Swedish pancakes and healthy memory associations
Somehow I got it in my mind to make Swedish pancakes. I made them for myself two days in a row.
They are very thin and fry quickly. Usually they are made rather small in size, only about 4 inches in width. They're served with lingonberries in Sweden (and here in my house), not syrup, usually with some thick Swedish-style bacon. Lingonberries are a native red berry made into a sweet, jam-like sauce.
In Sweden, this dish is often ordered for brunch or lunch, especially by men. I remember two men eating it at the Veranda Restaurant in the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, where we stayed several times over the years. Those pancakes looked so good. Well, anyway, I thought of making some here. They were delicious! I always keep lingonberries on hand because lingonberries are also a must-serve with Swedish meatballs.
Pancake eating also reminds me of trips to Holland with my beloved Baheej. The Dutch have lots of panakoken houses. Their pancakes are also very thin but much bigger than the Swedish ones -- very large, the size of a dinner plate. And no lingonberries in Holland, where they're eaten with a syrup the Dutch simply call stroop. Stroop has somewhat of a caramel or light molasses flavor, not maple. Then they sprinkle brown sugar on top. All delicious of course.
Baheej loved pancakes. He introduced me to Dutch panakoken on our very first trip to Holland. And he asked me to make them here at home every once in a while.
So this is how associations work. One thought leads to another. For the bereaved, this can be wonderful for remembering happy times.
I try to live in the present rather than in the past, but it's not always possible. And why fight it? Many nice things are in the past, and certainly in my own past. So if your mind starts wandering with associations, this could be a good opportunity to review some nice memories.
Many of my own happy memories center around and my beloved husband Baheej and his favorite foods. He loved a good meal and he actually taught me to cook. I didn't know much about cooking when we first met. But I learned from him, and from my dear sister-in-law, Noelle, and Baheej's mother in Nazareth through letters packed with her recipes. They were translated to me by Baheej.
I still have those recipes and follow them exactly. My mind is wandering to certain dishes that I made nearly everyday. It's the type of cooking now popularized under the umbrella of the "Mediterranean diet." But it's the Middle Eastern version with a lot of Greek dishes rather than the Italian variety of Mediterranean food. I usually have most of the needed ingredients on hand. Lamb with spinach or with green beans and tomato are both great. You can even use frozen spinach.
So now I'm thinking I need to make those old dishes more often. They have lots of vegetables and are served with salads, so they are good for the waistline and health. These dishes require some meat but much less than our usual way of cooking and serving. And many are vegetarian dishes.
Mediterranean recipes usually use lamb or chicken rather than beef, and there are lots of fish recipes. Yum. That's a string of associations for you -- I started at Swedish pancakes and got to Nazareth-style vegetable dishes!
The point is: Reminiscing over past memories can sometimes be sad, but many times it is very comforting and pleasant. Letting our minds float in associations is one way to get to that nice sensation. I do it and find it very healthy and enjoyable.
I will never forget all the details of an eventful and wonderful life with my dear Baheej. This is something that is sustaining, and very useful in coping with and managing long-term grief.
A while ago, one of my neighbors said she still imagines seeing Baheej sitting with me on our front porch in the early eve as she stops by to chat. This summer I have started sitting on the front porch again, more often than the last few years. And the other day, while sitting by myself and admiring the view Baheej loved, I had the same association -- and it was easy and so pleasant to imagine and remember Baheej's joyful face.
• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at email@example.com or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com. See previous columns at www.dailyherald.com/topics/Anderson-Kleif-Susan.