All of my clients have nicknames so I can refer to them without compromising their privacy. I also only put them in my cell phone and calendar by initials. I have cooked for famous people and normal ones both. I assume if they want folks to know they have a chef, they can tell them. Some, like Miss Spinach, were happy to talk about me and willing to be used as a reference for new clients. Some of my friends and family knew her real name, and got a kick out of her stories or my stories of her.
She got her nickname from her request to have spinach in some form in every cooking I did for her. I cooked for her at least 126 times. She did have a few favorite dishes that got repeated, mostly riffs on an Indian dish called Dal Nirvana (lentils with spinach, tomatoes and cream). I’m not sure where I found that recipe, but a quick online search came up with several possible hits. I always add a bag of fresh or frozen spinach to mine, for more veggies. She was also fond of other curries, spinach with cheese (usually Italian) or fish with lemon.
A week ago, I got a phone call. This phone call was from the niece of Miss Spinach. They called to inform me of her passing. I had just cooked for her on that Tuesday. She had not been her normal chatty self and I left rather early, telling her I would call when she was up to talking longer.
I’m still in a bit of shock. I was a part of her life. Feeding someone is very personal. We chatted many hours each cooking after the meals were made and put away. I knew her favorite novels, and had even shared some. I knew her political leanings and all about her many travels when she was younger and more fit. Yet I am not family and have little more than memories, and a large pile of menus.
This is also my second client gone this year. For the previous one, I was a friend for 20 years (including the 8 when I cooked for her), so the memorial service was at least a bit of closure. I like to think I helped them both, by feeding and nourishing both body and mind.
At least for awhile, I have Tuesdays free, and I’m sad when I eat spinach.
Update: Her memorial service was November 11, 2016
Photo by Jennifer Sternfeld