Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Death and Community

The last few years have been pretty difficult here. Our family has lost quite a few members. Most recently, my husband's uncle passed away completely unexpectedly. Not long before this, I lost an uncle as well. Again, completely unexpectedly.
I'm not certain what the norm is here in the US, but where I grew up in Canada, when someone passes away, the family usually holds a memorial tea after the funeral. It's a time for friends, family and the entire community to get together, sharing food and memories of the loved one. I somehow don't believe that's the tradition here in the US, point being that I'm not even aware of a single church or community which owns a "hall" for such events, although I suppose church basements are also fairly commonly used.
Anyway, there are such tiny things that come with these community events commemorating life and living. Things like: who makes the best squares? Who makes the best buns? Who do we know that owns one of these things?
Usually these questions don't come until after the fact. No, usually the squares, buns, lunch meats and other snacks for the tea come pouring in a day or two prior to the actual tea from friends and family alike and are a topic of conversation during the tea. "Mmm. This is a really great matrimonial bar. Who made this?" This reinforces the sense of community, the unity of the whole, even as one member is going to places we cannot presently follow. The maker of the great matrimonial bar or the wonderful buns is sought out and asked for their recipe and, of course, they have to tell you "It's not my recipe. I got it from (insert deceased community members name here)."
I can't do that. None of my recipes are from deceased members of my community. No member of my family has ventured into the realm of baking and cooking I'm in. I have lost some small part of myself to these changes in our diet and much to moving countries. But my husband understands when I go into the kitchen when someone has passed and start making matrimonial bars even if no one else does.
I know this is an incredibly somber post for the week of Thanksgiving. Most everyone else is posting about pumpkin pies, turkey, stuffing and how grateful they are for things in their life. I was thinking about doing that, coming up with some fantastic Thanksgiving Day recipe to post, but that's just not where I am right now. We've just lost two family members. It's time for some matrimonial bar. Time to remember and be grateful for the most basic of things: living.

Jacqueline's Matrimonial Bar
2 cups dates, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups water

1 1/2 cups gluten free rolled oats
3/4 cup Jacqueline's gluten free flour mix
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan, place the ingredients for the filling. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes. You want the dates to lose all sense of being dates and become more like a jam. Once this consistency has been reached, remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool.
Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour mix, brown sugar and salt. In a small pot, melt the shortening then pour this over the contents of the bowl, mixing well. Pat about half of this mixture into a 9" square cake pan then spoon the date mixture over top of this, smoothing out nicely. Sprinkle the date mixture with the remaining oat mixture and place into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool and cut into squares. Makes 36.

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