When Food Doesn’t Heal

Healing Plate

One immutable law of the kitchen when I was growing up was food heals. Regardless if I were laid low by a thwackingly bad cold, a bully from school, or just a winter weekend without snow, food cured all. The powerful antidotes? My grandmother’s chicken soup, my aunt Irene’s massa sovada (sweet eggy bread), my mom’s stuffed quahogs.

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And that’s the philosophy I brought to the stove when I began cooking. It’s as if my dishes were shouting, like a carnival barker, “Looky here, looky here! A touch of gout, sir? Too many wrinkles, ma’am? Feeling blue about a boy, missy? Dr. Leite’s Magical Meals will make you feel like you just got a hug from the great Jackie Gleason himself.” And in each case, the palliative power of cooking—the kind that takes time and care and love—worked.

My belief was put to its most rigorous test on Saturday, September 15, 2001. New Yorkers were finally able to leave Manhattan after the attacks on the World Trade Center. The One, our friends, and I fled to the safety of our weekend homes. That night, as I served as many carbohydrate-rich dishes as the table would hold, six broken people slowly shook off the torpor of 24/7 viewing of the tragedy, the incessant roar of F-16 fighter jets overhead, and acute bunker mentality to hug, cry, even laugh.

That night, armed with Braised Beef Short Ribs, Celery Root and Potato Gratin, and Cheddar-Crust Apple Pie, I beat back a cabal of terrorists and won. So who could have imagined that a slight, troubled 18-year-old girl would eventually take me down.

Last month, The One’s niece, Callie (ed. note: not her real name), visited us for a week, as an all-expenses-paid birthday present from him. Coming from a rough area in Baltimore, and from a broken family, Callie dropped out of school in the eighth grade. Since then she’s ricocheted like a silvery orb in a pinball machine, bouncing from one set of friends to the next, one home to another, trying to find her place, even living with an older boyfriend for a spell while she was still a minor.

From the time Callie was very young, The One and I would go down and bring her and her two brothers to Connecticut for several weeks each year or take them on vacations to Disney World. It was our attempt at showing them that there is, indeed, another way to live—and that someone in their own family managed to achieve it. But in the end, it just didn’t seem to be enough: one nephew was shunted to his father’s home across the state due to a second marriage, another sits in juvenile detention, and Callie, now single, is back with her mother, both unemployed.

Years of seeing no appreciable effect had taken its toll; I felt steely, almost implacable when The One suggested we invite her again. Still, I reluctantly agreed.

To welcome her, I made Ina Garten’s Lemon Chicken with Croutons, a dish I made the family one December, which I knew Callie loved. My hope was the smell of an honest, no-agenda meal would envelop her and soften reentry, for both of us. The door opened and she slunk into the house, eyes downcast, the tails of her earbuds wriggling down either side of her face.

“Hi, Uncle David,” she said shyly. Why was I so implacable? I thought. She’s just a lost kid. I scooped her up in my arms, lifting her off the ground as I hugged her. Her clothes smelled of kitchen grease and mildew. Before The One even had time to shrug off his coat, I started my never-fail Cool Uncle Riff. See, The One is preternaturally clueless to anything hip. For years, he thought Fergie and the Black-Eyed Peas referred to Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of Prince Andrew, and one of her food charities.

As I was toasting the croutons in a skillet, Callie sidled up to me, and together we mercilessly teased The One about his remarkable unfamiliarity with pop culture. A shared look between him and me let me know he was okay with being the town fool for the evening. A hit for the greater good, he seemed to be saying.

While I carved the chicken, she volleyed questions: “Uncle David, remember the pasta and shrimp you made for all of us that time?” “You know, we never made those chocolate chip cookies you promised me.” “Uncle David, remember that time we sat in the freezing garage while we made the stars for the Snowflake Cake that one Christmas?” “Oh, and remember when my dad made those chimichangas that summer?”

It was then I realized so many of our times together—and, it seemed, her best memories—were wrapped around food. I decided that for the time she was with us, I’d make every single one of the dishes she’s liked throughout the years—a kind of greatest hits of the table.

By the end of dessert—my favorite love food: Sour Cream Apple Pie—Callie couldn’t shut up. Across from me wasn’t a tough, tattooed 18-year-old woman but the warm, sensitive kid who loved to prance around in her bathing suit, taking the occasional arc through the backyard sprinklers.

“And did my mom tell you,” she said, pointing her fork at us, “I’m going back for my GED then going to school for medical billing?” Praise God, and pass the peas. Her mother, who was also planning to do the same, had mentioned Callie was considering taking the GED. The One and I were determined not to bring it up unless Callie did, so as not to pressure her—although we hoped while she was with us we could encourage it.

“She’s changed,” he said later that night, taking pillows from our bed and turning down the comforter. “More mature, more sure of herself, don’t you think?”

“I do,” I said. “I’m impressed—and ashamed I didn’t want her here. I’m sorry.” He nodded. It was forgiveness, the kind that only 17 years can wrought.

For the rest of the time Callie was with us, I served favorite after favorite. And as I stood chopping, frying, and stirring, it was as if I were trying to infuse the food with the will to go back to school. I imagined, as silly as it seems, that years of wanting her to make something of herself were concentrated, like a demi-glace, and dripped from the wooden spoon into the frying pan. That common sense were ground up with a mortar and pestle and sprinkled in along with salt and a hint of pepper.

And it appeared to be working. Several days into her stay, Callie relaxed. She chatted more freely, forgetting to check her cell phone every minute, trippingly discussed dreams for the future, and relentlessly teased both of us. (Apparently my Cool Uncle Riff was good only until circa 2006. After that, I, too, was clueless.) One morning at breakfast, while she flipped through her grandmother’s recipe file for her black-bottom cake recipe, I whispered to The One, “I think we broke through.”

“I hope so,” he said.

“I found it! Can we make it? Please? Please?” There was that girl in the sprinklers again.

“Of course,” I replied.

The One and I stood back from the counter that afternoon and let Callie bake. The One shook his head when he saw me lean in because she wasn’t sifting the dry ingredients the way I would, and I backed off. I cleared my throat when he wanted her to use couverture chocolate instead of the Nestlé chips called for in the recipe. He demurred. The result, her first cake, wasn’t bad. But more important, it was a connection between Callie and her grandmother, a connection that otherwise lives only in a smudged envelope full of dog-eared photographs she keeps tucked in her purse.

That night, while watching a Netflix movie, The One handed Callie her birthday money, along with a tidy sum for helping him with stuffing envelopes—exactly equal to the cost of her GED tuition. Then came the slippery slope between being uncles and authority figures. “You know, there’s enough there to pay for your GED,” he suggested gently.

“Thank you,” she said, hugging him. I felt full, satiated.

After she left, it was radio silence. No thank-you card, no phone call, no texts for three weeks.

“Hello, Callie,” I heard The One say into the phone yesterday afternoon. I listened to the one-sided conversation, anxious for an update.

“Did you enroll in the GED program with the money I gave you?” Yes. Please, say yes.

A long pause. I could read the answer from how he traced the edges of his book with his finger. “Clothes? Really?”

“All of it?”

Pause. “I see.” He looked up at me.

I felt defeated. My instinct, because that’s the way I’m hardwired, was to go in the kitchen and cook something. That’s all she needs, I thought. I can fill her full of hope again. I know I can. Instead, I made myself a little something. I’m the one who needs the healing now.

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Comments
Comments
  1. Lucy says:

    She’ll come around. You have planted many seeds.

  2. Ling Teo says:

    David,

    I am pretty sure that one day, you both will see that all the effort will not have gone to waste. I think she knows that there’s familiarity and stability with the both of you, so try and find comfort in the fact that you both can provide that. You should be proud of yourselves :)

    So what did you make for yourself? :)

    Ling

    • David Leite says:

      Ling, I hope you’re right. We both hope we’ve helped to create some foundation, no matter how small. We’ll see, as you say.

  3. Susan says:

    Even if your immeasurable and unconditional love, including the food, didn’t bring about the GED (yet), you have been there for her and improved her life. Never doubt that or undervalue that. Believe me. :) Healing is a process, not an event at a certain moment, and you are helping her along on her journey.

    Thanks for sharing that, Uncle David!

    • David Leite says:

      Susan, we try not to underestimate our effect on Callie, but I think it will take time to really see any results. I kind of hoping she reads this post and these comments. She sometimes drops ins.

  4. Chrissy Jee says:

    You have a great heart. She might not get her GED now, but she knows that you’re there for her. When she visits you provide a safe, positive place for her to get encouragement and love to have a better life.

  5. Anne L says:

    I agree with all the above posts. You’ve both done your best and now the rest is up to *Callie.

  6. Ellen says:

    what a touching piece. you expressed your love and hope for Callie in the way you know best. She heard it, even if she can’t make of it what you’d wish she would.

    lovely lovely piece.

    • David Leite says:

      Ellen, thanks. You know Callie, so maybe everything that all of have done over the years, including you, will help.

  7. Dora Costa says:

    She’ll be back. And she will always feel your love in her heart. It is not very expensive to study for a GED, there many online sources now. I like to think that she will get around to it. You are both very kind and patient with her, she will remember that. :)

    • David Leite says:

      Hi, Dora. Genius! I’ll let her know about online GED study. Really great idea. Thank you sincerely.

  8. A Sad Aunt says:

    My family has a Callie too (considerably past, actually) but it’s taken this to bring out the tears of disappointment, frustration at a young life that already seems lost, even fear of what the future might hold for him, for all of us who love him. Thank you …

    • David Leite says:

      A Sad Aunt, I’m glad (and sad) the post affected you. I wish you the best with your nephew. May he find his way to a fulfilling life.

  9. Food is a very strong connection and it does touch her too. One day she’ll smell something that reminds her of the time she spent with you and it will trigger her jump into responsibility. Food triggers responses and you’ve laid the ground work as far as what those should be. It’s so hard when kids are not on our time. I wonder if she would like to work in the food industry. Did you say she called? She reached out and may continue to do so until she lands some place safe in her life. All you can do is keep cooking those memories.

  10. Penny Wolf says:

    Remember that spirit time is not always our time. She is still learning who she is thanks to you. She will be fully present when she gets her GED and mean while she’s tasting Grandma and the rest of the family. Acorns take awhile to grow…

  11. SMITH BITES says:

    David, I was 30 before I figured it out; and my family was a solid middle-class family with no bouncing around, etc. But at 17 was married with a baby and by 19 had another baby and was divorced. And it took me until I was 30 to figure it out. My family was always there to encourage me, to help, to try everything they could to get me on the right track . . . I was 30 before I figured it out. Callie knows–deep down she knows–that she is loved and that you and The One have her back . . . and that, my friend, will take her far.

    • David Leite says:

      SmithBites, this is very encouraging, thanks. It gives me a lot of hope that Callie will find her way, even if it takes more time.

  12. Flo Makanai says:

    She’s felt your love, your hope, your generosity. She probably would have loved using that money for something that would have made you proud of her but she hasn’t been able yet. But she knows what love is, she knows what a home is, a family, she might be able one day to get the energy to build that for herself. You’ve both offered what is most important of all in life: love, hope, warmth, healing, comfort. And fabulous food. Bravo.

    • David Leite says:

      Flo, thank you. Your words are encouraging to us, and, hopefully, to Callie–when and if she reads this.

  13. Donna Rose says:

    David, I agree with all these heartfelt posts. I can attest from personal experience that you never know what little message will be taken, tucked away and used at a later time. For me it was a caring, though much resented, offer from a stranger to buy me a mineral water instead of another drink. This was at the end of many years of self destructive behavior and for the first time, I heard no judgment, only concern. It was another couple of years before I quit, but I never forgot the incident. Callie, I’m sure, has a place where she’s tucked away your guidance and love. You may not see the effects for a while…you may never see the results you hope for, but trust me when I say your words and actions have made a difference in her life.

    • David Leite says:

      Donna Rose, I agree. I remember I was very depressed when I was 13 or 14, and I spent a vacation with friends of our family who lived in Canada. It’s really silly, but we all were playing a game of Uno, suggested by the mom of the family, and I had this intense moment of clarity in which I just knew everything would be okay, and the depression would eventually lift. And it did.

  14. Lora says:

    Wow. Such a beautiful piece. “Callie” is so blessed to have you both. I hope one day you will see the results, but for sure she has already benefited from your love and support.

    • David Leite says:

      Lora, Thank you. We’re blessed to have her, too. We’ve had some lovely times with her over the years.

  15. lisa says:

    Keep leading that horse to water. One day she will be thirsty enough to drink.

  16. Foodelf says:

    David – such courage to write this piece and a tribute to you and the One who keep the faith and the love. I’m reminded of my long-gone favourite Aunt and Uncle who smiled, complimented and always made me feel worthwhile…I’ll never forget them.

    • David Leite says:

      Thanks, Foodelf. So good to know that an aunt and uncle had a positive effect on your life. Our fingers are crossed with Callie.

  17. Susan says:

    P.S. Good photo for the piece, too. :)

  18. Annelies says:

    The meal was healing. For a moment she was transported back to her childhood and the cheery memories with you in them. The fact that she recalled all those dishes is a good sign but it sounds like the road to healing for her might be long and windy- hopefully with a few good meals with people who love her along the way.

    • David Leite says:

      Annelies, if we can only get more moments where we can connect her to her past and strengthen those ties, it would be fantastic. We don’t see her as often these days. (Most 18-year-olds don’t want to spend time with their uncles!)

      • annelies says:

        But you are not just any uncles. Honestly, it sounds like more time with the two of you and some good influences could help her change her path. Love is the answer and food is definitely a vehicle for that. Keep at, it David.

  19. Eileen Leite says:

    My thoughts echo the others here. If Callie’s life is a book, she is only in chapter five; there are so many more pages to turn before the end is known. And as in all the epics, it’s the encounters with goodness in the early chapters that prove to be the very keys to ultimate success. Do not be discouraged, David, you gave your best, and gave with a loving heart. Do not underestimate the power of love, nor the power of food to connect and heal.

  20. Mariko says:

    Everyone else has already said it, but I’ll give my vote for ditto as well. I’m a high school teacher, and I see it happen quite often. And even if their lives don’t exactly go as I might plan them, I’m often surprised how kids who become adults find paths that work. There are lots of lines to happiness. The main difference between kids who make it and kids who don’t is support. You’ve done that for her, and she will remember it.

    • David Leite says:

      Mariko, thinking back to high school, there were some kids about whom I wondered, How on earth will they ever make it to adulthood? But they did, with good jobs and families. Unfortunately, Callie was raised in a large city while we all were raised in a small town, in which our population, including cows, dogs, and cats, was about 12,000.

  21. Susan says:

    Callie will have such fond memories of cooking with you, David. It may well be the one thing she tries to recreate when she finds/makes a stable life for herself. It’s one healthy model she has to draw on. The fun stuff is all good, but it’s relief from daily life, not a foundation to build on. Sadly, it sounds more like she (and her siblings) lacked the kind of guidance or day-to-day modeling that would help them to guide themselves into other more productive activities. She’s a kid, and for her sake, I hope you stay in frequent contact with her so she can have someone to talk to freely about her hopes and dreams for moving forward. Someone that can help her pursue ideas that are doable, rather than be only an ear or the funding for a vague idea. Help with the footwork by sending her real propectus, brochures, applications; have details about her professed interests to help her implement her own way to success..and then fund it if you’re able when you’ve determined she’s really sincere about her goal. It’s learning how to find what’s out there for them, and how to follow through, that anyone, especially kids, need to learn.

    • David Leite says:

      Susan, I do plan to keep in close contact with her–when she allows it. We find it hard with both her and her mom, because The One will ring them and he never gets a call back, or it comes weeks and weeks later. Of course, Callie and I could be Facebook friends, but who wants their uncle over their shoulder online!

      The idea of sending prospectuses, brochures, and applications is a smart one–one that has to be done just frequently enough not to be annoying. (I hate it when people clobber me over the head again and again about my weight.) It can make her rebellious. Thanks, Susan.

  22. Rick Casner says:

    What a fine bit of writing about a hard bit of life. From the back of my mind comes a line from an old song, “I’ll tell you boys, this life is hard and cruel.” Sometimes it is. I haven’t figured out yet why some folks seem to glide through life with such grace while others struggle. I haven’t figured that out yet but I sure wish I could. All I do know is that people usually seem to find their way. Not always, but usually and as naive and silly as it may sound, providing some warmth and safety just has to help, even if it’s only a little. And I deeply hope that our wishes for them somehow matter.

    • David Leite says:

      Rick, thank you for you kind words. I hope Callie is one of those who finds her way. With so many people pulling for her, including you commenters!, perhaps one day she’ll read this and see that she matters–to many people.

  23. Esther says:

    Dear David,

    Let me just say this from the “other side” of the fence. When I was young, I was a lot like Callie. And I, too, had uncles like you: sensitive and caring people who wanted to take my hurt away in their own unique and loving ways. To hide my overwhelming embarrassment that they saw my pain, I always acted as if nothing they did made any difference to me. I took their money, their love and their generosity with barely a mumble of thanks. But, believe me, it made a world of difference to me. They made me see that not all people are bad and that God cares enough for me to send His love through them.

    If Callie can only bring herself to tell you, this is what she’ll say, “Thanks Uncle David, you already succeeded but just didn’t know it.”

    Merry Christmas!

    • David Leite says:

      Dear Esther, thank you so very much for your words, they’re very comforting.

      And everyone, I have very, very good news! Callie wrote me on Facebook today (via the messaging feature). She apologized for not using the money for her GED, and said she really needed warm clothes for the winter. (Who can argue with that?)

      Also, she got a job–her first!!–cleaning houses, and she says, “I’m saving my money for more important things that I need.” She expressed her gratitude for our keeping in touch with her because, besides her parents and brothers, she has no other family. And, this is so miraculous, her father is giving her the money to study for her GED.

      Today is The One’s birthday, and this news couldn’t be a better birthday gift for him and an early Christmas gift for me!

      Thank you all for keeping the faith–probably better than I have. This is so unexpected, and I finally feel filled with the holiday spirit.

      I will, of course, keep you all informed. Happy, happy holidays to you all.

  24. Annelies says:

    That’s fantastic news, David. Glad to hear her be direct about the money, have the new opportunity AND the best part is her viewing you and The One as terra firma. Such a great birthday gift for him, indeed.

  25. Esther says:

    Dear David,

    What great and wonderful news! God’s boundless love for us never fails to amaze me.

    Happy holidays!

  26. Garrett says:

    One of the best, most thoughtful, well written posts I have read in a LONG time. Bravo, David. Coming from a background working in children’s social service I have experienced this story many, many times myself. Don’t give up. For a lot of kids it really does set in at some point.

    • David Leite says:

      Thanks, Garrett. This was one of the hardest pieces I’ve written in a long time. I’d like not to give up, but things have taken a turn for the worse. Callie isn’t working, as she said, and she apparently has given up on the GED, at least for now. It’s very sad.

      She did read this, as her mother did. So perhaps it will help…eventually.

  27. Marion says:

    By the way, I came to this site looking for a cookie recipe. :)

    What a wonderful letter to have found instead! Hearing it from your side was really beautiful and bittersweet. I’m more of a Callie, in my life. My parents didn’t make great choices for us kids: we moved constantly, never had a “home base” or the feeling of true safety in the creature comforts of life, and then we moved in with my aunt and uncle. We were there while my parents tried to find a more stable ground (which they never did). I learned a great deal from my aunt and uncle, just by being around them–and a large part of that learning occured in the kitchen. I didn’t let on while I was there how greatly it affected me (I was 13), but I sure as hell didn’t want to leave when the time came and made sure everyone knew that. Over the next couple of years, I made really conscious efforts to make my life more like theirs…the most important lesson I learned was that in life we always have choices. I chose to make it better.

    I make sure to thank them and do for them all that I can as an adult now, but don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve expressed it quite right. Callie, as it seems from the update, is on that same path. I’m incredibly grateful for this…and I don’t even know her!

    For all the aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, and generous strangers out there that do important work as you do with her…thank you. The world needs more people like you.

    And I love that you call your partner “The One”…love like that is incredibly precious. :)

    And it’s your super awesome chocolate chip cookies I found…I’m making them tomorrow. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your feelings…it’s such a great reminder to always be thankful, hopeful and loving.

    Happy Holidays…all of them. ;)

    Marion

    • David Leite says:

      Marion, thanks for the encouragement. It sounds like you had a situation yourself. I truly hope we’ve touched Callie, but it’s a day-to-day thing. One day I feel like I get this kid, the next, I have no idea who she is.

  28. It took me nearly 50 years to grow up. Who knows? It’s never too late to learn how to accept the feelings of others.

    Thank you for sharing your personal history. wb

    • David Leite says:

      Thanks, Warren, for the kind words. It’s interesting: I read your statement both ways: It’s never to late for me to accept Callie’s feelings–and for her to accept my feelings. Hmmm.

  29. Manju says:

    Your piece was so beautifully written, David. And since I’m so late in finding it, I’ve taken a roller coaster ride sharing your heartbreak, momentary high in hearing Callie was pursuing her GED, then learning she was not following through. I’m so sorry that there is not yet a lasting resolution for Callie or her uncles.

    Your story hit home, as my husband and I have a nephew that is a Callie. It’s so hard to try and provide that alternative road in life when their daily life does not support staying focused and following through on one’s goals. I know it can be discouraging at times, but you and The One are absolutely doing the right thing, and clearly have touched Callie’s heart and mind in ways that will yet blossom.

    I love this whole site. I came for the Broa recipe, but found so much more. Thank you for daring to share.

    • David Leite says:

      Manju, thank you so much for you sentiments. “Roller coaster.” That’s exactly what it is. And now, Callie doesn’t bother calling or getting on the phone when The One calls her house. It’s sad. But all we can do is keep on doing what we’ve been doing. Maybe one day, as you and some others readers have said here, she’ll do an about face. Thanks for the support.

  30. siobhan says:

    Your story, beautifully and evocatively written as always, made me cry. For that lost little girl. All you can do is give her love, give her love, give her love. She needs to know that there is love, and continuity, and care, and kindness in the world. And you have shown it to her. She came and visited you… she didn’t have to do that. She knows that you are a source of that love. Some of it will, hopefully, eventually rub off. My own familial background was one of tough love, and uber-discipline, bordering on abuse, but never quite there. We are all healing now… but some much slower than others. One of my brothers was a poster-child for what you’re describing with your niece. But he found his niche. He found his “One” and they’re now happily married and expecting, he’s holding down a job and repaying all his debts. It may take time, but reassurance and love went a long way towards him achieving all of this. Oh–and he had to do it on his own, to his own agenda and schedule, and make all the mistakes. And we had to back off giving him money and digging him out of holes and scrapes. But he got there. So too will your niece. Keep cooking for her, and keep loving her. I don’t believe in a God, but I do believe in Love.

    • David Leite says:

      siobhan, thank you for your gentle words. They mean a lot. And it’s good to know others have been through what Callie is going through and made it out the other end. Thanks.

  31. Vicki says:

    This is a sweet story–growth is gradual, never forget. She has grown since you last saw her, and she will grow more still before you see her again, much of that growth will be thanks to the love and support the two of you have shown her. She will still make disappointing missteps, but don’t we all? In my fifties, I hate to admit how many I still make.

    Speaking of missteps, this confused me, so I took to Bing, to see what was up:

    “I do,” I said. “I’m impressed—and ashamed I didn’t want her here. I’m sorry.” He nodded. It was forgiveness, the kind that only 17 years can wrought.

    I began to wonder. It seemed to me that wrought was past tense, but for what? As it turns out, rather than past tense of wreak, as one may imagine, it is an older (archaic, even) past tense of the verb “to work”. So, I suppose, this would read better thus: “It was forgiveness, the kind that only 17 years can work.” Then, maybe there is a better word. Forge? Foster? Nurture? Bring? Grow? Present? Give? I hope you don’t mind this exploration, but the word wrought in this context really confused me. I ask this not in a spirit of correction, but rather, as one who loves language and words (as you obviously do), and occasionally finds a puzzle. What do you think? Or, have I made a misstep in asking you this?

    • David Leite says:

      Hi Vicki, I’m glad you liked the piece. And I do hope Callie continues to grow and makes good decisions, as you say.

      Regarding the word “wrought,” I meant it in the archaic sense of “beaten out or shaped by hammering.” (Think of wrought iron.) I think things such as forgiveness, understanding, etc. between two people takes time to form, to forge. In our case, it was shaped by years of banging up against each other, not knowing how to be truly forgiving. There were emotional bruises as we worked to hammer out our unique way, as every couple must, of interacting. Ours is a hard-won victory of being able forgive with ease.

  32. Houston Foodlovers Club says:

    Hi David,

    Just a note to say how much I enjoyed this piece. I just discovered this post, and what a tender, poignant story you tell! It is so interesting to see how we are all shaped by the foods we love. Who doesn’t have a food that brings back great memories? (Every time I smell fresh baked yeast rolls, I get a mental image of my mother, slathering butter on the top of a hot pan of rolls–and it makes me smile.) No matter what Callie is all wrapped up in these days, I bet in a quiet moment she looks back on her time with you fondly.

    I especially like your words in answer to a comment from Warren B. about learning to accept each other. In my experience, acceptance and understanding comes in waves; one day you think you have it all figured out, then it slips away for a while and you start feeling hurt again. Hope Callie ends up well. I was a Callie, a long, long time ago. Maybe I still am. Can you still be an unruly teenager, still trying to find your way at age 50?

    Maybe. Chocolate chip cookies help. And your Cheddar Crust Apple Pie, well that just makes everything okay!

    With Warm Regards from the Great State of Texas, MBE

    • David Leite says:

      MBE, what a thoughtful and lovely note. It was a great way to wake up and it has my already put a smile on my face.

      A Callie update: She is working intermittently and has reach out to use a few times–unbidden!–twice by e-mail, once by phone. It melted our hearts, especially The One’s.

      Thanks for your message. It means a lot.

  33. David,

    When you mentioned this story at Food Blog Forum this weekend, I made a mental note and quickly converted the mental note to paper so I wouldn’t forget it.:) Your verbal synopsis of the story touched me. I wanted to read the entire post, not because I have a relationship with a “Callie” but because stories about food connections speak to me.

    The outcome with Callie wasn’t what you had hoped it would be. However, the visit with Callie was spiritual. Through your actions, she was shown love. Showing love to another person is our highest calling. Sharing food memories and generational connections nourished her body and soul. Callie was blessed during that visit. She might not have the emotional intelligence or social graces to be able to express her gratitude, but you can rest assured that she felt it. I pray that Callie will be able to lean on those precious memories during her darkest moments.

    Thank you for sharing a piece of your heart. You are a kind and warm soul.

    • David Leite says:

      Jackie, thank you so much for your comment. I too hope that Callie will lean on those memories, as they are the only thing we have that binds us.

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