The best laid plans, as they say…I posted this photo of these little burgers on the usual social media channels a week, now two, ago. Everyone was clamoring for the recipe and I intended to oblige right away – they taste as good as they look and I am a big believer in sharing.
Unfortunately the universe had other plans. My elderly mother fell and broke her hip a day or two later and a few days after that I found myself dashing back to the midwest to help my siblings look after she and my dad while we waited through her fragile recovery from surgery. (And in truth because I was overwhelmed by the desire to hold her hand as well. Major surgery at 85 is a scary thing indeed, and waiting out the recovery from so far away is nothing short of heart-wrienching.)
When I was 26 years old and living in Chicago I announced that I was following my heart and moving to Oregon. I had fallen in love with Oregon Pinot Noir, the Oregon vibe, and a guy who made Oregon wine. In that order. At the time, two of my three siblings were also there in the city, and my other brother and our parents were all in Michigan, just a state away. We are a very close family – perhaps because we moved lots and lots of times through our childhood years.
My parents went to great lengths to try and talk me out of the move. To them Oregon was the wild, wild West. Why on earth would I want to live there? If I was going to go off and have an adventure, why didn’t I at least choose a more civilized location? Like Europe for instance. (You see, Europe was familiar to them, Or-e-gone was definitely not. There’s the rub).They even invited me to London a couple of months before my scheduled move. While we were there I realized that the purpose of the trip was to try and convince me to move there instead of here!
Somehow they must have known in their hearts that I would stay here forever, because they sure put up a good fight. My sister was sad, yet understanding. My brothers were apparently unfazed, but my parents were adamant that I would regret this decision. Once I had children, in particular, they said “You’ll want to be closer to your family”. And sure enough, there have been many times in the last two decades that I have wished I was not so far away. Though I get back pretty often, there have also been many occasions when the whole family is together and we’re the only ones not there. I’ve missed family gatherings up north, the milestones of my beloved nieces and nephews, and perhaps most importantly the everyday pleasure of getting together at the spur of the moment with the people who know me better than any. And yes, I have never once been able to fall back on family members for child care in the 16 years I’ve been a parent. They were certainly right about that one.
And now here I am, living in the throes of what are known as “the sandwich years”. Elderly parents on one hand, and kids on the other – all of whom need me. Further complicated by the reality that my parents are 2000 miles away.(Oh sure, there is owning and running a business, business partners, and marriage too, but those are easy compared to the other two).
In the last decade my parents have lived through Stage 4 cancer, a car accident which resulted in a broken leg, profound macular degeneration, a serious fall which resulted in weeks of bed rest, blood clots, the deaths of their siblings, the major recession that hit the automotive industry and thus the business my Father was trying so hard to hold on to in spite of his advancing age, and finally selling their home in their community of 40 years and closing my Dad’s business of 25. And each time I visit, for one of these crises or “just because”, I leave with tears in my eyes. Because each time I say goodbye, I know that it’s entirely possible it will be the last time I see them alive.
Once again my mom is on the road to recovery. When I could tell she was out of the woods – sitting up in bed reading a magazine was a huge improvement! – I peeled myself away and got on a plane to head westbound, to the place that has been my home for most of my adult life. At times like this I am grateful for the 7 or so hours of travel between here and there. That anonymous time suspended in planes and airports gives me a chance to process and transition. To move between the two most profound roles in my life – the role of daughter gently helping to ease my parents toward their newfound reality of less independence, and the role of mother, nudging my children toward adulthood and more independence.
Because I knew they would be delicious, and easy, I made these burgers again almost as soon as I got home.
The recipe is adapted just slightly from the wonderful book Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Like Ottolenghi’s other book Plenty, the photography is stunning. But this volume is doubly blessed by the rich stories that accompany the recipes. They tell the tales of growing up in Jerusalem and the many cultures that influenced the food and rituals there. I have made no fewer than a dozen recipes out of this book and they are all delicious. I promise to share more of them with you in the months to come.
Both times I’ve made these I served them alongside a simple green salad. They are also, as the authors point out, excellent for two or three days after they’re made. I love them for lunch, warmed and wrapped in a lettuce leaf that I’ve smeared with the yogurt lemon sauce.