Musical pairing – I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack (feat. Sons of the Desert)
‘If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants . . .’ ~ Sir Isaac Newton
I’ve sat down a bazillion times in the last month to write a post . . . and I’ve walked away from the computer a bazillion times because I didn’t want to write this post; I find myself looking for every distraction I can so that I don’t have to write this post . . . but here I am again, now crunch time, writing this post . . .
The impending 10-year anniversary of 9/11 also means the 10-year anniversary of my father’s passing; he died 4 days prior on September 7, 2001. We knew it was coming, we were somewhat prepared . . . if anyone is ever prepared watching someone die. Inoperable lung cancer from asbestos exposure took him and the day he passed away, everything, and I do mean everything, changed. We had the luxury of having 18 months to say what needed to be said, to laugh, to cry, to be angry, to remember, to share . . . to say goodbye. It was incredibly difficult to stand on the sidelines feeling helpless . . . he was 68 when he finally took his last breath and moved from this world into another.
I could write an entire post about that process, the sadness, the grief, what we lost as a family that day and I could write an entire post about the unfairness of it all . . . but I’m not going to do that . . . instead . . .
I choose joy. I choose to share my father’s joy . . . his laugh, the twinkle in his eyes when he was being ornery, the dream for his children to get an education and make a good life for themselves. I want to share my father’s desire that his children would grow into good citizens and contribute to society. I want to share what a good man he was, what a good person he was, how much he sacrificed for his family.
I want to share how, when his oldest daughter (that would be moi), came home in the 6th grade with Algebra books and didn’t have a clue, he took a crash course in Algebra at the local Community College that he might teach her . . . not understanding it himself at first – but my education was paramount. To this day, I don’t get Algebra nor do I remember a single Algebra formula. But what I do remember, is him coming home after working long shifts and sitting with me at that rectangular-shaped dining room table in the little house on Ankeny Street . . . explaining the same concepts over and over again . . .
I want to share that even though we had little money, when the school music director told my parents I had potential to be a great violinist someday but there was nothing more the teacher could teach, my parents found a way to pay for private lessons. And I want to share that whenever I played or sang in a concert, my parents were there with bravos, standing ovations and encouragement.
And I want to share about the 3-legged races run, fake wrestling matches he staged to lose, belly laughs shared, family reunions attended, the respect his work-crew gave him, the catch-and-release fisherman he was, how much he loved my brother, me, my sisters and my mother; camping in old-fashioned canvas tents filled with old-fashioned sleeping bags on the Tucannon (TOO-cannon) River, flies he tied for fly fishing, how much he loved to golf, a summer vacation to Yellowstone, a Christmas joke in which he was had (saving this for a Christmas post), his dream of taking a trip to New Zealand (which he never made) and what a good Papa he was to his grandchildren.
Joy. There is much joy to be celebrated this 10-year anniversary . . . a life cut short yes, but a life well lived . . . his children are grown and doing well. We are good citizens, we went to college, we understand what’s right and wrong, we understand how to treat others with kindness and respect . . . this is the legacy he leaves. Not in the earthly things he collected but in the values he gave his children and grandchildren . . .
I stand on the shoulders of giants.
I cannot think of anything more comforting than good old macaroni and cheese; and before you discount this recipe because the cheese sauce is made with tofu, I strongly encourage you to try it just once . . . you might become a convert . . . we didn’t expect to like it but it’s now the only way we make macaroni and cheese!
MACARONI & CHEESE WITH TOFU
Adapted from Moosewood New Classics
- 12 ounces pasta: elbows, small shells or other short chunky pasta
FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE:
- 12 ounces silken tofu
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup mascarpone cheese
- 1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese, packed
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard (plain ol’ hot dog mustard)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon tumeric
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
STIR IN AFTER BLENDING THE INGREDIENTS ABOVE
- ¼ cup grated onion (including any onion juice)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
FOR THE TOPPING:
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¾ cup toasted panko breadcrumbs
- 6 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter, cubed (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly brush a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon truffle oil; set aside
- Bring a large covered pot of salted water to a boil; stir in pasta, bring back to boil, reduce heat and cook according to package directions – usually 7 minutes or so – you’re looking for al dente pasta.
- Meanwhile, combine all of the cheese sauce ingredients in a blender and puree or pulse until smooth. Add salt to taste.
- Drain pasta and in a large bowl, mix together the pasta and cheese sauce; stir in onions, any onion juice and parsley. Pour pasta mixture into prepared baking dish and top with the cheese-breadcrumb mixture.
- OPTIONAL: Sprinkle with cubed butter pieces, which results in a nicely browned topping.
- Bake covered for about 35 minutes; uncover and bake for another 10 minutes.
I’m still in that season of grief before joy myself. The one year anniversary came and went in May but his birthday is this month… And I think what I appreciate about your post is that it’s a firm reminder that I will get there. Joy as destination. And in you sharing your dad with all his love and traits that made him unique, I see glimpses of mine. Thank you for sharing your joy.
Oh gosh Deb, I’m teary eyed. I’ve lost a lot of people this year and this post was magical. I’m so glad I’m on my way to see you this very second!
Such wonderful memories of your father shared here — taking the algebra class for you is amazing! A strong father figure was sorely lacking in my life, so I’m always happy to enjoy what others have to say about theirs. I’m sorry he was taken from you so soon…Best to you!
Such a heartfelt, beautiful post! And maybe I will give mac and cheese with tofu a try, since you endorse it!
As someone who has experienced much loss this year, your post truly touched me. I loved reading about your process of grief and healing. To see you embrace joy and good memories offered me hope of a future day when I can do the same. Thank you for sharing….and of course, this looks delicious, my friend.
Debra, this post was simply beautiful. Heartfelt and touching and beautiful. Thank you for sharing something so deeply personal with all of us. I’m glad I was able to find out a bit about your incredible father. And, by the way, I would never discount a recipe you made.
Thanks for sharing the joy of your dad with us. A touching post Debra. This mac and cheese is even more tempting because of that tofu in the sauce. Must try this recipe!
Speaking of 9/11 I would love if you participated in some way in my *Remembrance Cakes* link up. xxoo
Debra, again you’ve touched me deeply through your writing. I very, very rarely cry but you have the ability to bring tears to my eyes like very few writers can. I think because it’s always so authentic, so honest and heartfelt. What a beautiful tribute to your father. And just like you, I miss my Daddy so much.
Ohh, love the tofu in this…a definite to try recipe for me just for that very reason! Looks great!
Beautiful post. It made me cry tears of joy, pain and remembrance. I’m so sorry for your loss and I bet your father is looking down on you with a twinkle of proud in his eyes for who you’ve become. The mac & cheese looks heavenly too! 🙂
What an incredible tribute to an extraordinary man. His legacy lives on in your words.
Your post just moved me to tears. This is one of the most genuine, emotional, heart-warming tributes to someone that I have ever read. I just know that your father would be very proud.
So incredibly beautiful Deb. This was a perfect salute to his wonderful life and of the love & nurturing that molded the wonderful you.
I love that you chose joy. May his joy live within your heart & the hearts of your entire family forever.
My grandmother left this earth one year ago today…and I choose joy too.
Hugs to you.
What a wonderful and heartfelt tribute to your father!
What a beautiful post. I am all welled up.
Those we love are never really gone- I am sure he lives on in the hearts of those who knew him.
I miss Dad so much Deb….you’re right saying that EVERYTHING changed…..but life goes on. Thank you for sharing your memories of dad today. I also remember that he loved fishing and golf, german chocolate cake, blue cheese dressing and mayonnaise – not miracle whip. The little things I will never forget. Also will never forget that we all pulled together as a family to help him get through those last several months. I love you.
Thanks for this post! Love the recipe too:)
Such a beautiful post, and brought to mind so many of the things I loved about my grandfather. They sound so remarkably similar – I like to think maybe they’d have been pals (and heck, maybe they are, up there in Heaven!). Deb, I love that we are friends. I am grateful for our friendship and that somehow this crazy blogging thing brought us together. Your father is proud of you, I’m sure of it. Because he raised a kid that is *such* a darn good friend. Love you.
No one who inspires such memories or leaves such a legacy is every truly gone, Deb. Thank you for sharing with us.
As for that mac & cheese, totally adding it to my arsenal of variations!
You have such a good attitude. You are inspiring. Love your outlook and this post!
ps your comforting mac and cheese … I want.
I’ve been feeling much the same way as you have – it’s been 11 years since my mother passed away (also from lung cancer) and there is rarely a day that goes by when I don’t think of her. Your father sounds very much like my parents and reminds me how truly blessed we were to have such amazing people for parents!
You’ve written a lovely tribute to your dad and I know that he would be so very, very proud of you!!
Debra, what a beautifully written post to remember your dad by. He sounds like he was amazing father and citizen, and would have done anything for you. All those memories you have of him will be with you forever, that is his legacy. Meanwhile, this comfort food you have made with tofu has really intrigued me – I’ll have to give it a try.
I love that he took an algebra course to help you through your sixth grade studies. Such a touching post
What a very touching memorial for your father. Maybe someday you can take that trip to New Zealand in his honor. It’s wonderful he’s left you with so many happy memories. Grief is never an easy thing and I’m glad you’ve found these positive memories to guide you.
Your father sounds amazing, blessed that you had him in your life. It’s always to soon that they go, but this post is beautiful and I want to give you a virtual big hug.
I loved reading about your dad, Deb!! It sounds like you were truly blessed.
Oh dear Debra… I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face saying “yes… yes.. yes”. This is how I can overcome, but writing and sharing about the things that were so important to me about my brother… not focusing on what his abscence means to the structure of our family. The link is missing, but through memories we can still hold together.
Thanks for your courage in writing this post. It has moved me and inspired me. Your daddy would be proud, my friend… so very proud.
I have yet to deal with a tremendous loss such as yours, but when I do, I will most certainly remember your perspective.
Coming of age, you certainly realize how much your parents must have sacrificed for you. Having the perspective I do now, I have no idea how my parents supported my horseback-riding. So grateful!
tears…what a beautiful post.
Your dad must be looking down and smiling.
Such a beautiful post, Debra. Your father raised a beautiful, successful woman. He would be so very proud of you.
Thinking of you today.
I am teary after reading this… you father sounds like an amazing man. Beautiful post!
Your father sounds like such a wonderful man. Big hugs for you and your family today.
Mac and cheese with tofu?! That’s straight up crazy talk!
But what a wonderful post about your dad.
What a wonderful words to remember your father. He sounds like more than a giant.
And this recipe looks fabulous too!