When friends and family faced tough times, my mom knew just what to do. She was a master at doling out comfort and her willingness to listen bonded many friendships. But it was her prowess as a baker that forged relationships. Whether someone was just home from the hospital or grieving a loss, my mom paid a visit, always with something baked from her kitchen.
So it’s no surprise that in the weeks following my mom’s death, I spent countless hours in the kitchen, trying to comfort myself in the same way my mom comforted everyone else. I wanted to master her date and nut bread recipe, the same bread she packed in my lunch when I was little and continued to bake for me every time we visited, whether my home or hers. The smell of date and nut bread baking warmed my heart and as much as I loved it, I had never made it myself.
And so I used the kitchen as an outlet for my grief, trying to decipher my mom’s cryptic recipe. I distracted myself with important questions: “How many tablespoons are there in an inch and a half of margarine?” And: “How many ounces of dates in a small box of dates?" I kept baking breads until I finally filled my house with the same wonderful smells that conjured memories of mom.
Baking my mom’s date and nut bread was a way for me to hold her close. I still love to bake and when I want to nurture or console myself or others, I just head to the kitchen. Nowadays, it’s my hands that do the comforting.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.