Thoughts on Orange Rolls and Grief
and an invitation to write about it
Food and grief are linked for me in some very particular ways. Maybe they are for you too.
I've written with a group before about the food that appeared in the early days after our baby died. Casseroles, fruit, Moravian chicken pie. Most memorable was a large tray of Pillsbury orange rolls. I'd never had the orange ones before—just the cinnamon ones— but they were just what we needed then in all their sugary processed goodness. I wrote about how food didn't taste like much besides tears and ashy grief to me. But I remembered the gift of the carefully stacked tray, and how they were all devoured by people in the house.
I wrote about how, over the years, orange rolls made their way into our family's annual holiday menu planning. Now those store-bought orange rolls mean family to me, in a way that somehow includes our missing member, who never got to taste one.
After I wrote about that first tray of orange rolls, the link between what they meant then in my early grief, and what they mean now, has been cemented. Now they don't taste like grief. They taste like love.
Writing helps connect our memories with our present and gives us a way to make—and remake—meaning. Even out of a tray of orange rolls.
The piece below reminded me of the holy link between food and grief. Use it as a way to make some connections for yourself.
a brief essay
Holy, Holy, Holy
—by Margaret Renkl
On the morning after my mother's sudden death, before I was up, someone brought a basket of muffins, good coffee beans, and a bottle of cream—real cream, unwhipped—left them at the back door, and tiptoed away. I couldn't eat. The smell of coffee turned my stomach, but my head was pounding from all the tears and all the what-ifs playing across my mind all night long, and I thought perhaps the cream would make a cup of coffee count as breakfast if I could keep it down.
When I poured just a drip of cream into my cup, it erupted into volcanic bubbles in a hot spring, unspooling skeins of bridal lace, fireworks over a dark ocean, stars streaking across the night sky above a silent prairie.
And that's how I learned the world would go on. An irreplaceable life had winked out in an instant, but outside my window the world was flaring up in celebration. Someone was hearing, "It's benign." Someone was saying, "It's a boy." Someone was throwing out her arms and crying, "Thank you! Thank you! Oh, thank you!"
—from River Teeth Journal
a writing prompt
Make a list of food or drinks that remind you of a time of grief or loss, or another important memory.
Pick one and write more about it.
Make yourself a tray of orange rolls, or something else that tastes like love to you, and just enjoy.