I took a break from Bell & Basket for a few months after I experienced a great loss in my life. Myself and so many others, lost a great love and friend, Scott Beigel, in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14, 2018.
This experience rocked me to my core. I’m extremely grateful to the Camp Starlight community who provided a safe place to mourn this tragic loss. At his memorial, I felt held by all of the love in the room, wrapped up in hugs, singing and memories from camp that Scott cherished so much.
After the memorial though, grief would strike unexpectedly (and still does, although less frequently). I couldn’t get away from news coverage, whether on my daily news podcast, the TV at my doctor’s office or Facebook. I began asking myself questions like, “what’s the point of getting out of bed,” “who cares?” or “why write about food when there are much more important things to focus on in life?” I was angry, sad, resentful and flailing. The last thing I wanted to do was post photos of cake on Instagram. It felt futile.
But even though I wasn’t blogging, I kept cooking and baking. I started reading more and spent less time on my phone. I was talking about Scott’s death–a lot. I talked to my therapist, my husband, my friends, and anyone who would listen. Even though I felt selfish and guilty for dominating conversation at times, it helped.
I’ve also since come to terms with the importance of doing what brings me joy. I love being in the kitchen. I love writing and creating. I love a good project. I love my husband and family. I’ve learned that what matters most to me is prioritizing those I love and who love me. This is the silver lining.
And while I read some great books over the last few months, the book that spoke to me most during this tough time was Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir, Blood Bones and Butter. She so eloquently writes,
What I have loved about cooking my entire life…is the way that it keeps your hands occupied but your mind free to sort everything out. I have never once finished an eight hour prep shift without something from my life–mundane or profound–sorted out.
When I read that, a lightbulb went off. When I’m cutting butter into flour, squeezing lemons, creaming butter, peeling sweet potatoes, kneading pizza dough, chopping onions–it gives me the space to just be. When I’m in my body in the kitchen, I am present. It’s not about the Instagram likes or page views, it’s about how I feel when I’m in the kitchen. When I’m done with whatever project I’m working on, I finish more serene than when I started (unless what I’m doing goes horribly wrong, but that’s all relative now, isn’t it).
So to honor Spring and new beginnings, I’m ready to get in the kitchen again, focus on a new project, continue to connect with others, and make those around me happy through love and food.
Because if we’re not doing what we love, what’s the point?
Lemon Poppyseed Chess Pie (adapted from King Arthur Flour’s lemon chess pie)
You can find my all-butter crust recipe here.
1 2/3 cups sugar
Zest of three large lemons
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp fine cornmeal
1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
5 large eggs
1 tbsp poppy seeds
Preheat oven to 375.
Roll out pie dough and place in pie pan, with an inch of crust overhang. Place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
Zest three lemons. Add lemon zest to sugar and rub zest into the sugar to release the oils. Add melted butter and whisk. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk well. Add poppy seeds and whisk once more (they will float to the top).
Pour filling into the crust and crimp the crust, or trim the crust and press with fork.
Bake pie for 45-50 minutes until pie is set (it should jiggle like jello).
Let cool before slicing or else it will run. Once cool, top with slightly sweetened whipped cream. Try to have just one slice.