Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Recipe for Healing Depression and Grief

I've been interested in Chef Scott Peacock ever since I learned that he grew up in Hartford, AL, the last little town my family had to drive through before reaching my grandparents' home in Wicksburg. I bonded with him forever when Southern Living ran a feature article on his Lane Cake, my all-time favorite dessert.

While researching his fried pie recipe, I found this Gourmet article on his life since the 2006 passing of his 89-year-old friend and mentor, African-American chef Edna Lewis.

According to the Gourmet article, he had suffered from depression for years, and therapy and antidepressants did not help. He described his depression as "like wearing a lead suit," and said that after "all the tests and pills, the best it got was that it didn’t feel so bad to be in bed with the covers pulled up in a dark room."

However, through loving sacrifice he was able to shed that lead suit:

What wrenched him free of his demons was the sudden awareness that Miss Lewis had begun to grow frail. Her memory was wavering; more and more, she needed his help to get through the day. “I knew if I didn’t get up out of that bed, she was going to suffer,” he says. “If I screwed up and stopped working, what was going to happen? It was an amazing thing she gave me. I started showing up for her, and without realizing it I started showing up for me.” He says he hasn’t taken any medications in five years.

"I started showing up for her, and without realizing it I started showing up for me.”

What a powerful statement! And beautiful. And such a rejection of the modern idea that our loved ones who need our care should be farmed out to nursing homes or daycare centers. We need them as much as they need us. Notice that he even described her needing his care as a gift from her to him!

I was also inspired by how he deals with grieving for Miss Lewis. It is a positive grieving that recognizes her continuing influence on his life and the fact that he misses her.

“She is part of everything,” he says. “It is marvelous in a weird way, the dynamic relationship you have with someone who is dead. It continues to grow. I have a breathing, living relationship with her at this point.” He gazes affectionately at the food on the table, seeing beyond it. “I miss her incredibly. What helps is making biscuits.”

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