A journalist's bittersweet memoir about coping with her mother's dementia by preparing her mother's recipes.
When New York Times Magazine food columnist and novelist Witchel (The Spare Wife, 2008, etc.) discovered her college-professor mother was ill with dementia, she was shocked. The woman who had successfully managed to juggle marriage, motherhood and a career had also hidden her deteriorating health from her family. Witchel was suddenly forced into the position of becoming a parent to a stubborn, strong-willed mother and watching her begin "the tortuous process of disappearing in plain sight.” Overwhelmed by this role-shift and the changes it brought into her life, the author sought comfort by making the meals her mother once prepared for the family, such as meatloaf, spaghetti, roast chicken and potato latkes. Childhood memories came flooding back. Witchel remembers her mother as a gifted woman who defied both familial and social expectations to construct a professional identity for herself; as an individual who "lived her life as an act of will," was the dominant force at home and expected nothing but the best from her children. Her father may have been "the ultimate authority,” but it was her mother who "ran the show.” She was also the person who guided her daughter toward the love of gastronomy that would eventually find expression in Witchel's work as a journalist.
Warm and always humane, Witchel's narrative is a poignant, candid reminder of the new normal that now defines so many adult child-aging parent relationships.