Breaking cornmeal bread

April 30, 2012

In 1995 my mother learned she had stage four breast cancer. The doctors tracked her white blood cells on a whiteboard while they pumped chemicals into her body. She promised me, wrapped in her white gown, shrunken from a liquid diet, that she would come home to make dinner again. In the mean time, I learned how to do laundry, how to make eggs and how to sleep on a hospital floor.

Today, more than 15 years later, we’re breaking bread.

The doctors sent her home the day before Christmas. We hoped she was well enough to celebrate the holiday. She wasn’t. 24 hours later, sitting in the back seat of my friend’s car, I learned she had returned to the hospital. All I remember are the cold, leather seats, the way they crinkled when I moved.

What followed, I don’t clearly remember. There were procedures and new medications and then there was a new word for my young vocabulary: remission.

By 1998, all of her hair had grown back –– darker and curlier than before. My dad threw her a party at The Maisonette to celebrate and we put on dresses and said toasts and tried to make sense of something senseless. She began resuming activities as usual, creeping into my room at night to switch off the TV, punishing me when I came home too late. But best of all, she started to make dinner again. Elaborate steaks. Twice-baked potatoes. Chocolate cake for dessert. Now we break bread around the table, never really admitting how different things could have been.

This recipe comes from the cookbook Beard on Bread – given to me recently by a friend. This recipe, which is cornmeal based, turns out hearty and rich. You barely need butter to serve. But, hell, I’d add it anyway. You only live once.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

dc April 30, 2012 at 11:09 am



shuchi October 10, 2012 at 5:43 pm

loved your post about your mom..feels good to know she recovered.


Jeremy November 6, 2012 at 7:03 am

Really wonderfully written.


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