My brother was born a chef. I was born to take out. Could I make our family feast without him?
by Kathy Kowalski — Posted on Feb 28, 2016
I took a deep breath and walked through Mom’s front door, my arms full of groceries. An insurmountable challenge lay ahead of me: cooking the Easter Sunday feast. Me. Someone who could barely boil water. What if I made everyone sick? It could truly be our family’s last supper.
Making the holiday meal was my brother’s job, not mine. I could never fill his shoes. Peter had died in September at the age of 45 from a heart attack, but his entire life he’d been a natural in the kitchen. He planned every course in detail, from the crescent rolls to the Dutch apple pie.
My family was lost without him. We went out to dinner for Thanksgiving and ordered in pizza for Christmas. By the time Easter rolled around, though, I couldn’t bear the idea of another holiday surrounded by takeout boxes. Peter would’ve hated that. To him, there was nothing more important than a meal made with love. So I convinced Mom that we should tackle Easter dinner together.
Only, we were terrible cooks. Mom could drain the flavor from bacon. I whipped up things even the dog wouldn’t touch. Peter was the one who could make baked beans taste like fine French cuisine. This time last year, he was already cooking up a storm. I could almost see him, huddled over the stove. Tending to his cheesy potatoes. Checking in on the turkey sizzling in the oven. Sharing some of his trade secrets.
What had I been thinking taking on Easter dinner? I’d bitten off more than I could chew. No one could do this half as well as Peter.
I stepped into the family room. Mom was still at church, but her newspaper was opened on the coffee table, to the sports section, as usual. She was a huge Notre Dame women’s basketball fan, and the featured story was about forward Devereaux Peters, who was graduating. I read the headline and nearly dropped my grocery bags.
Filling Peters’ Shoes.
That afternoon, cooking in the kitchen, I didn’t feel so alone. Mom and I pulled together the Easter feast just fine. The ham may have been a little dry, but it was all made with love—just like Peter would’ve wanted.