was more than just an Aunt or second mother. It’s hard to describe our relationship. But, she was always very supportive of me, especially during my weight-loss journey. She was extremely happy to see my transformation, because she knew how much I had hurt inside. In many ways she was one of the reasons why my relationship with food changed.
I miss her each day, but it’s not a feeling of endless loss or sadness. I know that she isn’t that faraway. I just eagerly await the day I see her again. In the meantime, I’ll just have to put up with crappy pie crust.