it’s easier to eat than to grieve
things you’ll need: ham (leftover or store-bought deli meat), sweet onion rolls, swiss cheese, yellow mustard, butter, poppy seeds, dehydrated onion, and aluminum foil
adapted from Mary Helmholdt’s recipe, made by us in her absence this year. In remembrance of her.
incidentally not vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free, but it tastes like remembering
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Preheat oven to 400.
You don’t understand how barometric pressure works. You look up the definition. Even though you know what it means now, you still aren’t sure what it is until you happen to be somewhere else and the weather shifts. Your body and brain immediately realize that the sensations you feel are all shifts in pressure. It’s in your ears and you think maybe you can even taste it. Your brain and body both feel a little happier having named the feeling.
Cream together one stick of room temperature butter and ½ cup of yellow mustard.
You know that grief is like that. You aren’t always sure when the pressure shifts into the weighty sense of loss, but your body and brain have gotten better at identifying and communicating the sensation to each other. Your body and brain are very smart, but griefs have a habit of hiding under certain colors and eavesdropping on unrelated conversations. Sometimes they are small and sometimes they occupy every inch of breath you concentrate on breathing.
Whisk in 2 Tablespoons of dehydrated onion and 1 Tablespoon of poppy seeds.
The landscape of your life is littered with losses of various sizes and shapes. There is a small, but cavernous, valley in which you keep all the fantasies you harbored and had to tuck away once you realized their faults. Somewhere at the bottom of that valley, you imagine Luck Dragons are having perfect vacations with Santa Claus and some version of you is happily entangled with every lover you’ve believed to be the one.
Spread the butter mix evenly on the tops and bottoms of 6-8 sweet onion rolls.
There is an expanse of unknown size that you keep at your back. You know which griefs gather there. You’ve named each one of them. It’s ok to peek over your shoulder at their angry blight and the void of their sorrow, just to take count and make sure they are healing. When you turn around, you start to believe that there is no land that these griefs do not occupy. You don’t ignore them, but you try not to stare into them all the time. Not anymore.
Pile slices of ham on the bottom halves of each bun.
Grief is the response to loss, any loss really. You aren’t entirely sure which of your feelings, at any given moment, are grief so you try to feel all your feelings… which is exhausting. It doesn’t help that the sun seems to be setting just as you feel ready for the day or that people and places feel dangerous again (or still). It doesn’t help that the “holidays” are some kind of grief full-moon sugar-high. Turning the calendar page helps, for a little while.
Lay a slice of swiss on top of each pile of ham.
Some griefs prepare you for other griefs. Now you can see some of them coming and are better at greeting them before shuffling each one off to their respective and forever homes. No body but your body can understand how some griefs become gardens and mountains while others get washed away with the tide.
Match the tops with the bottoms of each bun, which might become a bit of a memory matching game. Do your best.
The more you tend to your wilderness of grief, the easier it is to navigate.
Wrap the buns like an aluminum foil present and bake on a sheet pan in case of melty hambutter drips. After 10-12 minutes, gently peek inside to check on the meltiness of all the cheese.
Not that grief is easy, but you look back at the expanse sometimes and realize that a few of the big ones have moved on to calmer plains where it is easier to gaze upon them and just remember.
Take the buns out of the oven and let them rest just long enough to unwrap them without burning your fingertips. Pull one bun away from the warm cuddle of fellow buns, careful to catch and preserve the cheesy tether that binds them together.
When you finally bite into the warm bun, let the remembering in. Let this grief push its way up to the front and sit beside you. Share your warm ham buns and your remembering too.
As always, thank you for reading!
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