12/9/13

Preserving Lemons

Hi, Friends. It seems that over the past five years, Bon Appétempt has become as much a record of my life as it is a food blog, and because of this, I feel compelled to share a bit more sad news. I'm not ready to say much about it other than the fact that it happened, but it somehow felt disingenuous to carry on with another post without mentioning it.
A few days before Thanksgiving, my dad died suddenly of a heart attack.

Unlike my grandma, my dad hasn’t had much of a presence on this site. He does, however, loom large in my forthcoming book, which I turned in to my editor just a few weeks ago and which most people (quite understandably) assume is set to be a traditional cookbook with photos, while in actuality, it’s a photo-less memoir with recipes.
Where do preserved lemons fit in? Well, as you may already know from the video, when Grandma was here, she had wanted to make a lemon cake using the lemons from our lemon tree. But the lemons weren’t ready yet; all of them were still partially green. A few weeks later, however, by the day of her memorial service, they had ripened. And since I couldn’t make it to Pittsburgh for the service, I decided to spend part of the afternoon preserving lemons. 
It’s easy, satisfying work. You scrub the lemons. You pour a layer of salt in the bottom of a clean jar. You make four lengthwise cuts from the top to the bottom of the lemon—basically quartering it while leaving the ends intact. You pack the four cuts with salt. You add it to the jar. You sprinkle on another layer of salt. You repeat. You pack as many lemons in there as you can. You probably add some more lemon juice. Then, you put the lid on and leave the jar at room temperature, monitoring the level of the liquid for the next few days. If after a few days, your lemons aren’t completely submerged in juice, you add some more juice. Once they’re submerged, you put them in the refrigerator (though Alice Waters says they do not absolutely require refrigeration). In a few weeks, voila, they’re preserved.
The next morning, I woke up early, took Mavis out, ate breakfast, and checked on my lemons. The liquid was a little less than halfway up the jar. Then my brother called and broke the news to me.
My dad and I weren’t close in the traditional sense. He and my mom divorced when I was young, and though I lived with him and my stepmom for a while, when I was 14, I chose to move in with my mom. After that, I would only see him sporadically. He lived in rural Pennsylvania and didn’t fly, so it was never exactly easy to meet up. In the past five years, I’d seen him just twice. But he was very invested in this baby I’m carrying. Not only was the baby set to be his first grandchild, but he had been an Ob/Gyn and therefore, had extra advice to give me. Flying not being an option, in order to meet the baby, he was going to take a train out here sometime in late January or February. And though my birthday gifts from him always tended to arrive well after my actual birthday, in the last week of his life, he’d bought the baby a gift off our registry. It arrived the Wednesday after he died with a funny note offering to be “on call” for the delivery.

To be honest, my dad wouldn’t have cared about these preserved lemons. I’m simply struck by the timing of everything. In a few weeks, when these lemons are ready, this baby could be too. To be honest, I was stressed about the potential visit. My dad had very particular tastes and opinions. I didn’t know what I would have fed him, let alone what sharing a living space with him after not doing so for the past 18 years was going to be like.

But had he made it to LA, I’m sure we would’ve worked something out. Had he made it to LA, I would have been very happy to see him.
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38 comments:

  1. Wish your dad could have made the trip to meet the baby and beat me in chess in person. Love you. xoxo

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  2. I'm sorry for all the loss you've experienced lately. I'm sorry your dad won't get to meet your little one. On another note, congratulations on finishing your memoir! I can't wait to read it.

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  3. Hi Amelia, I've been reading your site for awhile but I'm not much of a commenter. I just wanted to say, I'm so sorry for your losses, which, while never easy, can sting particularly badly in light of the upcoming holiday season and of course, the impending major changes in your life. You seem to have a remarkable ability to find joy in the small stuff [hello, preserved lemons], and I hope that even during this time, you are still able to find that light and joy to carry you through. Sending hugs & warm thoughts from North Carolina.

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  4. I'm so sorry for your loss, Amelia. Thank you for sharing so much with us.

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  5. ((((((((((a huge hug from a stranger)))))))))) Only Love Prevails.
    -AEV

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  6. love love love love love. lots of loss, but also new beginnings right around the corner.

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  7. I'm so sorry, Amelia. There is no pain like it. Hugs, prayers, and thoughts coming your way. xo

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  8. There's always such a narrow range of words that seem appropriate for circumstances like these. But just know that in whatever capacity you decide to share here, or in whatever capacity you knew your dad–it is enough. You are a light. Thanks for inviting us to laugh and cry with you.

    Hugs from Seoul.

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  9. Dear lady, I am so very sorry. You're in my thoughts. xo.

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  10. Oh Amelia - virtual stranger hugs to you! As a dedicated reader (and fan) I'm glad you shared this. I can't wait for that book to come out! Warm thoughts from Colorado...

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  11. Amelia, sending thoughts to you and your family. Thank you for being so open, honest, and brave.

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  12. I'm so sorry for your losses. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Your sweet baby will have many angels watching over him. Peace to you and your family. Take care of yourself. Debbie S.

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  13. Oh Amelia, I am so sorry. Life is funny with its timing. Your beautiful writing captures the poignancy. Hugs!

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  14. I'm so, so sorry for your recent losses. Thinking of you and your family and hoping that you are able to find some light and joy in the upcoming holidays, the coming of your little one, and even in lemons.

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  15. So sorry, Amelia. You're amazing to write this right now. So sweet about how excited he was for the baby.

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  16. I am so so sorry for your losses. Thank you for writing this. You overwhelm me with your ability to write so openly.

    Congratulations on the baby and the book! Sending love your way.

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  17. Hi Amelia,
    I'm so sorry for your loss. Best of luck with the upcoming birth and baby -- you're in for such a great thing.

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  18. Amelia, I'm sorry you've had to deal with so much pain during this otherwise happy time. I can empathize with your situation—I am also pregnant and lost my dad to a sudden heart attack a month and a half ago. It was his first grandchild, and it's something he has wanted for a long time. I'm glad that at least I got to share the news with him before he passed away. I have so many fond memories of my grandparents, and I'm sad to think my child will miss out on that experience. I wish you peace and the best of luck with your baby. Thank you for sharing yourself on this blog. I always enjoy reading it.

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  19. What great sadness you've had in the last few weeks, my heart and prayers go to you.

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  20. Oh my goodness, Amelia. I'm so very sorry for this season of loss. Sending you love and light.

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  21. I'm so, so sorry for your losses. Your site and your writing are inspiring. Wishing you healing and happiness in the very near future.

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  22. What a time you've had. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  23. Thank you all so much for all the kind words. It really means a lot.

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  24. Dear Amelia, love to you from Becky, Rob & Ella_pop_up xoxo

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  25. I am so so sorry for your loss, and having to figure out how to deal with all the emotions I am sure you are going through right now. Thank you so much for sharing with us, my heart is with you xo

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  26. Dear Amelia, we love you and Matt very, very much. Thank you for this beautiful post.

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  27. Add another virtual hug to the pile. I'm so very sorry to hear about your dad. From what you write, he'll still be very much "on call" in spirit with his grandchild, given the connection that was made between the two of them in anticipation of the arrival.

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  28. This breaks my heart. My dad died a few years ago, and it kills me that he never got to meet the man who would become my fiancee, that he won't know his grandchildren and that I won't even be able to explain him to my future children until they know what death is. It hurts, a lot. It all seems so impossible at first, and it is--eventually it's just part of life. This missing little piece that you forget about most of the time, but comes back in spurts, in little, random ways.

    It's hard, and my heart goes out to you. Sending you positive energy and hugs <3

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  29. Amelia, I am so sorry for the loss of your father and your grandma. Thinking of you.

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  30. I just recently discovered your blog and I love all that you share. I'm so sad to hear about your loss. I know I'm a stranger but sending my condolences.

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  31. So very sorry, Amelia. You've been through so much in the past few weeks. I'm thinking of you and your family and sending my love.

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  32. Oh Amy, too many losses. :( love to you and that baby

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  33. Oh, friend. I'm so sorry to read about your loss. I lost my dad less than six months after my son was born. The timing is never good, of course, but it seems almost cruel. Thoughts and hugs to you and the wee one. xo

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  34. Amelia,

    Thank you so much for all of your witty and wise words. You have preserved the memories of your loved ones so eloquently… I'm so sorry for your losses, dear… I can't wait to read about your new memories with your new baby. Best to you, and your family.

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Thanks for your thoughts!