Cooking, other productive activities can be a diversion from grief

  • The delicious  sausage and sauerkraut dish, just out of the oven….

    The delicious  sausage and sauerkraut dish, just out of the oven….

 
Updated 3/25/2023 6:27 AM

As many know, I like to cook. I learned after we got married. These days, I usually refer to it as a hobby. And it is.

For years, in addition to what we think of as American food, I specialized in Nazareth-style Middle Eastern dishes. In the last 10 years, I've expanded out into experimenting with some Japanese food, some Dutch, some Scandinavian, a little French, and now Polish. Cooking is a hobby, yes. But it's more than that. I believe it is a "positive diversion."

 

After Baheej died, I discovered cooking is a great diversion from grief. I had just retired and I had time. I do believe diversions are very helpful in coping with grief. A diversion is not denial. Activities that are positive, interesting or productive to do, as I've mentioned before, can be a break from being sad.

This particular diversion started by continuing to cook many of Baheej's favorite meals, just for myself, but also for guests. And it grew from there.

Now about the Polish cooking. There is a wonderful Polish grocery store fairly close to me called Deli 4 US. It's a beautiful store. It is like a flower shop with its arrangements and spectrum of colors. It's much more than a deli; it's a full-fledged grocery with everything Polish, including a great bakery, dozens of freshly cooked meals for take home; an old-fashioned, hand-cut butcher shop; beautiful fruits and veggies, Polish wine and spirits; an extensive deli, of course; and pretty much every Polish ingredient and product or treat you may want.

Most of the groceries are labeled in Polish. Some labels are bilingual, but there are enough English-speaking staff to translate and advise. Some of the bakers and counter folks speak only Polish, but every department has English speakers to help. Therefore, my experiment with Polish food actually started with meals and desserts already made -- take home and warm up!

On my most recent shopping there, I bought all the items needed to make Polish sausage and sauerkraut (Freshly homemade sausage from their butcher, a jar of Polish sauerkraut). I made it using my friend Karen's recipe, which she had gotten from another friend. The only other ingredients needed in the cooking were a stick of butter, a large onion, black pepper and fresh cold water. It turned out perfectly. I also bought some great fresh beets that just needed to be boiled and sliced, as a side dish.

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I really only know one other old Polish recipe: baked Polish noodles and sauerkraut, made with lots of butter. It was a favorite of the husband of another friend.

Actually, both recipes are Ukrainian, but there are lots of Ukrainians in Poland, and vice versa, and they are, after all, friends and neighbors. It's a start. Anyway, most other dishes can be obtained ready-made from the Polish grocery, including fresh homemade pierogies (just saute, which is the last step). There's pickles, cheeses, ham, cabbage rolls and more. And just like Middle East food, most desserts are better bought from the authentic bakery, so no worry there!

The point is: As you see, a good diversion, the same as a good hobby, has many dimensions: research to learn about it, finding the materials, practice, the fun of doing or creating, and a good or useful outcome or product at the end. It needs to be something you really enjoy.

It could be music, reading, exploring, traveling, woodworking, gardening or basically anything that interests you. Even cooking.

• 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 sakhleif@comcast.net or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com. See previous columns at www.dailyherald.com/topics/Anderson-Kleif-Susan.

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